Thursday, May 21, 2009
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This past weekend, I had an absolutely lovely time attending the Maine Comics Arts Festival. A bunch of pals from the Boston Comics Roundtable and I made the trek up north for the one-day show, where we peddled our wares and hung out with comics buddies and luminaries like Trees and Hills, Becky Cloonan, Kean Soo, and plenty of others.
Iím blown away by the fact that this was the festivalís first time around. Rick of Casablanca Comics and his team made the event run so smoothly and with such organization that Iíd think itíd been going for years. Iíd like to break down what I thought was successful, to take away for other events.
- The MeCAF crew set up a main festival website and a blog, which they kept updated constantly with fresh information. I knew that if I had any questions, the blog would be a reliable resource. It was very easy to find directions and instructions.
- They sent plenty of alert emails to participants with festival details and reminders.
- The contact information for MeCAF organizers was convenient to find, and they responded quickly to questions.
- On the festival day, staff wore the bright orange festival T-shirts, and their name badges clearly showed the word "STAFF" (guestsí badges said "GUEST"). They circulated and frequently checked in about anything that they could do to help.
- Free coffee! Good God, have you found the way to my heart.
- MeCAF staff arranged for lunch by taking sandwich orders and payment in the morning and dropping off the goods at your table midday. I was so relieved not to have to abandon my table.
- Prior to the festival, the organizers set up deals with local hotels for special convention rates. This saved cash and worry about having to look up hotels in the area.
As BCR member Alexander Danner points out, the place was flooded with kids and their parents - way more than any of us anticipated. I think my sales wound up lower than usual as a result, since all of my comics are geared for older audiences (I had to shoo a lot of little fingers away from I Survived GWAR), but Iím happy to shrug this away to celebrate kids just loviní on comics and bringing new blood and energy into the scene.
- Cheap admission for adults and free admission for kids under 12. This made the event an affordable outing for a whole family. I canít remember how many times Iíd talk to the adults and theyíd say "Iím just here with our little budding artist - talk to her!"
- A fun, colorful, and easy-to-read promotional poster
- An all-ages creator as a high-profile guest: Kean "Jellaby" Soo
In addition to putting on the show itself, the MeCAF crew provided some great get-togethers for the creators to meet and mingle.
- On Saturday night, they held a reception party over on an island in the bay. Taking a ferry to hang out with other comics creators? Pretty cool. Open bar and free appetizers? Iím now your BFF for all time.
- Following the show, they also held an afterparty at a bar within walking distance of the festival. I couldnít make it to this, but I loved the idea of a wind-down hangout.
My weekend in Maine ended up being flat-out fun and pretty to look at. Some of that was intentional from the MeCAF crew and some was just a side result of the locations, but in any case, I walked away having enjoyed where Iíd been and actively looking forward to the next show. This is a factor in my choosing conventions - what else can I do while Iím there, and will the space be comfortable?
- The convention center offered plenty of natural light, walking space, and a lovely view of the water.
- The reception party was held at a classy inn - a very warm and welcoming space (which would have had a great view too if the fog hadnít camped out in the city that day).
- Portland itself turned out to be a walkable city with plenty to do and funky shops and eateries. I helped out Maineís economy way too much this weekend via cool handbags, comics, and tricked-out fries.
Again, I canít get over how well-organized and on-the-ball the MeCAF crew turned out to be. My whole experience at this con was effortless and very enjoyable. Hereís hoping this will be the first show of many!
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