Over the weekend I attended Zenkaikon, which took place in The Marriott and Atlantic City Convention Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The con is on the smaller scale, with five-thousand attendees, making it easy to meet new faces and see some old friends! I’m going to divide this review into sections for easy reading.
Location: The location is conveniently located by a farmer’s market, convenience store, as well as many restaurants and cafes. Out of all of the cons I’ve been to over the past eight years, this particular location is the most convenient for sure. The only downside is that some of the eateries are closed on Sundays.
Marriott Hotel and Elevators: I roomed with a few friends from Anime Jam Session. In terms of booking, the hotel was at it’s maximum capacity. As with nearly each con, there was an elevator or two which shut down. But most managed to be functional until the late morning rush on Sunday. I want to commend Zenkaikon for their signage, which altered people who may be new to cons to expect high capacity. Zenkaikon also had multiple accessible elevators for people with disabilities and as a result, it’s easier for people who need the accessibility to navigate around the building.
I heard from other attendees, as well as seen some people play games in the elevators. This slowed down others as they tried to reach their destinations. Apparently staff tried to keep crowds until control, but even then, I did come across some people playing elevator games. Monitoring the elevator a bit more can prevent delays caused by this.
Panels: There was good variety in panels, but not much that I was interested in. I stayed for a good portion of The Corgi Cosplay panel. I loved that the host gave attendees the opportunity to share their struggles with mental health and how cosplay has helped them in terms of recovery. I feel like there are not too many panels which focus on mental health and it was wonderful to see something on this topic.
My friend, Ichigo Gami of Strawberry Paper Doll, held a few panels over the weekend, including a Lolita 101 panel. Despite it being in an off location (at the Tellus bar), there was an excellent turn out. A few panels and signings took place in the Tellus bar and several attendees had trouble finding it , as it was tough to access outside of the convention center. Apparently, the Tellus building was double booked. The Tellus is a bar that requires attendees to go through and I don’t think some attendees would feel comfortable doing so. Still, staff helped direct attendees and there was a great crowd during the panel.
Artist Alley/Dealers Room: The artist alley and dealer’s room was a decent size for the scale of the convention. Merchandise ranged from the usual figures, to plushies, art prints, keychains, and a few j-fashion booths. I went in a few times throughout the weekend and often saw new products I hadn’t seen before each time I made my way around. I’ve noticed that many conventions are combining dealers rooms and artist alleys. I have mixed feelings about this. I like how cons such as AnimeNext splits the space into two separate sections in the same room– the dealers area and artist alley does take place in the same space, but they are separately marked, making it easy to distinguish between both artist alley and dealers room areas. Some artists were mixed in with dealers or were close by and it made it a bit tough to navigate. There was however, a decent variety of items available for just about anyone at the con.
Staff: It was easy to come across staff members and based on my experience, I’ve had mostly positive experiences. They were helpful without hovering around attendees. A staff member on Sunday by the dealer’s room kept attendees entertained before the room closed. A small handful of staff members out of the many were a bit irritable, but they were under stressful situations like technical difficulties in panels or controlling big crowds, so I’ll cut them a bit of slack in that regard. Staff members I interacted with were helpful and there was an info desk in an area that was easy to reach.
Attendees: Each con had its own vibe depending on the size and crowd. The attendees here that I came across were welcoming. We started conversations on the elevator in and out of cosplay, said good morning to one another, and helped one another out if needed. I’ve become accustomed to the occasional con newbie stopping cosplayers for pictures in crowded walkways, but this con had a bit more of that than usual. Still, several attendees I came across were kind and if someone needed a helping hand, someone always came over to be of assistance. Many attendees loved by Ruby Rose cosplay. I carried around a giant cookie plush because the character loves cookies and people loved the concept. A few attendees got irritable come Sunday— I had an issue when someone took my suitcase from me without permission, then she proceeded to put her belongings on it— a big box containing what may or may not have been a microwave — and then when I asked for suitcase back, said person laughed at me and refused to give it back until she got off first with her belongings. But with that aside, the good and kind attendees outnumbered the bad. People were , for the most part, courteous and sweet.
Pre-reg: I usually don’t have much luck with pre-reg and dread waiting on line. At most cons I attend, the wait is one hour or more, sometimes even up to four hours. Pre-reg at this con was a breeze. I got my badge in just a few minutes.
Overall: I’d say this is a good introductory con. It’s a decently sized con which is not too small, but not too overly crowded either. I started off attending cons at smaller scale events and went up from there. So if you’re in the area, this con is worth a shot! It was my very first Zenkaikon this year and if all goes well, I’ll aim to be back at Lancaster in 2019!