This year the tagline, “CONvergence isn’t a hotel, it’s a people” couldn’t be more fitting. Last year I made the comment that CONvergence isn’t a convention, it’s a family. Though the family has moved, it’s still just as strong as ever.
This became even more apparent when speaking to Jonathan “JP” Palmer, the Director of Communications and External Relationships. Some might assume that changing the venue might hurt attendance numbers, after all, not everyone likes to brave downtown driving. When asked if they had seen a drop or an increase in attendance this year, JP responded that it’s quite “comparable to last year’s membership sales.”
This, of course, is a huge blessing and a wonderful sign of the longevity of CONvergence. Once the word gets out, I expect them to see an increase in the coming years. Just spotting all the out of state plates in the parking garage on cars filled with enthusiastic fans ready to set out and spend a day celebrating their favorite fandoms with some of their favorite people was enough to show just how special this convention is.
“It’s ok to be weird”
When a CONvergence member spoke to her sister about her first year, she said, “My sister’s response to her first CONvergence:
It’s reminded me it’s ok to be weird. But I will never look at dinosaurs the same again.Trimid Dew Lanns on the CONvergence Community Facebook page
Immediately I knew I needed to quote her on this simple view of her first year, because this is my experience now two years in a row. The entire convention is built from the ground up through the sweat and tears of dedicated and truly hard-working volunteers all to make this completely inclusive community gathering happen every year. It’s not only giving us geeks a place to … well for lack of a better word, geek out but the convention also helps to give back to the local community.
It’s not like those for-profit cons
From the merchandise sales to charity auctions and local businesses setting up booths, CONvergence isn’t one of those “for-profit” conventions where you spend hundreds of dollars and then wonder where your money went. Buying a membership feels more like spending a hundred dollars to drive out of town for a best friends reunion. The kind of friend that tweets randomly to remind you to drink water and feed yourself. The kind of friend that sets up a room for parents to take their exhausted kids for a break from all the excitement. Even the one that makes sure you can get a great picture of your outfit when you get all dressed up. CONvergence is about making memories with those friends.
CONvergence is people. People just like you and me started CONvergence with needs like you and me in mind. All the incredible people putting their minds together have just about thought of every single need for every different person that might want to try their first or millionth convention. Whether you are 1 or 100, physically or mentally disabled, socially awkward or anxious, this convention has a space for you and a place for you.
The Accessibility Booth offers help to disabled members of all sorts. Jen and I even utilized a well-stocked first aid room after Jen donated blood during the blood drive. Along the walls of the hotel, signs reminded you to eat and drink throughout the day. Teens have a room that is only for 12-17 year olds to rest and hang out during the convention. A wonderful nursing room was provided for breastfeeding mothers.
So much thought was put into every different person that might walk through the doors of CONvergence. They provided pronoun stickers and emergency contact labels for membership badges. Health clinics set up booths and were handing out condoms and information about safe sex including LGBTQ+ specific information.
Party rooms marked
We saw members walking the halls with sensory disorders who obviously now have a comfortable place to enjoy their fandoms. It seemed even the cosplay was kept tame in the sense of family-friendly content until the later hours of the convention. Party rooms were even marked with posters indicating if they were kid-friendly or not and were so specific, they even covered any known allergens that may be included in the food or beverages provided. This just goes to show that CONvergence is still a convention but also it’s a complete sci-fi/fantasy/anime vacation now in a convenient, well recognized location.
Activities, Activities, Activities
Convenience of location
Minneapolis is the home to so many incredible parks, museums, and foodie destinations. The new venue added a bonus to CONvergence members, because of the convenience factor to the con that wasn’t quite there before. Families coming to Minneapolis got to easily explore downtown Minneapolis through large temperate walkways and have any food they could want within walking distance of their hotel. CONvergence members have that luxury too while taking those much-needed breaks from the convention.
The Metro and the venue
When speaking to JP, he even mentioned that Metro Transit worked with the convention to offer free passes to CONvergence members. JP also said that this new space offered new opportunities to expand on some of the fan-favorite activities. The Hyatt was “being so supportive and amazing with preparing the space and working with all of us.”
A couple of new additions this year included the Holodeck, a giant rec space which offered a plethora of events for every sense or sensibility. Thanks to the new venue, the Masquerade was even bigger and better this year as well. Con-goers voted the Masquerade as one of the absolute must-see events of CONvergence, because it’s a chance for cosplayers to showcase their hard work.
So whatever your fancy, whether it be art, spoken word poetry, sci-fi, or fantasy, CONvergence has a place for you. CONvergence is people: It’s a convention, it’s a family, it’s a community. The venue might have changed but the one thing that still goes unwavering is the integrity and inclusivity of CONvergence.
It’s never too early to start planning for next year! If you’re interested in checking out CONvergence 2020, head over to their page for membership and volunteer opportunities! Don’t forget to check out our photo gallery for some of our best finds while we were there.