Yama-Con 2014: The Best of Times, The Busiest of Times

Well, readers, it’s that time of year again – and no, I’m not talking about Christmas! Last weekend, December 5-7, was Yama-Con, Northeast Tennessee’s own anime and comic convention, and definitely one of my favorite conventions that I attend regularly. I’ve been going to Yama-Con for all three years it’s been happening, and have always had a wonderful and memorable time there. This year, however, was a little different: I wouldn’t just be going as a normal attendee, I would actually be working for the convention as a volunteer!

I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was going to be awesome.

In the days preceding the convention, my thoughts turned to which costumes I would wear (because, as my long-time readers know, I really enjoy cosplay). However, none of my already-made cosplays were suited for the cold December weather, and due to a busy semester tending to schoolwork and taking part in A Midsummer Night’s DreamI hadn’t had time to start any new cosplays for this convention. So, I decided to just throw a few cute fandom-themed outfits together and call it a weekend. Considering I didn’t know exactly what kind of work I’d be doing at the con, or how long I would be doing it, I thought that non-costume clothing would work better anyway. Wearing one of my wigs with a sort of punk-y outfit on Friday was the closest I got to cosplaying this year.

The trip to the convention was uneventful, mainly because it was so short – with Pigeon Forge being only about two hours away from Harrogate, Yama-Con is about as local a convention as our community has! Once I arrived there and met up with my usual convention group (best friend Hayley and her family!), I was able to marvel at the con’s new venue: the LaFonte Center. Last year, Yama-Con had so many new attendees that we were packed into the small convention center like sardines; this year, there was so much more space for everything going on over the course of the weekend, from fan panels and dances to shopping or just hanging out in the hallways. With as much as there was to do, the convention took full advantage of the space.

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Ready to dance the night away!

Of course, I couldn’t stand around being amazed forever; I was there to volunteer, after all! On the first afternoon of the con, my station was outside of the Dealer’s Room exit, to keep the flow of traffic headed in the right direction. I half-expected to be bored out of my mind sitting there for two hours, but it turned out to be a lot of fun in its own way. I talked to some amazing and interesting people, took pictures of many awesome cosplayers coming out of the room (with their permission, of course!), and managed to learn the layout of the convention center even better when passing attendees asked me for directions. That evening, after my shift finished and the Dealer’s Room closed, Hayley and I donned our ball gowns back at the hotel and booked it back to the center for the Moon Prism Masquerade, the con’s annual formal ball. After having some fun attempting to waltz until our feet were aching, we made a Taco Bell run, took to the hallways again and generally had a grand time talking with our friends far into the night.

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My friend Hayley in her Saturday cosplay – Dave Strider from Homestuck.

Saturday, if nothing else, was a valuable and enjoyable lesson in time management. I had a longer volunteer shift that day than on Friday, and so I had to plan out my time accordingly. There weren’t any panels or other events I wanted to attend in the morning, so I got most of my “con shopping” done in the Dealer’s Room then. I found a few Christmas gifts for friends, plus some beautiful artwork, comics, and cosplay accessories for myself. All too soon, it was time for my shift to start – I was at the Dealer’s Room exit again, this time for four hours. And once again, it was time for people-watching, taking pictures of any cosplayers that caught my eye, and having some very interesting conversations with those passing. A few friends from my group and even people I hadn’t known prior to the con joined me at my post at intervals, and made for excellent company to pass the time. That evening, I spent some time with one of the cosplayers I had met at the con, then headed to the Saturday night rave with everyone. Dancing into the late hours of the night, energized by the pounding techno music and flashing lights, made for a wonderful ending to a fun and packed day!

My Sunday outfit – photo courtesy of Iconiq Cosplay Photography!

On Sunday, I only had one volunteer shift remaining: two hours in a panel room. Coincidentally, I happened to be interested in both of the panels happening during my shift! The first was a panel on modeling, run by two of Yama-Con’s fashion guests, ScatterDOTT and Vendetta Marie. While keeping close track of the time, as was my job, I participated in the panel, striking poses and strutting down the room’s makeshift runway with the panel’s other attendees. The next event was a discussion panel of the video game series Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, a series that I had recently become interested in. The day closed out with the group and I simply chilling out in the emptying hallways, sad because it was over but already looking forward to next year.

Yama-Con weekend was an amazing experience that gave me a very interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes aspects of the anime con scene. As always, I can’t wait for the next event I’ll be attending! For more updates on my convention adventures and nerdy exploits in general, feel free to follow my blog!

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