ColossalCon East 2017 Review
“The Legendary Swimsuit Vacation Party Con”
TL;DR 9.7/10. It’s all in the title. One of the best things about Colossal East was that even in its first year, it provided such a wonderful experience, that even in the early days of September, I felt that I was in the dead center of my summer vacation, and with that, all stress of the ‘real world’ and adulating completely melted away. The location, cosplays, staff and friends (old and new) made the six hour trip worth it and then some. While I did not get a badge (a la waterpark access perk for staying at the resort), I heard that I didn’t miss too much, and anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go to conventions for the panels, I go for the photos. All 2,832 of them. Lol
As with my new reviewing structure, I’ll start by listing some cons first. There weren’t too many lol.
Photographer badge: Lol I hope no one bought this. It sure didn’t look like there was any benefit to using this over the regular badge. For a time I heard a few people got stopped from shooting in the outdoor waterpark because they didn’t have one, but I most definitely walked straight outside and shot with no problems. As for the wave pool area, there was lighting gear everywhere and I’m no security guard or anything, but I guarantee that everyone there didn’t have a photography badge just to do so. Soooo…. Like… why?
The Kids: I have to mention this, even though I specialize in subject isolation and one of my staples is releasing photos that almost never have other people in the background. I am not a ‘hallshot photographer’ kind of person. Yes, it is a resort, and so it’s foolhardy to expect it to be secluded from the outside world for just the ‘con folk’, but when you almost have your $3200 full frame camera get water damage because of someone’s child…well then. Everyone knows children and high dollar electronics don’t mix, and this convention definitely highlighted that. Keep control of your little ones please.
Food Options: Maybe it’s me being lazy, but I certainly wasn’t about to leave the con center and lose my already far away from entrance parking spot to go get food. So resort prices aside, I was hoping that the food options at the Kalahari would have been much, much better. I’ll tell anyone about my $12 bacon cheeseburger plus $2 side of small fries from the buffet that was absolute trash, and how an $8 breakfast sandwich from the coffee shop across from the candy store on the lobby level was the best thing ever. In fact, since I didn’t know that Felix’s Bar had such great food (with longer wait times conversely), I was wholeheartedly willing to only order food from the coffee shop all weekend long, and I never eat at coffee shops because their pastries and sandwiches are always overpriced to begin with (in my opinion), plus I am not a coffee person by far. So I felt that, resort aside, there should have been a bit more diverse, economically priced options. The buffet definitely shouldn’t have been as bad as it was, since I feel it had the capacity to feed the most people.
Wifi?: Sure I hacked into it Thursday night and usurped the network from everyone else (the running joke of the convention), but for some reason or another my cell phone would not hold onto the signal. I’m aware that this is common in overpopulated areas with so many people on one network, etc etc, however, for the cost of the rooms, I feel that having sufficient internet access all during your stay is a very important amenity that they no doubt have listed online for bookings, just like every other hotel chain. Calling the front desk seemed to provide little resolution or support. Even though it’s a negative I must mention, on the other side of the coin, my laptop did a much better job of holding the connection (when the wifi was available). But still (anyone else notice the exclusive desert room SSID’s?) front desk would not budge on connecting us, even though those networks were up with full bars and running 24/7.
So…9.7/10 that’s pretty high right? Here’s why!!
The Photos: Laaaaaaawd the photos. I broke my personal record for the amount of photos taken during a convention weekend and was well on my way to filling up a 128GB SDXC card with shots from the weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun). The portraits that I honed in on…legendary. This was the first convention where I could use my 135mm f/1.8 and truly put it to the test. In actuality, 90% of my images were taken with that lens, and even though I had to back up very, very far for those all important group shots, the IQ that I received was perfection. This is one of the few cons where the indoor lighting (I’m talking arcade and wave pool here) was phenomenal. Combined with the diffused lighting coming in from outside, to be perfectly honest, during the better parts of the day, I was seriously confused why anyone needed lighting equipment at all (not that I don’t understand the principles of HSS and stylistic choices). Even outside, the photos turned out excellently, and I’m really really excited to start editing, even though it’ll take me quite some time to tackle all the photos. 105GB of purely photographic data? That’s crazy!
The Staff: Housekeeping asked me every morning if I wanted fresh coffee. WHAAAAATTTTT? They were extremely courteous, always speaking in delightful language, and seemed almost eager to fulfill any hotel related request that I had. I wasn’t sure which services actually incurred an extra charge, but from the bellhops, to housekeeping, to front desk, to the arcade staff, everyone was very very helpful. Grade A, no complaints.
The Drinks (with spirits): Need I say more? If you want to look like you’re on a vacation at an island resort, then you’re paying $30 for your Kalahari Sunrise or your Strawberry Long Island, keeping the big glass, and then paying $20 for additional refills. You’re sharing with your friends, and you’re going to enjoy every drop of the slushy goodness guaranteed. This is irrefutable. You’re going to do it, and you have to do it, because you’re at a resort on vacation. Plus hot tub swim up bars are the bees’ knees man. Great spot to play double rock paper scissors ;)
The Location: It didn’t take long to view photos others have taken and to scout out this gorgeous place, full of secret passageways and hidden locations, with a wonderful island ambience everywhere. The general resort/waterpark aside, there are some fantastic outdoor spots that beg for photos, including the secret garden, the outer patio, the front entrance, and the forbidden (lol) forest. While I didn’t trek to the legendary waterfall, I had just as much fun shooting outside as inside when the wind wasn’t too terrible. This place is a fantastic photo spot, full of rare gems everywhere.
The Arcade: The options were poppin’. While I didn’t get to experience the Escape Room, the fact that they had other attractions (like the laser adventure and putt putt) outside of your typical games/shops was pretty legit. There seemed to be plenty of space as well, considering people were always traveling to and from there. It truly felt like a place where you would want to stay all day as a kid, with handfuls of quarters (or a swipe card as the modern day case actually is).
The Waterpark: It couldn’t be more obvious since these resorts have some of America’s largest waterparks within them, but even with the (less impressive) outdoor park closed most of the time, the indoor one was all that and a bag of chips. To be perfectly honest, considering what you usually spend on single day admission to most waterparks without a membership anyway, 79 bucks for a day pass isn’t all that astounding, because you definitely get your money’s worth, and all of the slides and rides are enjoyable for all ages. There are plenty of life jackets and tubes supplied, and there are also a wealth of lifeguards on duty at all times who are very well trained.
The People: Soooo many people that I didn’t expect to attend Colossal East ended up showing up, and that was awesome!!! In addition, I met a few Canadian cosplayers and most of my New England area peeps that I usually only get to see once or twice a year for the major cons in my area. So of course it was really nice to be able to see all of them! Before this convention, I never really believed the “OMG are you (Person X)? I follow you on Instagram and your work is amazing!” type of events existed, but that happened so much at this con with me that it really floored me. I do apologize for not recognizing a few people…alcohol aside; my memory really is shit tier, even if we do talk online. And if we don’t talk, then I probably don’t recognize most people in their civilian clothing. Tell me you’re (Instagram/Facebook Page name) and I’ll definitely perk up and know you though!!
Late Night Uno/Duck Game/Cards: Forget the room parties (that apparently got shut down with the quickness?), some of my favorite con highlights involved spreading joy (and despair) to others by making them draw cards, outright killing them, or beating them in war while slapping jacks at 3AM lol. I really enjoyed bonding with my friends during these room shenanigans. I can’t really stress that enough. Jesse told enough stories to keep the whole crew laughing nonstop, Jason was there with the quick quips and fun even though I swear I couldn’t even see him half the time, Bruce and I were always comparing photo adventures and consistently saying “Dayuuuuuuummmmm” at each other’s photos, Sam was a treat to be around, and seeing Cathy glow after several heated rounds of a game she had only just learned to play warmed my heart down to the core. Hypno made the world go round. I would trade 100 parties in the penthouse suite of whatever convention for more nights like we had in 4202. And that’s real talk.
The Trip Home: It gave me tons of time to reflect, listen to good music, and share some of the memories of the weekend. It put a smile on my face (outside of the gas prices of course lol) and since the trip back was in daylight, I actually had a chance to appreciate the Poconos Mountains, and some of the beautiful landscapes that Pennsylvania has along the interstate. I-81 was my best friend once again, shaving precious minutes off my total trip time, with hardly any cops and speedy traffic. Crossing back into Virginia, I simply sat amazed at how much fun the weekend had been. I had a really fun time.
In the end, I would have never dreamed of traveling six hours by myself to visit a convention, especially one that was only in its first year, but I did it, and I have no regrets whatsoever. Special shoutouts to my roommates Bruce and Jason for holding it down, and making everything possible. Even though my Thursday (in which I arrived at 11:15pm) was very boring and uneventful, the days afterward were truly too amazing to ignore. As I mentioned before, I took a weeklong vacation in July to truly enjoy myself, to travel, to do photos, and to enjoy my birthday, and this one weekend in SEPTEMBER felt like the summer vacation that I completely missed out on in that time. It stood alone as THE event that saved the summer from being simply described as work and photo shoots (i.e. work away from work), and instead as something fun and memorable. And for that, it gets my extremely hot hat tip, the Darkfox Gold recommendation, and a fervent promise of returning next year, as long as the money is right lololol. 9.7/10
Did you think the same, or have a different opinion? Log In and Sound Off Below!!!