The best aspect of CyphanCon is its small intimate feel. You aren’t kept a mile away from the guest, or shoved along through a huge autograph line. Last year the guests had their Q&A in a large ballroom on a huge stage that put a lot more distance between the fan and the star than the previous year. This year CyphanCon tightened things up by putting Ernie Hudson’s Q&A session in a small meeting room on a small stage just a few feet from the front row seats. The atmosphere when I came in was a little tense, but I think that just has to do with the question I walked in on. Later on the room really warmed up, and it was a happy, welcoming environment.
There was always something to do at this convention. You could browse the two vendors rooms. You could participate in the wide variety of RPG, Miniature, Boardgame and Demo game events. For those into more electronic gaming interests, the “Holodeck” provided four classic arcade games set to unlimited play. For almost every hour attendees had a choice between two seminars to go to. Of the wide variety of interesting seminars, I chose to check out the Land of 10,000 Spirits seminar and Basic Costumer’s Makeup seminar.
The Basic Costumer’s Makeup seminar was very informative. It was hosted by Image Works FX. After watching them make a zombie last year using their prosthetic sores and wounds, it was clear that Image Works FX know their stuff. They had some projector trouble so they couldn’t get their power point on to the big screen, but thanks to my camera’s zoom, I was able to capture it for the benefit of SpaceGypsies readers!
The staff at this con are really top notch. They are friendly, courteous, always smiling, and they seem as pleased to be at the con as the attendees. I’d like to especially thank the young woman who helped me find the best spot in the room to take pictures of the costume contest.
While the fans were few in number, their enthusiasm was infectious. There were costumes all over for everything from Ghostbusters to Star Wars to a lot of really cool things that I had never heard of before! The costume contest had just the perfect number of participants – not so many that it took ages to introduce everyone, and not so few to make it futile. I had some really great conversions with fellow Stargate and Doctor Who fans. It just goes to show that there are no friendlier people than sci-fi/fantasy fans!
With conventions, the schedule is everything. If you can’t count on the printed schedule you have been provided being right, what can you count on? Cyphan’s schedule was well designed with a day packed with concurrently running events, each an hour long with a fifteen minute break in between. The only time slot that wasn’t double booked was from 1:30 to 2:30, Ernie Hudson’s Q&A session. This makes perfect sense because nothing is more important than your guest star, right? The time slot was buffered by fifteen minutes both before and after. So imagine my surprise when I walked into a closed room at 1:25 and found that the session was already underway!
At first I thought, “Oh, they started early! Well, that’s inconsiderate but ok. No big deal.” Several people filed in shortly after I did, looking just as confused. Before I knew it Ernie was being told that he could take just one more question. The session ended at 2:00. That’s right! The Q&A started half an hour early, overlapping TWO seminars going on two floors below by fifteen minutes. Those poor people downstairs (myself included) had no idea that they were missing the most important event of the convention!
After the room cleared of most of the attendees I flagged down a staff member in the quiet hallway outside the room. I asked him when the panel had started, and pointed out to him that the schedule listed the session from 1:30 to 2:30. He confirmed my suspicions that the panel started at 1:00, but was thoroughly confused by the time in the program. He asked if he could have the schedule from my program to show the convention owner, and he would come find me after speaking to him. I am sad to say that I never saw that staff member again.
I’m still not sure exactly what happened. There were a lot of people in the room, seated and attentive when I entered. I don’t have a clue how they knew the panel would start early. It was the first event in that room for the day, and for such a small con I can’t imagine people going to claim their seats half an hour before, but suppose it could have happened. If there was a sign or notice somewhere I did not see it. I’m not sure why the staff didn’t know about it. The only explanation I can think of is if people were in the main hall of the convention and saw Ernie making his way to the panel room, and maybe some of the staff called out to anyone in hearing range that it was time. This still left the people at the panels two floors below in the cold, and the hosts of the Basic Costumer’s Makeup session needed every minute of the hour they were given to complete their presentation (which was awesome). Next time maybe an announcement can be made if the schedule changes.
The Land of 10,000 Spirits seminar was a disappointment. Listed as being hosted by the Mississippi River Valley Ghostbusters, I was expecting some interesting tales of ghost hunting in Minnesota from an experienced team. After getting into Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters, maybe my expectations were a bit too high, but this was a far cry from anything I could have expected. Instead of a team of ghost hunters, only one guy from the team came. Instead of telling personal stories of his experiences with the paranormal, he told the historical and rumored stories of some of the most haunted locations in Minnesota. He read them from a power point presentation and pages of paper. He had only one picture of each location, and no evidence of the hauntings to show us. Granted he did start by saying that he had never put on a presentation like this before, and seeing a reporter in the audience surely didn’t help the situation.
The vendors rooms at Cyphan Con have been pretty consistent, with many of the same dealers coming again and again. This says volumes about the business they have been getting at the convention, enough to make returning worthwhile. At the same time I was a little sad to see that a couple dealers from last year were missing. I hit the Stargate Trading Card jackpot last year, collecting several rare relic cards. I was hoping to find one card in particular, but this time there were no trading cards to be seen. A large T-shirt booth that was in attendance last year was also conspicuously missing. Overall the booths were many but they seemed a little smaller with less variety in items than last year.
Dave Dorman, the famous Star Wars Artist was in attendance, but according to a poster I saw, his table was in one of the two vendors rooms. I walked through there several times and I can’t say I actually saw where he was. This was odd since he was considered a “featured guest”. Ernie Hudson’s table was in a separate and far less crowded room. I had expected to find Dave Dorman in there too.
Overall, I’m just not sure where this convention is going. This year they recaptured the intimate feel that they lost in some respects last year, which was good. That feel is what makes this con unique. It’s also very good to see more cons like this in the Midwest. However, there is a serious (and unexpected) breach in the overall organization of the con when a panel begins thirty minutes ahead of schedule. The guests they had this year did not draw a large crowd, but the fans that did come brought and infectious enthusiasm with them. Cyphan Con continues to grow and expand. If they can keep their diverse panels and intimate feel they have the potential to continue growing for years to come.