North of the Border at Calgary Expo 2017
written by Missy May
For my second Calgary Expo, I was lucky enough to get offered a badge to the convention to write an article for Lifted Geek, and boy did I swoop that offer up. Saving some money on a badge was definitely nice because costs of travel, food, and all of the money I cannot help spending at cons…it definitely starts adding up.
I came to Calgary from California, that’s right, from a blazing 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit for our Americans) to…snow. I have started this tradition to fly out and see my best friend, Alana Waffles (@alanawaffles), for her birthday and then for the convention every year, and it is always two of the best weeks of my year. This year was extra exciting because Alana was at a booth with Catherine Banman (@catherinebanman) and Miss Chezza Cosplay (@miss.chezza). I am very supportive of my best friend’s cosplay career, plus it’s always nice to have a base to keep my belongings as well as a meet up point for Americans like me that had no data all weekend – Stampede needs to get on that wifi game. Although this year didn’t beat my celebrity experience last year, it definitely did not disappoint.
Calgary Expo 2016 I ended up partying with Tom Felton in his hotel room all night with a group of friends. This amazing moment was brought to you by sheer happenstance and it was the best night of my life. I don’t think anything will ever beat it, as I’m the biggest Potterhead on this planet, and it certainly set the bar pretty high for this con for me.
This year was awesome in a completely different way, because I ended up becoming friends with Garrett Wang, of Star Trek, and his wonderful partner Megan. On Saturday Alana and I went to our photo-op with John Cusack (thanks to our friend Eamon!), and went straight from there to meet with Garrett and Megan. Garrett was moderating John Cusack’s panel and was amazing enough to offer for us to watch from backstage with Megan. Now let’s get one thing out there…I’ve been in love with John Cusack since before I knew what a crush was – hello, Dimitri from Anastasia! The dreamiest voice out of the most introverted socially awkward celebrity I’ve come across. And oh boy, did I love it! His panel was amazing, John is so incredibly articulate, it made me want to go read a thousand books while simultaneously binge watching every movie he’s been a part of. Garrett was an incredible moderator; he had me laughing the whole time. Friday I had gone through quite a few of the lines to take pictures and get autographs from some people I was really excited to meet. Now imagine another one of your childhood crushes, you’re walking down the rows to check out the guests of the con, and stop dead in your tracks because you’ve just seen that teenage heartthrob. That is exactly what happened when I saw Rider Strong, Shawn from Boy Meets World! I was with my friend Mandy, and her son Jax, and I screamed when I saw him…including when I got to his face for an autograph. I just squealed. I am a fully grown woman, and I squealed at Rider Strong…then proceeded to kick a four year old out of my picture with him. Sorry buddy, you don’t even know what Boy Meets World is. Across from Rider, there was Mara Wilson, AKA Matilda. I got excited for her for a different reason, since Miracle on 34th Street is my mom’s absolutely favorite Christmas movie. We watch it every year and I just had to get an autograph for her! (I just gave it to her today, and she was so excited.) Behind Rider, there was Bob Morley, from the 100. Bellamy is my absolute favorite character from that show, and walking around the BMO hall Mandy pointed out a Bellamy POP! figure for me to get signed. His line wasn’t insanely long, but it took a long time to get through because he was signing on the same side of the table we were on, and taking the time to spend minutes talking to every single person that came to see him. Meeting celebrities like Bob really makes me feel like all the time and money I’ll spend to meet these people is completely worth it. Because the five or so minutes that I spent talking to him was the best part of the con that day for me. He’s Australian, which I didn’t know, and talked to me about some upcoming roles he has and even let me retake our pictures when I didn’t like the first batch. He was definitely my favorite celebrity meet of the weekend. And last but not least…Jeremy Renner! I can now say that I have met an Avenger, and it is pretty awesome. On the way to my photo-op with him, I ran into my friend Michael (@hammy73) and invited him to jump in on the picture with me. I always love sharing these experiences with friends. We waited about an hour to meet Jeremey…and then we took the most wonderfully horrible picture ever. My wig is back, showing my pink hair, Michael is the most photogenic human on the planet, but he forgot to take his glasses off and hated himself in it, and I didn’t even care. It was so fun to go in and see Jeremy and have him hug me it was worth the money and the hilariously awful picture, just for the memory. The next day I went and checked out Jeremy’s panel, and oh boy was he hilarious. I was laughing his entire panel, and then at the end they let one more question get asked by the cutest little boy in a Spider-Man costume, and Jeremy spent a good two minutes talking to this little guy. Letting us all know, “Man, I just love kids.” It was swoon worthy. As if I wasn’t swooning over him already, but Jeremy Renner, you have definitely won my heart and the spot as my favorite Avenger. Fight me on it.
Normally it would be pretty difficult to beat the high I felt after meeting Mr. Renner. Fortunately that high continued to grow because Saturday night Alana and Dara (@daradef) hosted their second annual convention after party and it was amazing! They held it at Moxies which was just down the street from the convention, and get this…it was Harry Potter themed. Honestly, I don’t understand why parties are anything BUT Harry Potter themed. That shit was magical. There were house banners hanging from the ceilings, wanted posters for Bellatrix Lestrange (WHO WAS THE FREAKING BARTENDER), Daily Prophet articles on the walls, and even a “have you seen this wizard?” photo booth. It was everything a Potterhead could have hoped for. Following a few (or a lot) of potter themed drink specials, which included $3 Butterbeers, everyone near the bar was starting to get oddly excited. Why, you ask? Well it was because wonderful Ming from Kevin Smith’s “Comic Book Men” had just showed up and was looking to get the night started! I had met him earlier at the convention with Mandy (@mandyrmk), but it was much more fun having him there drinking with everyone, dancing with everyone, taking picture, and really just adding this incredible party energy. But readers, do not fret, because he already got our information so that he can make it to next year’s party as well! Yes, you may still be able to have your own after party magic with Ming Chen at Calgary Expo 2018. All I have to say about this after party is that Alana and Dara really know how to put on one hell of a good time! It is easily one of the best Calgary traditions I look forward to each year.
Alright now, no matter how great an experience is, there are always some negative parts…and this con definitely had some lows with the highs. I understand and appreciate that these people are all volunteers…but for the love of all things holy, educate your staff on things that they need to know. Including questions that they will MOST DEFINITELY be asked multiple times. When I have thirty minutes of free parking, and your staff sends my friends and I running in circles to get our vendor and media badges, I expect someone to help me with more than just a, “I realize it’s our fault, sorry we can’t do anything about it.” I’m not joking, actual words out of their mouths. You realize that parking there every day is already $60 dollars total, right? So add the $15 we ended up having to spend on Day Zero, it’s a lot of money! I don’t care, go take $15 that you guys made off of someone’s badge and give it back to my friend, Hannah (@comic_cawsey)! I work in customer service and it really grinds my gears when someone doesn’t figure it out. I will spend an hour helping someone until it gets resolved, not just say sorry and send them on their unmerry way. Also, I know a girl that almost BROKE HER FOOT downstairs in the Big Four building, because they had a giant rubber thing on the floor that her heel got stuck in and down she went. Staff came up after saying, “Sorry, that keeps happening with people tripping on this.”…what?! You’re telling me that you are fully aware of this problem and you didn’t put up some friggin tape, or a cone?! She had to go to the HOSPITAL. We thought she broke her foot! She didn’t, but she pulled a muscle very badly, and is now on crutches. Get it together, people. If this had happened at an American convention, that would have been a lawsuit right there. Next year, put a freaking cone up, yeah? Aside from that, the only bad experience I had was with one vendor…a man from booth #112 in the BMO building, the most unprofessional person I’ve ever come across. We got sent there from their sister booth, my friend Amanda (@amandaonline) was looking for a Spider-Man patch to make a Mary Jane shirt for her cosplay the next day. We were dealing with a perfectly wonderful woman, but they just didn’t have what we were looking for. In comes this giant a-hole that I wish I had gotten the name of. He basically told us to suck it up, that you can’t come to cons and “get what you want, you get what we have”, no sir, there are a thousand booths…I am going to keep looking for what I need. As I told him that he should probably work on his customer service, and started walking away with my two friends, he FOLLOWED US, yelling at us that we wouldn’t find a different patch anymore and not to come crying to him when we don’t. I proceeded to call him a f*cking stalker and yelling at him to stop following us. And guess what, buddy? We found that patch! And Amanda looked amazing as MJ.
Back to the happy stuff, yeah? The art in the Big Four building this year was INSANE. There was so much I wanted to buy! If I didn’t spend so much money on celebrity meet and greets and photos, I would have come home with much more art than I did. The Big Four killed it this year! I was much more impressed with the Big Four than the BMO building this year. It definitely felt like they stepped it up from last year, and I hope that it’s as amazing next year so I can bring home all of the art! I kept running in to vendors that I see at California cons, stopping to talk to them I learned that a lot were from the area I live in, and it felt so cool to be in another country seeing some of the same things I see at cons at home. This community is always so amazing to me, once you’re in it, you really know everyone. I usually feel this more within the cosplay community, but this year I added vendors to that list, and it was a nice feeling.
I wanted to end this with talking about some awesome cosplay stuff. Last year, Alana Waffles made a big, secret group for the upcoming Calgary Expo…Disney Steampunk Princesses. I was so excited to be a part of this group, since I’ve never done a cosplay with my best friend! We mainly handle the Disney bounding together, but that’s another story. I was Elsa and unfortunately my Anna didn’t make it out to Canada this year, but I still loved being the icy queen. We had a pretty big group, Elsa (me), Ariel (@alanawaffles), Aurora (@mandyrmk), Belle (@nobleactions), Jasmine (@amandaonline), Mulan (@breezeeweezee), Rapunzel (@jenna_breanna), and Cinderella (@ladyvalkyrie13)! The group was received so well, it was so fun to take pictures as a group all day, and then there were a few little girls that were so excited to take pictures with their favorite princesses! It melted my heart, it really makes all the stress of cosplaying worth it when you have a little princess that wants to spend five minutes sitting and talking with you. My friends also won the contest with their N7 group, I was insanely proud of Mandy and Adam (@hotshotcosplay) – also in their group, Juan (@beatbot1), Pretty Friday & Hijackeronfire7 (@twinflamefabrications). I feel so blessed to have such insanely talented friends, and to have been given the opportunity to write this. All in all, Calgary Expo was amazing for me this year, and I will 100% be back next year.