As I said in my review of CyphanCon’s premiere event, CyphanCon is a unique small convention that puts no handcuffs on the media and no barriers between fans and the guests. The second CyphanCon found a decent balance between growing and not losing all its unique features, but it did suffer some growing pains.
Cyphan 2 moved to a new location, the Hyatt Hotel in Rosemont. While this gave the con a little more space to work with compared to the previous year and it is a gorgeous hotel, I’m not sure the extra costs were worthwhile. The auditorium in which the guest Q&A sessions were held was easily twice the size of the space reserved for the Q&A’s last year. The stage was huge and high as well, with an unnecessarily high front edge of some sort. It created a feeling of separation between the stars and the audience, where as previously the guests were on a stage about a foot high and the front seats were only a couple feet away. That created a very uniquely intimate atmosphere, even when the small room was well occupied. This year the intimate feeling was a result of the small number of people in the room, but the size of the room and the stage nearly negated it. However the space served several purposes. It had a dance floor, and the Star Wars-style cantina was set up in the back, ready for the Imperial Ball. At the previous hotel the cantina was in its own room. In addition there were about four small rooms set up for fan panels and gaming. Given that all the celebrity Q&A’s were scheduled one right after another on Saturday morning in the large ballroom, I am not sure why the fan panels couldn’t have made more use of that space as well. Then again, that large of a space wouldn’t have been conducive to most fan panels, like how to make a zombie! It was kind of a no win situation.
Because of the very odd dimensions of the dealer’s room, it was hard to tell if there was more room than the previous year or if they just managed to pack more dealers in. Regardless, the variety was fantastic! There was Steampunk, corsets, geeky t-shirts and accessories of all kinds, amazing jewelry, fan produced movies, hard to find classics, books, and collecter’s items galore!
I went in looking for Stargate items and got exactly what I was looking for! I had just started to complain aloud that there was a serious lack of Stargate when one of the dealers overheard me and said, “We have Stargate!” Lo and behold I immediately had to go find the ATM because they had costume relic cards for Claudia Black and Cliff Simon! That dealer was kind enough to point me towards another table where I met Ed Webb of scificards.com. He had a huge collection of relic cards, but there were three in particular that caught my eye – Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping, and Richard Dean Anderson! Now for those of you who don’t know what these cards are, they have a small piece of the actor’s costume tucked into them with a window so you can clearly see and touch the fabric.
While it’s not nearly as fun as say, owning a pair of Daniel’s clip-on sunglasses (which I do!), the relic cards are unique and hard to come by because there are very few of them compared to the rest of the cards in the series. This can make collecting a full set quite a challenge, especially if you aren’t prepared to shell out a ton of money for each card. Both vendors at Cyphan had surprisingly reasonable prices for highly sought after main cast relic cards, and thanks to them I now have one relic card for nearly all of the main cast members!
The highlight of the convention for me was seeing Robert Picardo again. The talented entertainer was not daunted by his small audience of about 30 fans, scattered throughout a much bigger room than was needed. It did make for a very relaxed atmosphere, but I still found the size and distance of the stage from the seats to be rather disappointing. The small con feel is definitely something that CyphanCon should strive to retain, even if they get bigger guests. Still, it was well worth the trip up to Rosemont, and even more worth it when Robert accepted our request for an interview the next morning!
Another appeal of this convention is that you can go and have a great time for a pretty reasonable price. If you’re smart that is. For $30 you can get in for a whole day, attend panels, visit the dealer’s room and gaming room, and get autographs from the guests. For another $40 you could go to the Cocktail Party for two hours and meet the guests without any handlers or stopwatches. For another $10 you could go dance – or just watch other people dance – at the Imperial Ball. If you wanted to go all three days without paying for each day seperate, you could get the $55 three day pass. Anything else, forget about it. GreenEggsNSamm explained it very well in her review. CyphanCon got too big for it’s britches when they tried to offer Gold and Platinum packages for $120 and $190. The included perks of having reserved front row seats for panels and cutting to the front of autograph and photo lines were a joke because the con just didn’t have the attendance to make it worth the extra cost. It was far smarter to wait a few minutes in a little line and save your money to get great swag in the dealer’s room!
Overall CyphanCon managed to grow in its second year without losing all the elements that make it unique, but it did lose a few. If there is to be a third year – and I sincerely hope there will be – I hope the con runners will be able to find a balance between their approach this year and last year to make CyphanCon the perfect fun and intimate weekend party for Chicagoland fans!