Ever been to a Relaxacon?
A relaxacon is a fan-based convention with little or no programming, few guests, and a reputation for being restful rather than fast paced. By those standards, ChattaCon 36 certainly is a relaxacon. If you have not been able to attend a relaxation con, they are a nice contrast to the fast pace and crowds of larger conventions.
Held every January in Chattanooga, TN, Chattacon takes over the historic Choo-Choo Hotel and offers vending, an art show, gaming, streamlined programming tracks, concerts, room parties, and free beer. Wait? Did I say free beer? Yes, free beer. More about that later.
Arriving Friday afternoon, I was impressed with the beauty of the facility. The Choo-Choo hotel is a historical landmark, as it is actually The Terminal Station in downtown Chattanooga converted into a multi-building hotel. The lobby is the old terminal. Behind the terminal you find…train cars! That’s right; the premium rooms in the hotel are actually converted railway cars. Priced out of my range, I stayed in one of the other hotel buildings. Along with registration, the terminal also hosted the art show.
In the lobby, I was met by several old friends from Dragon*Con and Anime Weekend Atlanta. It was great to catch up and chat. Because I was there as a vendor, I had to excuse myself to …well…go vend. The vending area was in the core of the convention center, flanked by the programming room and the very large theater. There was a mix bag of vendors including comic books, film memorabilia, leather works, art, jewelry and steampunk accessories. Tee-shirt vendors and publishers were also represented. Most of the back wall was covered by swords–from claymores to katanas. The vendor room also hosted fan tables for other conventions and other smaller vendors.
Due to my commitments I didn’t attend any programming or gaming….but honestly, that’s not why some people go to Chattacon. Even without going to programming, like a lot of people, I was able to accomplish a lot of networking. I met with people from conventions that I attend, got to know folks who run conventions that are too far away to visit, and touched base with the folks who run the convention I am interested in attending. I made contacts with a number of folks who I hadn’t seen in months. I was able to network…a lot.
So networking, check! What else goes on at a relaxacon? Partying?
Remember when I mentioned the beer? Chattacon is known as “beer-con” to some of its attendees because of the tradition of having a county-fair style beer truck INSIDE the con suite. The beer is included in membership. Tipping is encouraged and covers the cost of the beverages without passing on additional charges to the attendees. The beer in the con suite is nice treat that is complimented by above average food (also included in the membership). If you are used to nachos and salsa as typical con suite fare, you will love the sausages and meatballs, biscuits and cakes that Chattacon offers.
But, the free beer is just the beginning of the partying. Chattacon takes room parties very seriously and provides prizes for both Friday Night and Saturday Night Room Parties. The room parties are hosted by various conventions, fan groups, and other activities looking for promotion.
This year both parties were won by steampunk themed groups. There was also a masquerade, which was also won by the steampunk themed costumes of “The Dark Carnivale.” There were also concerts, including the headliner, Arcattack, who preformed with giant tesla coils.
I will try to do an update on the amazing steampunk at ChattaCon, because so much of it was related to the Draogn*Con Alternate History Track and in preparation for AnachroCon.
Now, do not think that Chattacon had no programming, dear reader. It did, but I did not get to see any of it. It also had guests. I got to meet some of them. Two of the guests agreed to do interviews with SpaceGypsies. Look for interviews with Daniel Griffith, who directs the documentaries used in MST3K DVDs and Beau Brown of “Bob and Carl the Sci-Fi Janitors.”