Geek Fan Expo: A con that changes the way we think about cons by

We swear we did not arrange this ourselves.

Over the weekend, Horse News took part in a new convention that has cropped up right in our HQ's backyard; just outside of Detroit Michigan. GeekFanExpo was held in Dearborn, a mere 11 miles from the hypothetical location of HorseCon, and what we saw there was thought provoking.



The Twilight Sparkle candle smells like old books - that includes a leather smell.

GFX is not a brony convention, instead it is a con that caters to all forms of "geek" and "fan" culture, and as the photos above show, ponyfans are not excluded from the group. Special guests for this first-year convention included Rob Paulson (a voice actor with such credits as Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, Yakko from Animaniacs, and literally so many others the man himself cannot count them all) and Timothy Zahn, acclaimed science fiction writer best known for his Star Wars novels.

Rob Paulson sings a few songs for us

Attendance for this start-up by our reporters eyeball-estimates place it at around 200-300 people, which the size of the venue was quite appropriate for those numbers.

But what the convention lacked in crowd size, it more than made up for in atmosphere and the way they handle their attendees, practices that make us take a harder look at those of some of the larger brony conventions. Why must things be this way?

Lobbycon: Dearborn Edition

The first object of note is how relaxed and realistic the convention schedule was. GFX had panels for everything, and rarely could you find a room with an empty timeslot. Everything from the obligatory cosplay panels and gaming events, to introductory panels for other fandoms, (thanks to GFX, our reporters finally found out what Homestuck is; they also have no intentions of ever going anywhere near it ever again). Most interesting however were the "adult" panels. GFX is as every bit designed for children as any brony convention is; there were countless kids dressed up like the Warner siblings wandering the halls, even girlscouts and tiny ninja turtles, and events for the little ones. 

The 501st legion was there

Children everywhere, and there was no overt "protect the children" themes to be found, just carding people at the doors to 18+ panels (such as "guests against humanity"- which is exactly what it sounds like). Why this issue seems so prevalent in brony conventions is a head scratcher. GFX even had fully-sanctioned pool parties for attendees and signs for room parties and speakeasies in full display, and everything worked out just fine.

Author Timothy Zahn
Another big aspect to GFX that we have not seen at many (if any) brony conventions was the signing structure. Autographs from the guests on items that attendees brought themselves were free, and people even had the option of having Rob Paulson do a voice recording for them for a small fee. 

City Championship promo cards were up for sale from one vendor
GenCon lent their notoriously large gaming library to GFX, and invited guests to come in and casually game...just about any game that has ever been made.



There was an event in which cosplay girls acted as hostesses at the hotel bar/restaraunt, and several concerts that people didn't have to pay extra to see (and there was a bar INSIDE the concert/rave area).


Rob Paulson hosted a "sing along" in which he took requests to perform songs from shows he has been on in the past, and also cover other songs in his cartoon voices.

Hearing Pinky sing "The Immigrant Song" is simply magical.

Even when things were bad they were hilariously good. On Friday night the power was knocked out due to a torrential rainstorm and a subsequent tornado warning, attendees stayed calm and lighthearted, hunkering together in the temporary darkness, comments like "if the keg still works, pour me another!" could be heard before the lights flickered back to life.


Despite its small size (due almost wholly to its status as a first-year convention) we can honestly say that GFX was a wonderful convention with lots of potential, and has given us much to think about when comparing it to our own single-fandom gatherings. 



Is there something inherently different about pony fans from other fans to where some large cons think we cant be trusted with ourselves? The fact that not only was alcohol allowed at, but actually PROVIDED at musical gatherings for the general attendees without incident speaks to this separation of mindsets. And after going quite some time without attending a non-pony-exclusive convention it was refreshing to see this sort of atmosphere. (We have been asked to clarify that the alcohol in the room party was not provided by GFX directly, but was made available one of the guests on-site).

No seriously, this is how cool these guys are.

So, if you find yourself wanting to visit the D next year, Geek Fan Expo is definitely worth a look, especially if you can't make it out to the grand daddy of all Michigan conventions - Youmacon (coming up Halloween Weekend). And if you can't, maybe take some of these ideas and lessons back to your own cons. Loosen your grip on your guests, and you might even be surprised.

To GeekFanExpo: Don't change a thing. We expect just as much awesomeness on the next go around.

Comments (25)

  1. Well tickle my testicles.

    Someone start taking notes

    We got a lot to learn

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  2. What's different about brony cons? Simple. We have Hasbro breathing down our back.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Then you're telling me that nobody has figured out to stop labeling them as "pony" conventions?
      Everyone on the staff has worked with other shows. Book them separately. Have them come together. The Bronies will still come to see them. This isnt hard

      Delete
    2. The problem is, when you are building a con off of identifiable IP, it really does matter. Hasbro keeps an eye on cons to watch for IP violations because that literally does affect their bottom line, whether you book everyone for "other" shows or not. If you have two dozen vendors all selling stuff based of their show, they are going to watch for shit. THAT is why it matters.

      Your workaround sounds great over a beer, but not once legal departments and court precedents get involved.

      Delete
  3. As I learned with some conventions last year, serving of alcohol depends quite a bit on hotel policies. Hotels are quite protective of their liquor licenses.

    Hotel policy tends to overrule convention decisions.

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    1. According to the website, the Con was held at a Hilton, the same chain as the majority of Brony cons

      Delete
    2. Great, so they're a Hilton. Not all Hiltons are owned by the Hilton corporation, and not all are run the same way. Local laws and the severity of their enforcement varies widely, as does the attitudes of managers at different locations.

      TL;DR, if a hotel is cracking down on alcohol, it's probably for a reason. They make money from people liking to stay with them- if being hardasses about booze kills traffic, they'll try to go as light as possible. On the flipside, if leniency will bring fines or the threat of revocation of their liquor license, they'll watch attendees like hawks.

      One weekend of con money is not worth losing an entire license.

      Delete
  4. I wonder which Brony Con is getting defensive in the comments section

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    1. I bet it's Everfree. Those back-stabbing bitches are the most obsessed with "B-b-but for the children! And our take under the table!"

      Delete
  5. Gfx didn't supply the booze. Friday night was cash bars via the hotel in the room party and concerts. Saturdays open bar was provided by an outside source.

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    1. It doesn't say that they supplied it, it just said that it was provided for and was available.
      Bronycon has kicked people out for having booze

      Delete
    2. Funny story: At the second BroNYCon, the convention itself *PROVIDED* booze during Bronypalooza. We looked into options of having the Hotel Penn provide a cash bar at the second Bronypalooza (since providing our own booze would have violated their policy). It wasn't in the cards. The hotel would have charged an asston, and everything they offered came with a fuckton of rules.

      Flash forward to today, and now people are actually being kicked out for having their own booze. It's sad.

      Delete
    3. Don't forget EFNW and CG dragging you before a tribunal claiming you embezzled funds from that con for buying an iPad and a Mac for use for con business. Oh, and claiming you didn't have JDL & Lauren Faust signed when you did. Or are we supposed to ignore that because it happened to Tinker, and ignore all the trips/food other cons use their money for? Still think its fucked PT got called a thief for buying stuff for the con to use, but other cons use our reg money to pay for them to go to other pony cons and that is okay. THIS IS WHAT BRONY CONS ACTUALLY BELIEVE!

      Delete
  6. Why are some cons dicks about booze and stuff? Because they have some legal liability for what goes on at the convention. If you don't take steps to stop underage drinking that you hear about, you're being negligent, and you can be charged. Same thing if other substances are being used or inappropriate sexual conduct is occurring or even if minors are not being supervised- look up "in loco parentis." If you don't act, you put people's finances and freedom at risk.

    Fuck, guys, it's not being butthurt-defensive, it's being "this is how the law works in the real world and having a criminal record sucks and I don't want to be a jailhouse bitch"-defensive. This is how it fucking works- you cover your ass and protect your event, organization, and people from the stupid shit attendees will pull.

    Why does a tiny con get away with stuff a bigger one doesn't? Usually, because they're fucking clueless and aren't big enough to get on anyone's radar. Lots of times they fizzle out after a year because someone DOES wise up and figures the payoff isn't worth the risk or the effort needed to comply.

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    1. The fact it was in Detroit also probably has something to do with it mate. Simply put, people in Detroit are much more chill about suing people into the ground than places like Miami. Probably because most folk that live around there have more important things to worry about, like making sure they don't get mugged or shot on their way to or from work. Or at home.

      Granted, that doesn't happen as much as most paint it to anymore, but the fear's still there.

      Delete
  7. Where's my Fagcon? Where's my Trannycon???? Where the fuck are the cons for Neo Nazis and traditionalists? Talk about geek culture kissing the feet of Jews. Might as well call these cons Jewcon.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The first and (especially) second BroNYCon was like this. (The second one had an attendance of approximately 300-400 people, putting it in the same ballpark as this event.) Hell, at the second one, everyone partied late into the night, getting drunk as fuck during the first Bronypalooza (at which booze was served), and PASSED OUT ON THE FLOOR OF THE CONVENTION SPACE still drunk as fuck.

    And one of the STAFFERS (not me, by the way, in case you're curious) puked on a pillow and left the pillow for the venue to clean up (unbeknownst to me— Mr. Venue was NOT happy).

    It was VERY casual and VERY freewheeling. And fun as hell.

    But as Hasbro started to take more and more notice of how conventions were run, things got stricter on the quickfast.

    The "must protect the children" crap came from external pressure from two fronts: The usual anti-brony types (read: SJWs and assorted prudes terrified that a child might accidentally catch a glimpse of someone's R34 fanart even if said fanart was only actually SOLD to adults, even with IDs) and the fear of a quick Hasbro shutdown.

    The former group was especially fun. These were the same people who fought bitterly with me to try to get me to ban Tarby from performing 'Something Broke' at the second Bronypalooza because it had lyrics that alluded to child abuse.

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  9. (or TL;DR: This is why we can't have nice things. But to this day, BroNYCon September 2011 was my personal fave BC ever. Falling asleep listening to bronies partying and getting drunk as hell on pony-themed drinks and listening to oontz oontz techno music was great. Everyone had so much fun.)

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    1. >techno

      its called EDM

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    2. Ya I don't mind if people have booze but you have to drink it responsibly. So ya...

      Delete
  10. His name is Rob Paulsen, not "Rob Paulson". http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/Rob-Paulsen/

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    1. When you see a single letter typo is always worth your time to type out, not only a correction, but also go gather a link for a source. Time well spent. For sure.

      Delete
  11. Brownies are simply more insecure and have more dumb people in their ranks. That is just a guess.

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    Replies
    1. Before you can fix a problem, you have to admit it's there.

      Delete