It’s been a quiet couple of months for Arizona convention news and part of that is because Phoenix Fan Fest is no more. The news was announced that the con was been shelved, possibly for good, which was received with mix reactions. The con was originally held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in December 2014. This was another chance for fans of Phoenix Comicon (at the time) to enjoy a different convention that still had guests, cosplay (in the nice weather!), vendors and artists. I loved having it at the University of Phoenix Stadium as it was pretty unique at the time. It wasn’t set up to hold hundreds of different panels, or different types of programming like many were use to at Phoenix Comicon but it wasn’t trying to be Phoenix Comicon. It was its own thing. On a side note, on the last day of Fan Fest, the staff held a “Phoenix Comicon Preview” panel which was a nice way to get the excitement building for their big show as well as take questions from attendees.
That first year had a nice turn out, a great mix of interesting guests, and lots of awesome cosplay. It was also billed as a way for attendees to do some Christmas shopping and possibly pick up some unique gifts for themselves or others. The second year was also held in the same location in December but the guest list had been amped up to include the likes of Karen Gillan (who’s panel was actually at the adjacent Renaissance hotel). Turn out for the weekend appeared to be even better in the second year and attendees in the West Valley were happy to have a convention of their own. The free parking didn’t hurt either.
It was unadvertised but legendary animator Don Bluth made an appearance in support of his IndieGOGO campain at the time.
The third year saw the convention move from Glendale to Downtown Phoenix which made some happy and some sad. The move offered a more traditional convention layout for Fan Fest as well as the opportunity to hold more panels and programming. The other big change was it had moved from early December from the first two years to mid October. Attendees had mentioned that the December time frame was hard on finances and free time, yet moving it to the weekend before Halloween was still a bit of an issue of free time for attendees.
That year the guest list rivaled a season convention guest list with names such as Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbor from Stranger Things, some of the cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as well as popular wrestler/actor John Cena. The exhibit hall was located on the 3rd floor of the convention center which typically houses the “Hall of Heroes” during Phoenix Comicon. My biggest complaint that year was that everything outside of the guest panels just felt stale. I don’t know if that was a shared consensus among attendees but it was just my opinion on the con that year.
2017 rolled around and Fan Fest wasn’t done with changes just yet. The exhibit hall was to the bottom floor and instead of October, it was moved to the second weekend in November. It also introduced the RFID wristbands which replaced normal badges (if you attended Phoenix Comic Fest this past year, you are familiar with how it works). The guest list was hit or miss for most people as it was kind of all over the place and didn’t feature that one marquee name to get excited about. I attended Saturday and it was enough for me, I spent two hours wandering the exhibit hall and had seen everything a few times over. The writing was on the wall.
I really enjoyed the first two years of the convention and even the third to some degree. It was a cheaper event that was held in the months with nicer weather and most of the time it had some really interesting guests. Both locations had its positives and attendees would have always been split on liking the location. The show never found its footing but this gives that staff over at Square-Egg Entertainment, who ran Fan Fest as well as the upcoming Fan Fusion, the chance to concentrate on one show and it make it the best it possibly can be. If you would like to read a recap of the previous Fan Fests, you can do so: