Galaxycon Richmond 2019 Review!
TL;DR 6.5/10 There’s some space to grow internally here, but Galaxycon does a solid job for its first year. It brings back vague echoes and head nods to Wizard World Richmond, which I attended a few years back in the same location. If you’re in the area, snag the early bird price (25% off), or are really into meeting a variety of guests and voice actors, this is a great event for you. If you’re here for great photo locations, parties, or a good rave or two, you’ll have to miss out. Here are my thoughts:
With a first-year event comes a few mishaps here and there, so here are some of the cons that I experienced for this event.
The Badge: I have to start here because with the scale of the event, they should have invested in a material that doesn’t easily rip or tear. The hole for the lanyard was placed much too close to the top, and from what I understand, I was not the only one that had an issue with needing a badge replacement over the weekend. Even registration staff told me repeatedly that the badges were not of quality material
The Schedule: When the schedule first released online, there were a few events completely missing on it, including some of the cosplay competitions (there were 5 for the weekend) and in addition to that, there were very similar events scheduled to overlap at various places that would make it difficult to get the full con experience (for example, competing in the runway costume contest on Friday would have you missing at least 8 photo ops with guests, and missing the cosplay villains gathering)
Food Availability (in convention center): Standard convenience pricing for conventions, make sure your food is cooked in front of you, or you could end up spending money for stale goods as I did
Late Night Events: It was nice to see that when the main exhibition hall closed, there were still things to do in the convention center, but having to choose between the burlesque show, late night karaoke, late night drink and draw, or FSCW’s Drunk on Wrestling wasn’t a great time. There were so many good events, but again, due to schedule overlap, there was probably significantly less support for the events than there could have been
Map: It’s hidden on page 18 of your programming guide, and you won’t find one anywhere else in the convention center
Photo Locations: I’ve been here before, and it really isn’t much of a venue for booking private shoots or showcasing grand locations. You’re in the heart of the city, and if you’re not shooting hall shots in the actual convention center, then you’re probably directly next to it outside or have it as your backdrop. This was a big minus for my weekend
Parking: Be prepared to pay for at least one day of parking whether close to con or at a distance. Ideally you would find a nearby street parking spot (Free for weekends after Friday 6pm) and stay there, but if not, don’t expect to find a free public lot. Also, pay very close attention to the signs, or you could end up towed
Accessibility / Entrances: No matter where you’re coming from, there is only one set of doors you can use to enter the convention center, despite smartly placed badge checks and security near or at other entrances. There was always someone to turn you around in case you tried to enter from a different door, but no one that would stop you from exiting. It would have been easy to implement at least one other entrance location, even if that required a badge / wristband check
Cosplay Contest(s)?!: For starters you have the casual popularity contest called the Runway Competition, the Main Cosplay Contest that you would expect, a late night 17+ contest (more on that soon), a contest exclusively for kids, and a separate masquerade competition for a grand total of 5 separate cosplay contests. Perhaps it is just me, but the amount of time you would have to carve out of your schedule to see all of these (or especially compete) is astronomical. I saw so many people stressing over where to be at which times that it ended up being a mess of confusion. I think a large part of this could have been avoided if the cosplay contest sign up / check in booth was located near the ballrooms where they took place. To find this booth, you had to search within the exhibition hall, and if you didn’t know where to look, it wasn’t easy to find. For the main cosplay competition, I heard there were close to, if not 100 entrants, and that’s even with 2 other opportunities for adults to compete to win in (discounting the 17+). Speaking of, I will just say that making the “risqué” cosplay contest 18+ would solve any issues I had with it. There was a nice panel beforehand about cosplaying sexy safely, which was great, but the website also says that anyone with a badge can participate, and I’m pretty sure IDs were not checked upon entry for spectators. Just save yourself the trouble and make it an 18+ event, especially since alcohol is sold relatively nearby the competition area within the convention center and that it started at midnight
Alcohol / Party Availability: B.Y.O.B and B.Y.O.P, because neither of these things at the convention center is going to be anything to write home about. Drink at your hotel, party at your hotel, there won’t really be much going on
Dealer’s Room / Artist Alley: I go for Eva figures and merch. I was disappointed. The one place I considered buying figures from had neither boxes, nor actually clean display models that they were selling, and that’s before the extreme markups across the board. This is not an event you want to go figure shopping at
So, what were some of the great things and highlights that this con did really well?
Small Touches: A free phone charging station, complimentary free filtered water filling stations, ramps and accessways, and escalators that never broke down were great positives to this event
The Guest List: Whether you’re into comics, anime, television, gaming, or writing, there was a guest here that everyone would probably want to meet at least once. That was one of the largest draws for me to the event in the first place, because they had so much talent aggregated in one location
The Staff: Convention center staff, and Con staff were all friendly, knowledgeable and trustworthy. Any problems I had were resolved quickly by con staff, and I saw convention center staff and security smiling, even having animated conversations with some of the attendees while still being vigilant at their jobs
Badge / Wristband Checks: These were very smartly positioned around the center to allow general traffic to easily get to registration, but to block off convention specific events and prevent unauthorized access to convention areas. When it came to later night events (after close of registration), security wouldn’t allow random people from the street into the building without a badge, which I saw as a huge plus
Security: Sharp and in good numbers during the whole weekend. The VCU police station was also nearby to discourage criminal activity
Panels: Very good selection of panels and Q and A’s to attend. I have to say that I didn’t go to a bad panel presentation while at this event, and from Laughter Yoga to Riffs with 90s kids, I really enjoyed the paneling experiences Galaxycon had to offer
Food Availability (outside the convention center): There are a wide variety of restaurants and bars offering top notch food selections within ten minutes of walking time from the convention center. It wasn’t hard at all to find good places to eat
Patty Hawkins: As the main emcee for the cosplay competition and other events throughout the weekend, I personally would say that he is one of the best moderators that I’ve seen for contests. His charisma and enthusiastic demeanor went beyond just stage presence. It flowed in his jokes, in his appreciation for contestants of all skill levels, and into the audience as well
Social Events: There were a few panels and lounging times during the weekend that Galaxycon used solely to promote the creation of new friendships. These social events were all about promoting that feeling of a safe community space for nerds of all ages, and I really think that more conventions should put an emphasis on this
Friday’s Burlesque Show: The ladies and gents of Geek Goddess did a fantastic job putting this one on, and all of the acts were fun and lively. With a hilarious host to boot, I thoroughly enjoyed myself there and it made for a great convention immersed Friday night event
Temperature: Despite the raging heat of the day, there was never a time during the weekend that the convention center inside was too hot, and that was an excellent relief, since I did end up cosplaying one of my days here
Cosplay Wrestling: I didn’t think that I would enjoy it as much as I did, but Fantasy Super Cosplay Wrestling (FSCW) put on a hell of a show. I’ve been to cosplay dance battles, convention chess, and even event balls, but watching cosplay wrestling takes the cake from all of them as being one of the best programmed events I’ve attended at a con. Ever
Event seating: I never entered an event where I was left standing by the wall to watch a presentation, panel, or contest due to overbooked or over capacity rooms. The experience might have been different for some, but I encountered no issues at all with finding seating
All in all, I would have to say that Galaxycon was a good experience. The major blows to me involved not really being great for photos, constant scheduling overlaps, and frustrations that revolved around the many cosplay contests scattered throughout the weekend. It was an event where I let the all-star guest list dictate my expectations, and I was left wanting more from the event. While this certainly won’t be the case for lots of people, I don’t think I would have paid the full pricing for this one, unless I was dying to spend even more for time and photos with particular guests that were there. They’ve already informed attendees that they have a renewed contract for at least 2 more years, and that the next one is coming in February 2020 shortly after Katsucon. If I can snag an early bird rate, I might just check it out 6.5/10
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments below and let me know what you think!!