This past weekend was the 4th annual Phoenix Fan Fest which took place for a second year at the Phoenix Convention Center. I know where I am headed with this review but let me get this out of the way, I expect Square-Egg Entertainment to put on the best events in town. They are without doubt the kings of the Phoenix convention scene and have no challengers. So when I critique one of their events, it’s because I know they are capable of being better, doing more, and putting on a convention that isn’t rivaled in Arizona. My opinions also won’t relate to everyone as I attend multiple conventions a year while others do one or two.
Upon arriving to Fan Fest, all I knew was that the convention was in the North building of the convention center. No information was released ahead of time (and I looked, trust me) of where registration was going to be located, where the panel rooms were located, and if the exhibit hall was even back on the third 3rd floor or not. Maybe the lack of info ahead of time was by design but with at least one other convention happening in the same building, a little more information would have been nice. I found a sign after a minute of looking around and almost heading up stairs because hey, that’s where it was last year.
The exhibit hall was the meat of the convention and it was okay. You found your usual suspects when it came to vendors and artists with some new blood injected here and there. I’m not the biggest fan of conventions competing with other vendors for the attendee dollars with their own booth selling merch but I understand Sqaure-Egg is sitting on a ton of Halloween related merchandise and they’ve gotta get rid of it somehow. There were some booths of people selling their personal collections of collectibles which is cool, I don’t have a problem with that but the exhibit floor felt very stale. Again, this isn’t something everyone is going to have a problem with but for attendees who do more than a couple of cons a year, I am sure it was noticeable. Having to follow Tucson Comic-Con the weekend after probably didn’t help either.
I kept wondering why on the Fan Fest website that the panel areas did not have room designations and that’s because they weren’t in rooms, they were curtained areas in the exhibit hall. I didn’t even get a chance to see them because I had no idea where they were. Maybe there was a sign that said “panel area” but I surely didn’t see it myself. A few months ago, Square-Egg hinted at the fact that there wouldn’t be panels and that was probably because the rest of the North building was already in use by another convention. Loud groaning from fans probably changed the minds of Square-Egg and putting those panels on the floor were the only way to make it happen. I heard from attendees who were able to attend the panels that it was hard to hear over other panels and the noise of the exhibit hall. I’ve never been a big fan panels on the exhibit floor but I understand why this happened.
I liked the change from badges to wristbands but that was for two days, if the change carries over to Phoenix Comicon, potentially wearing a wristband for four days might be a bit annoying. The line was long for wristband pickup but it looked like it went pretty quickly. There were employees who were available to help you put on your wristband after receiving it to help keep the line moving. The bag check/no bag check lines took a few minutes to get through but that isn’t something I am going to complain about. The landscape of convention security has changed and I am willing to wait a few extra minutes for a wand check and bag check. Back to the wristband thing really quick, RFID technology is used within those wristbands and you have to tap in upon entering the exhibit hall and tap out upon exiting. It’s not a big deal but I wish there was some sort of signal from the station that shows you that you’ve successfully tapped in/out instead of waiting for an employee to notify you. I don’t know if it got any worse or better but having a line to leave the exhibit hall was kind of crazy, I hope there are just as many stations to tap out as there are to tap in if this is brought over to Phoenix Comicon.
I don’t know what the future holds for Fan Fest, it doesn’t seem to have found its footing in the convention scene just quite yet and that is a little disappointing. I really enjoyed Phoenix Comicon last year and I typically do every year but Fan Fest is another story. The guest line up was a weird mix with no true headliner but again if there wasn’t originally a plan to have guests because of the lack of panel rooms, this could have been a last minute scramble to secure guests. Here is what I do know however is that the community will support it because people want another major convention in the cooler months of the year. Square-Egg Entertainment has the experience, the resources, and the capability of putting on a convention that not many others can do in Arizona and that is the standard I hold them to.
What did you think of Phoenix Fan Fest? Comment down below or tweet to Legion of Sand!