When convention organizers Jon Russo and Peter Bares announced at the opening ceremonies of MechaCon V that they would be relocating from Lafayette, LA to New Orleans, LA, I must admit that I was skeptical. This wasn’t just a move from one facility to another in the same city but rather a move from one city to another, two hours east. On the surface this seemed like a brilliant move; New Orleans is no doubt bigger, more popular, and more accessible than Lafayette. However, the logistics for such an event had to be kicked up on several levels, especially when taking into account that the core convention staff lives in or near Lafayette. It would make organizing and planning an event of this magnitude all the more challenging and would leave plenty more room for error. So how did MechaCon do this year in the Big Easy?
Upon arriving at the convention scene Friday morning, I was floored. The registration line was huge, but it was moving at a decent speed, which is always a good thing for a convention. Pre-registered attendees moved through the line within ten minutes, and at-door registrants took about an hour to process. My group received our passes a little quicker due to my ankle surgery a few weeks prior, but I was extremely impressed to see the lines moving so quickly compared to other conventions, where the average wait in line can span several hours. Even more astonishing was the area of the convention!
When we began taking in the layout of the convention grounds, we realized how much more space MechaCon VI used compared to previous years at the Hilton. The second floor housed the electronic game room, the Artist Alley, the anime viewing rooms, the panel rooms, and the tabletop game rooms; the third floor held the Dealer’s Room and the main events rooms. The Dealer’s Room was spacious enough that I was able to walk through it without being accidentally pushed or run into. The electronic game room was pretty much the same setup as last year’s, with MechWarrior Battle Pods and gaming stations with games like Brawl and Street Fighter 4, but the area designated for it was drastically increased, and there was also a video game vendor selling old school consoles and games like Nintendo’s NES era all the way too the modern titles and consoles. Pretty epic stuff.. Even during the cosplay contest, seating was pretty amply provided. This, in my opinion, was probably the most attended event of MechaCon, aside from the yearly rave. That bountiful space also helped alleviate the previous problems with air-conditioning and ventilation, which only added to the popularity of this year’s events.
The events this year attracted generous crowds and provided energetic entertainment, especially with the main events employing two larger-than-life screens and a wonderful lighting system that was used during the opening ceremonies, cosplay contest, concert, AMV contest, and a few other events I did not attend. The opening ceremonies came with dinner and a concert. The dinner included apple salad and cranberry chicken, and bread pudding was served for dessert. The concert afterward wasn’t bad; Kiki, who debuted, performed a variety of titles (including a few Zelda and Mario themes) on her violin, and then performed the opening to Firefly (which had a few hiccups along the way). The concert went well, though it wasn’t quite on par with concerts from previous years with Lisa Furukawa or Ilaria Graziano.
The cosplay contest this year was once again marvelous. It started with a performance by the current Zee mascot cosplaying Sheryll Nomme and performing “Welcome to My FanClub’s Night!” from Macross Frontier. After the performance, Clover—a veteran cosplayer for the past ten years and the host of the cosplay contest in previous years returned to host the event. Overall, the walk-ons did a great job, with the elaborate costumes of the Ah! My Goddess cosplay group stealing the show. The only downside to the contest was the skits portion, which was lacking in the number of skits performed, and really good ones, like in previous years. Though overall, a very good show for all cosplay contest enthusiasts.
Also new this year was cosplay chess, which was fun to watch. For those unsure of what cosplay chess entails, it’s an event with cosplayers standing on a large chess board being coordinated by two chess players who are playing on a normal chess board. The added treat is watching the cosplayers play out their character roles while “killing” one another and claiming victory.
I had only two major complaints, which in hindsight weren’t even that critical.. The first was in regards to the AMV contest. As far back as I can remember attending this event, it has always seemed to have problems with either the technology or the organization. This year it was mislabeling videos in the wrong categories, an easy mistake to make. Still, the AMVs this year were sparse and didn’t adequately fill the categories they were listed in. The second thing I took issue with was, admittedly, outside the convention’s control: the New Orleans Marriott and surrounding area were playing host for a large Lutheran Youth Conference. This resulted in nearby food vendors and other facilities being flooded with con attendees and Lutherans. It was a small price to pay for attending MechaCon though.
Sounds like a great event this year, right? Well, it only got better (at least for me). This year’s MechaCon Charity Auction was a raffle for a platinum pass to next year’s convention. All proceeds raised were given to the family of a close friend of mine, Allen Joseph Aucoin, Jr. (Lunos on the forums), who was also a member of Anime Secrets’ former Dungeons and Dragons group and was taken from us earlier this year. Seeing the insurmountable number of people throughout the weekend donating to help AJ’s family was truly heart-warming and inspirational. It especially touched me that when donors were asked why they donated, the majority of them—even strangers—said it was not to get the platinum pass, but rather to help someone through hard times. The people attending this event are genuinely amiable, and it was an honor to spend the weekend in their presence.
Overall, Anime Secrets and I had a wonderful time at this MechaCon. By the end of the weekend, any doubts I held about moving to New Orleans were washed away. My hat is off to the entire MechaCon staff and the volunteers for a job well done. So until Jett and Zee blast off on GEARE forMechaCon VII, good luck to them, and see you guys next year!