VOLUNTEERING AT POP CULTURE CONVENTIONS

One way a retiree can stay busy is by volunteering. I decided to combine my love of Pop Culture with volunteering. In 2018, I was a volunteer at the Dallas Con of Thrones, a Game of Thrones convention put on by Mischief Management. The Con focuses on panel discussions, cosplay, and guest appearances. An added bonus is that I got to visit my little sister, who lives in Carrollton. My travel costs were negligible due to frequent flier points and hotel points. I did spend about $120 for Lyft rides to/from the airport and to/from my hotel to Reunion Tower. In exchange for volunteering, I received a day pass. However, I had already purchased a general pass, so I never redeemed the day pass. I also received a volunteer t-shirt.

I had such a great time in 20198, that I volunteered again this year in Nashville. This time, I did not buy tickets to the event, and I ended up volunteering for over 12 hours (and received two day passes). Read below for my experience.

Nashville Con of Thrones 2019

The Con of Thrones took place in Nashville from 7/12-14. I left early on 7/11 so that I could arrive in time to attend the mandatory Volunteer Training at Music City Center (MCC). I left Vegas at 6:35 am and arrived in Nashville a little after 12 noon. It was not only hot but humid as heck! Thank goodness I was able to check into my hotel (Fairfield Inn/Gulch) early, due to my status as a Marriott Gold member. The staff upgraded me to a King Suite, which had a nice lounging area with a large sofa, desk, and second t.v.

I decided to walk around and eventually head over to MCC (a 15-minute walk away). Frankly, there wasn’t a lot to see in that part of Nashville – some restaurants, a few sorry businesses, and a lot of men just hanging around on the sidewalks. I didn’t feel that safe. My fears were justified when later that afternoon, some old guy tried to grab me. I don’t know what he wanted (maybe he mistook me for someone he knew? He only had one eye!), but I wasn’t going to have any of that. With age comes a certain fearlessness (at least for me), and a definite “Don’t f*ck with me” attitude. I screamed at my assailant and pushed him away. Probably scared the shit out of him.

Music City Center

I got to MCC around 4 pm. It was huge! I stopped at a little store inside the facility for some water and then tried to orient myself. I discovered that all the Con action was in the A section (primarily floors 2, which was programming, and 3, which was the marketplace and the main stage). The training was on floor 2 in one of the programming rooms.

As I wandered around MCC, I saw no cosplayers, which was a huge difference from the Dallas Con. In Dallas, the hotel and convention were co-located, so people could run to their rooms, dress up, and wander around the hotel, marketplace, and meeting sites. I noticed that the vendors were setting up and the staff was putting up signs.

Around 5:45 pm I went to the training session, but one was already in progress. I joined the ongoing session and left around 6:30 pm. I saw one familiar face and met a lot of first-time volunteers from Nashville (in Dallas, volunteers hailed from all over the country). It also seemed like there were a lot of older volunteers this time.,

Day 1- Volunteering

My first day volunteering at this Con of Thrones was working in the autograph lines for Jerome Flynn (Bronn) and Hannah Murray (Gilly). The lines were sparse. Many participants did not know that they had to provide something for the actor to sign. I guess, in ComicCons, etc., the talent has pictures on the autograph table that an attendee can ask the actor to sign. Oh well…

I dealt with the above complaint frequently, as well as questions about changing session times, comments about how they hated the ending of the series, and general negativity. Such a contrast with the positivity I experienced working during the Dallas Con of Thrones.

Because there were not that many autograph seekers, Jerome Flynn actually left his autograph session 15 minutes early.

Not a good start.

At noon, I worked at the Registration tables in the BUY NOW section. I sold two tickets.

At 3 pm, I was back in the autograph lines. It was a little busier, and a little more positive. A native of Nashville and experienced convention goer told me that, in Nashville, this was normal. She said that Saturday would be crowded.

Day 2 – Con of Thrones Attendee

Today, I was a regular attendee of the Con. There were more vendors set up in the marketplace, and there were several interesting panels. I did some shopping, attended two panels, and socialized with some cosplayers.

Cosplayers at the Marketplace

The audience had increased quite a bit. However, it appeared that there were fewer cosplayers than in Dallas. Another Nashville native told me that the people in Nashville do not dress up. I also think the fact that everyone had to stay offsite and travel to MCC didn’t help.

I decided to buy a signed print of Syrio teaching Arya how to fight (water dance). The print had Maisie Williams’ authenticated signature, and since the actor playing Syrio was signing autographs at the Con of Thrones, I got him to sign my print. The actor, Miltos, is a fan favorite at this Con, and he added “Not today” under his signature for me!

I later watched him show attendees how to fight with wooden swords. It was pretty fun!

Panel with Game of Thrones stars (Jerome Flynn, Nickolaj Coster-Waldau, Miltos Yerolemou, and Hannah Murray)

Day 3 Volunteering

Today was a fun day! I volunteered again in autographs and photographs. First, the lines for photographs with Nickolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie) were crazy! I scanned people’s tickets and answered general questions. The next photography sessions were with the dire wolves; however, a supervisor asked me to move to Nickolaj’s autograph session and scan people’s tickets. I worked close to the talent and it was fun to see Nickolaj’s expressions as he signed some very unusual objects! It was also hilarious how love-struck a few of the attendees were. To be honest, Nickolaj’s is a very handsome man!

Jamie Lannister shopping at the Con!

At noon, I moved over the Con of Thrones merchandise store, which was interesting as I got to interact at some length with the attendees.

At 3 pm, I left my volunteer duties, and attended a panel and bought some merchandise. I happened to meet podcaster Mallory Rubin at Dunkin Donuts, as well as two writers, Joanna Lannister and Something like a Lawyer.

Final Thoughts

I enjoy the Game of Thrones fandom, the panels, and Con of Thrones. It’s nice to see such a diverse group of passionate fans and to have others not think your nerdiness is weird.

STAR TREK CONVENTION 2019

Since I live in Vegas, I heard about the huge Star Trek Convention at the Rio from 7/31-8/4. I filled out an online volunteer application and was waitlisted. I didn’t think I would be selected since this is a hugely popular convention. But, but I got an email on 7/26/19, that I had been moved off the waiting list. I immediately received a second email requesting that I attend training on 7/30 at 2 pm at the Rio. Although this is a volunteer position, the management company does pay a day rate and offers volunteers 50% off photos/autographs.

First Day at the Star Trek Convention

I reported on 7/30 and learned that, although I said I could work three days, they assigned me to work in the Kelley Theater the entire length of the convention.  J was to be my supervisor.  But, since we were doing set up the first day, I helped build a Tribble mountain with three other volunteers.  After that, I worked on badges, cleanup, and numbering the chairs and assigning row numbers in the main theater.  Because I asked L (the mainstage supervisor) to text me the map showing the rows and columns, I was in charge of making sure everything was labeled correctly.  We were there until 10 pm because the unionized workers who were to place and lock the chairs did complete the job until late.  We did not finish, but could not work more than 8 hours.

Day 2

On Wednesday 7/31, we reported at 8 am to complete the chair labeling.  There was a miscommunication with the hired security staff, who insisted that we show them wristbands (we were only given lanyards with badges).  I reported the problem, and it eventually worked out.  (The lady that gave me a hard time later came by the Kelley theater and “made nice” with me.)

Later I went to the Kelley theater and worked with Andrew, who came from the Bay area. We became friends and traded breaks and lunches. Wednesday was slow and the programming in the Kelley theater focused on creating a fan club (an away team) and an auction.  We left around 5 pm.

Day 3

Thursday was jammed pack and had unscheduled programming changes which caused confusion.  The panels were women’s clothing, unsolved mysteries, time travel, gaming, the Star Trek 2020 cruise, Star Trek jobs, the auction and karaoke sign up (simultaneously, which is a horrible idea), and the Shakespeare/Star Trek connection.  I met a lot of interesting people, and several wanted to vent to me (which was fine).

Day 4

Friday was awkward. I had a run-in with a celebrity who cut through a long line for the medical ethics panel. I didn’t recognize him and simply asked for a wristband.  He proceeded to lecture me that he was the star of Enterprise, blah, blah, blah.  (Note: most of the talent have a handler accompanying them.) The “star” said he was looking for his family and was texting on his phone. I asked him to move because he was blocking the line (which he did).  He left after a minute. 

After the panel, 3-4 people thanked me for doing this thankless job.  I got several pats on the back.  The sympathies were clearly on my side.  (Note to the talent: you do not have to be a Star Trek fan to volunteer.)  I later texted J (my supervisor) about the incident, and she informed someone higher up.  Hopefully, the star was told not to treat volunteers like crap!

The remaining panel discussions in the Kelley Theater were boring. They focused on comics, fan clubs, and cryptocurrency. The last panel sounded interesting (Building a Utopian Future), but the sound was terrible and only 20 people attended.

Day 5

On Saturday, we had a cosplay prejudging, which also lead to some drama due to inconsistent directions over who could attend.  After that, Andrew and I were asked to work the autograph line for John Billingsley, Robert Picardo, and Alexander Siddig.  I did not get to see the actors but had line control. I also had to scan tickets, etc.  L (the mainstage supervisor) let Andrew go but wanted me to stay past 6 pm.  I told her that I wasn’t allowed to because I was told no nights (Creation did not want to pay volunteers a night rate). 

I did hear that part of the reason the line for Mr. Siddig was so long was because he wanted to chat with the guests. When his handler told him not to, Mr. Siddig said that he was going to give each paying guest their time with him. What a sweet story!

Last Day

On Sunday, it was slow. I had to deal with the very angry woman who wanted to vent about how the convention sucked.  The woman also wanted to talk about the episodes, her experiences in past cons, etc.  She would not leave me alone and kept returning to the Kelley Theater to talk to me. (She had several hours to kill before her next event).  Thank God we had a panel and we got busy because we were giving away items. 

After the last panel at 3 pm, Andrew had to fly home, but I was tasked to work autographs again.  About an hour in, L pulled me from the line and asked me to work right by the talent since one actor had to leave (Jeffrey Combs). 

Working Close to the Talent

I had to monitor a separate line for Jeffrey and direct people getting Roxann Dawson’s autographs to another line (Jeffrey and Roxann were sitting at tables next to each other).  I ended up talking to Jeffrey and his handler.  He told me that he had to get ready for a show at 5:45, but it took 10 mins to walk to his room, 10 mins back, as well as the time to get into a tux. At that point, it was 5 pm.  We could not get ahold of L, so I directed the other volunteers to get all the people wanting Jeffrey’s autograph to come into the line (whether or not they were priority Gold, secondary PDF or hard ticket holders).  We managed to get that going when another supervisor decided to create a Roxann autograph only line, which I also had to manage. It was a clusterf*ck but somehow we got it got done. 

So much drama when some simple planning and better time allotment could remedy the situation.

Final Thoughts

I got numerous compliments from guests and a lot of hugs and small gifts. I also had to deal with several drunken flirty guys, but that was easy to handle.  Finally, many older women wanted to vent to me, and I listened.  One person said it was because I looked her in the eye and showed I cared.  I guess that’s the lawyer/judge in me.

A model of the Enterprise built by a German man. The model took 2100 hours to build and is made primarily with a utility knife, foam and cardboard. He added an electrical components to it. The builder told me it cost $7000 to fly the model to the US from Germany!

HARRY POTTER CON (LEAKY CON) 2019

I only spent one day volunteering and attending the Harry Potter convention in Dallas. I also wanted to see my sister. So, I arrived on Thursday, checked out the convention center (which was a good 10 minute walk in the humid Dallas heat) from my hotel (Crowne Plaza) to the Convention Center. I determined that everything was happening in Hall D and that security was everywhere (which was good, in light of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Gilroy, and Dayton).

Main Stage Door

On Friday, I reported for volunteer orientation at 7:30 am. It was not much different than the orientation I had for Con of Thrones. I was working the mainstage doors for 3.5 hours and programming for 2.5 hours. My last shift would end at 2:30 pm and I could get a day pass for the same day.

During my shift at the mainstage doors, I worked with three other women. It was fun chatting about the convention with these experienced people. It was also fun to see all the cosplayers.

While at the mainstage door, I learned that the talent could not enter backstage, so they walked right past us. Later, after the first program ended, two of the actors (Georgina Leonidas, who played Katie Bell, and James Payton, who was Frank Longbottom) stopped by and chatted with us for a good 15 minutes. One of the volunteers was a huge fan of Georgina and couldn’t contain herself. James was very personable and spent time talking to me about his other gigs (including creating snow and ice for movie sets). It was all very unexpected and nice.

Programming

At noon, I moved on to programming. I have to admit, I really enjoyed the programming I attended (vs. the Star Trek Con). My job was to place the talent’s name cards on the table, hold up time cards (10 mins, 5 mins, and end) to alert the talent to wrap things up, and to complete a survey about the room. One program was so popular, I spend time assisting people finding seats.

Attending the Convention

Moaning Myrtle
Regulus and Sirius Black (Regulus was actually a fellow mainstage door volunteer, Sabrina)
Albus Dumbledore, who I met while volunteering in programming
Boggart Snape
The Honeydukes Express Food Trolley Lady at the Marketplace

After I completed my shift in programming, I got a day pass and did some shopping, ate a huge salad, and snapped some photos. All in all, I really enjoyed volunteering at LeakyCon 2019.

Sonia

I am a 50-something retired woman, currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. This blog addresses the budgetary challenges and other concerns of "young" retirees. We are an overlooked group: too old to be considered middle-aged and too young to be called senior citizens.

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