I spent this past weekend selling chainmaille at Con-G, an anime/videogame/geek convention that has been taking place for the last five years in Guelph, Ontario. As a shy, introverted person, I have to say I’m amazed at just how much fun I had.
First, I should explain a bit more about these events. Essentially, a hotel (or group of hotels) or conference centre is taken over by a hoard of the strangest (and nicest) people you’ll ever meet. At least half of these people (known as cosplayers) show up dressed as their favourite characters from shows and games – some of them even act the part the whole time they’re there! Others (like my wife and sister-in-law) have a different costume for each day of the event. Various activities are scheduled for these eccentric people, such as panels where people discuss their favourite shows/games or skills related to costume-making or art, gaming rooms for everything from Dungeons & Dragons to Pokemon card games to DDR, cosplay chess (where attendees are the chess pieces), dances and skits. Also always present are the Dealers’ Room and Artists’ Alley where vendors and artists sell their geeky wares.
It’s funny, really, that this is a gathering from all walks of life of the people who the rest of society makes the most fun of – yet, as I said before, they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No one is judgemental; boys dress as girls, girls dress as boys, heavy people dress as skinny characters and no one ever says anything negative to any of them! Everyone is always complimenting each other and it’s very common to see signs declaring “Free hugs!” being worn by people – and, yes, they tend to get a lot of hugs.
|(An awsome Ezio from Assassins' Creed)|
|(This girl made a perfect Sherlock)|
Being a vendor, I got to experience this event in a way that few people do. I stood still and watched to world go past, as it were, because sooner or later, just about everyone passes through the Dealer’s Room. That meant that I was able to see most of the fabulous costumes that people pour so much time and effort into and, even as someone who didn't recognise most of the costumes, I can say that of lot of them are phenomenal. And the people! Every now and then, someone would stop at my table and we’d get talking and joking around as if we’d known each other all our lives when, in reality, we didn't know each other’s names.
One such experience was a guy who later introduced himself as Wallet. He had come to the Con without a costume and was piecing together an outfit as he went along. He spent quite some time at my table, chatting with me, and ended up deciding to buy a scale flower for a girl he knew. The problem was that he didn't know her favourite colour, so he’d have to come back later so she could choose one.
Now, during this time, my wife Colleen had been spending a lot of time off enjoying the event. When Wallet returned with the girl he wanted to buy the scale flower for (Angel), I was surprised to find Colleen with them! It turned out that Colleen and Angel had met at an event and struck up a friendship. Not only that, but earlier in the day Angel had been talking to me and showing me a chainmaille bracelet a friend had made her! It was a craziest set of coincidences.
We ended up mashing up a couple of our items so Angel could wear the scale flower (red) as part of her costume for the next day. Needless to say, there were many occasions upon which we encountered Angel and Wallet over the rest of the event, including Angel borrowing a necklace and doing some advertising for us.
Another experience was someone who took a video of my products and asked me some questions for a video about his experiences at Con-G for his Youtube channel. There were a number of people who kept walking by again and again, finally stopping to buy something when they could no longer resist. Some people came by every day just to say hi and tell me how they wished they had more money. I can’t tell you how many compliments I received on my chainmaille tie!
Now, all the costumes and friendly people can be experienced by anyone at the event, but what really made the event for me was the other vendors. You can never know it without being behind the tables, but I’m convinced that all vendors are awesome people. From the moment you set up shop, you start talking to the people around you and what you find are a lot of people who are fun to talk to and are happy to share selling secrets and other events to attend. Within a few hours, you’re willing to leave them alone with your money to watch your table while you go get something to eat – and you know you have nothing to worry about.
All in all, I’m very glad I went to this event. If you ever want to go somewhere where you can truly let down your hair and be yourself, or show of how weird you really are, while surrounded by friendly people who won’t even think of judging you, find yourself one of these conventions to go to.