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Monday, February 26, 2024

Fan Expo Portland 2024 - My Experiences

January 12-14, 2024
Oregon Convention Center
Portland, Oregon

I was looking forward to my first event of 2024. I've been to Wizard World events in the past, but this would be my first Fan Expo.

The unfortunate part about when this was scheduled is that there were serious weather issues that would rain down snow, sleet and freezing rain on the PNW. We don't often see weather like this, but when we do, it has taken a terrible toll on this area. As I am writing this, there are still areas of Portland that have at least some ice or snow on the ground.

Fortunately, when I travelled to the event on Friday, there wasn't any reason to worry. However, the weather predictions were for later in the day. I decided to take my chances getting up there, and had ideas of what I could do should I get stuck in Portland due to the weather. As luck would have it, I got in and out with ease on Friday.

When I first arrived at the convention center, I was quite surprised that the cost for the underground parking was $20 for the day. At past events, it has been between $12 - $16 for the day. I'm not exactly sure why they decided $20 was reasonable, but unfortunately I prefer the on-site parking due to my physical limitations. It was fortunate that there was plenty of parking available when I arrived and I found a great spot.

To get from the elevator to the area where I had to go to get my badge, we were directed to go up 2 sets of stairs and then down 1 set. Getting the badge was quick, but then we were directed half-way back to where we began to enter the show floor.

When I first entered the show floor, I was surprised with the size. It seems as though this was maybe 1/3 the size of Rose City Comic Con, and it appeared that most everything was contained in the single room. Main stage was in the corner near the end of the celebrity signing areas. 

Another thing I immediately noticed that surprised me was that there were no signs indicating the times celebrities would be available for signing. At other events that I have attending, there was always a schedule for each celebrity guest so that participants could schedule their time to make sure they could get the signatures they wanted.

I later found-out that Fan Expo doesn't schedule signings, but they are basically made available at their signing areas when they are not in other activities like panels or photo-ops. I can understand the reason behind this, but I also don't like this approach as I like to be able to plan my day to include both panels and signings. Fortunately, I was not limited to waiting for any signings due to the fact that I didn't have the budget to afford any autographs, but my friend pre-purchased 2 autographs with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. More on this later.

As I took my initial walk-through of the event, I noticed that the majority of exhibitors and artists seemed to have a common theme to their items; anime. While I am no opposed to anime, I am not a fan. As I have mentioned when I attended Rose City Comic Con in 2023, the list of items that I am actively searching for at these events are limited to the action figure lines that I collect as well as cheap trade paperbacks. These were in very short supply. I did see a couple of vendors who had RPG products, but everything was either at retail price or I already owned.

Fortunately, there were a number of comic-based guests.
Unfortunately, due to the weather, some of these guests had to cancel their appearance. Keith Tucker actually left the event early on Saturday due to the weather.

While the bad weather was a factor for several people, I don't feel that the event coordinators could do anything short of what they did. I watched their Facebook page and posts for the slew of comments; both negative and positive. Whenever someone would ask about the possibility of refunds or rescheduling, Fan Expo responded with the fact that requests for refunds would need to go through their customer service team. For refunds on purchased autographs and photo-ops, they directed people to contact the Epic team.

I saw a lot of comments from people screaming for the event to be postponed. I can understand the reason why the event couldn't be postponed at such a late date. There are so many pieces that would likely not be able to come together to be able to make a postponed event the same as what was provided. Booking of celebrities would be the worst to change IMHO.

Even though there wasn't a lot of exhibitors or artists that drew my attention, I did make sure to visit with Randy Emberlin to pick-up a couple of prints as well as a sketch cover that he was donating to my non-profit; Comic Book Covers 4 Cancer.

Something I thought was very odd is that there were people tasked to scan peoples badges as they were entering and leaving the event. I'm not sure why that is, butt fortunately my press pass was exempt from this. If anyone could suggest reasons why the event would want to do this, I would love to hear them.

When Saturday started, the weather took a turn for the worse and I decided that I was not going to risk myself to attend. My roommate had already purchased autographs and wasn't wanting to let them go to waste. He's a major Transformers fan, so being able to meeting both Peter Cullen and Frank Welker was a once in a lifetime opportunity that he couldn't miss. Fortunately he was able to make it up there and back safely.

This is where I will go back to my previous comments about the event not having scheduled times for celebrity signings. My friend was able to get there early enough and get into Peter Cullen's line. He had over an hour to wait until Peter finally arrived due to the VIP event from earlier. Because he had a good spot in line, he was able to get the autograph from Cullen quickly and the got into Welker's line. It took him another couple of hours to get his autograph, and we are thankful that he was able to get both.

With all the weather issues aside, I don't feel like this was geared towards my personal interests. As I stated earlier, I don't really go in for anime. Something that I enjoyed at last years RCCC was the fact that there were tables and chairs in a few areas where I could sit, write and people-watch. Understandably, since the food vendors were outside of the main event floor, these weren't necessary. Unless there are some special guests that I absolutely have to meet at next years event, I'm not sure that I will attend.

I do want to thank the coordinators for Fan Expo Portland for providing me the opportunity to come to this event. I wish it had been better and wish there wasn't so much controversy over the weather. For me, I feel that as long as you are honoring refunds for people who couldn't make it due to the weather, I think you did the right thing.

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