NorCal has been at a loss for large comic-centric conventions ever since WonderCon moved to Anaheim, leaving us with an opening that smaller cons just couldn’t fill. With the announcement that Wizard World was coming to Sacramento, it seemed we might have gotten the replacement we needed – after all, Wizard World is a well-established convention, and even though it’s the con’s first year in Sacramento, it already has a good name behind it.
The con was set in the Sacramento Convention Center, the same location Sac Anime has been using recently. That made the location a familiar one to local attendees, and the size of the convention center was enough to meet the estimated attendance.
In spite of it being in its first year, Wizard World Sacramento boasted some excellent guests, which drew in a large crowd. Big names such as Billy Dee Williams and William Shatner brought the science fiction fans, cast members of The Walking Dead – mainly Norman Reedus – attracted zombie aficionados, and of course, for the comic fans, there was Stan Lee himself, as well as Chris Hemsworth (or Chremsworth, for short).
However, big guests also meant big prices, with tickets going for around $50 a day, give or take the online coupons and pre-reg discounts. That’s just for getting in to the convention, though, as autographs and pictures ranged from 30-50 dollars for most guests, and well in the hundreds for the major guests. VIP tickets cost even more, but included unique photo ops and gift bags. Suffice to say, it could get very expensive, though often worth it if one really wanted to meet a guest or two.
The convention itself encompassed only part of the Convention Center, due to the center also hosting another event at the time. As such, most attendees were crowded into the back half of the center, and the dealer’s hall was filled with crowds. It did feel like it was using very little of the convention center for how much tickets cost, but they announced that next year’s convention will use the entire center, so we can expect more room there.
In spite of the crowding, though, credit must be given for how fast the lines moved; although the lines to get badges and into the convention were very lengthy, there was enough staff to keep it organized and moving at a brisk pace, for which they should be applauded.
Rather than give out attendee badges, Wizard World attendees were given wristbands that they had to show upon entering a room, which were color-coded for each day or type of badge. While that did make it near impossible for attendees to sneak in by passing off badges to one another, or to slip into the dealer’s hall without one, it proved annoying to cosplayers, who often had to deal with gloves, fursuits, spandex, armor, and so on.
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Inside the Dealer’s Hall, there was a wide array of booths selling comics, toys, t-shirts, and other assorted geeky paraphernalia. Further down in the room was the artist alley, which hosted not only fans and semi-professionals, but industry artists whose comics and artwork have been published, and were more than willing to speak with fans and sign their pieces.
At the very end of the hall were the autograph booths. With schedules posted so fans could know when to meet the guests they came to see. They also included prices, so one could budget accordingly, and the guests that I encountered were very cheerful and polite.
When the guests weren’t at their booths, they were usually at panels or events. Jason David Frank of Power Rangers fame hosted a self defense class near the end of the convention, while others held regular panels where they spoke to fans and answered questions. There were also fan panels, where attendees held discussions on certain topics, such as ethnicity in comics, or the logic of science fiction.
Outside the convention center, though, there were always plenty of attendees walking about. They ranged in age from children with their parents (kids got in free) to the more elderly attendees, with cosplayers of all shapes, skill levels, and ages there to have a good time. There were quite a few people who would snipe photos of cosplayers (take pictures without asking for permission), which is not only an issue of etiquette, but means they’re not getting as good a picture as they could if the cosplayer were posing.
There were some occasional cosplay gatherings, although nothing officially sanctioned by the convention, so they were all organized by fans or groups. There weren’t as many as the more cosplay-centric conventions tend to get, but there were some for Star Wars, The Walking Dead, G.I. Joe, and Marvel comics, to name a few, which drew a nice amount of cosplayers and photographers alike.
On Saturday, Stan Lee was prevented from attending due to illness. Fortunately, he recovered by the following day, and everything proceeded as planned, just pushed around a day or so. Those who paid the hundred-plus dollars to get a picture with him, or one with him and Chremsworth together, were not disappointed, save for the few that could only attend Saturday.
In short, this was a decent first year for Sacramento Wizard World. As with all conventions in their first year, there are some issues to sort out – mainly the size of the con versus how much space they had (and for fellow press members, the press badges were only assigned after three-day passes had already sold out, making it difficult for those who were denied press to get regular badges), but those are problems that will be addressed and sorted out in time. Next year will run from June 19-21, so there’s plenty of time to prepare.