I have had the pleasure of knowing Michael Spadafore for a few years now. For one year I assisted with marketing for Taiyou Con and during that time, Michael was the head convention chair. As you may or may not know, Taiyou Con, an anime convention held annually at the Mesa Convention Center, was one of the only pop culture conventions to happen in 2020. I reached out to Michael for a questions on his perspective on a few topics.
Legion of Sand: Does it hit you at all that Taiyou Con could end up being one of the only pop culture conventions that was held in Arizona at all?
Michael: It’s still unreal to me that the last convention that I would be attending in the Phoenix Metro area was Taiyou Con. Now Kikori Con in Flagstaff was the last convention I attended before the COVID pandemic took over. I keep thinking to myself that 6 months ago I would never even imagine that myself and the Arizona community would be left with only having Taiyou Con as their pop culture event for 2020 and possibly 2021 as well.
Legion of Sand: What is it about the local anime and gaming communities that keep you wanting to deliver a high-quality convention year after year?
Michael: When I started attending conventions over ten years ago I love how it was a place for everyone to show their passions and interest with people who share the same hobbies. I want to use my events as a way to give back to the community that they are so passionate about. The higher quality that I make the event the more fans that it will be attracted to it. I never want anyone to have to worry or get bullied for liking anime, gaming, or manga and I strive to make a safe place for them.
Legion of Sand: Where are you in the planning stages for 2021? Have you had to look into adjusting certain things in this time of uncertainty?
Michael: At the moment I have taken a step back from Taiyou Con as I continue to work Aria Productions with my partner. Now I have not left Taiyou Con entirely and I am currently their public relations director and in charge of collaborations, tracking public opinion as well as other smaller parts of the convention. Recently some major life events have happened for me between 2019 till now and I have found myself without the time necessary to dedicate to all of my projects as I had once had and unfortunately had to pull back from some. However, this does not mean that I’m not 110% dedicated to the Arizona community it just means my direction is going to come in other ways. As for Taiyou Con with information on the pandemic changing with was seems like minutes its hard to predict what to plan for; but, with in the next couple of months, you should be seeing some more announcements comes out from Taiyou Con. Taiyou Con will still happen in 2021; however, how that is going to be might be different than normal so please continue to look out for more announcements.
Legion of Sand: With conventions in general, what do you foresee the biggest change being in the industry in the next twelve months?
Michael: To be completely honest, I do not ever see the convention community ever returning to what we considered normal in the past. I have been researching what could be considered a “New Normal” for our industry and while I’m not quite there or ready to display my finding and research I believe in the meantime the best option for us to try and still get our convention fix is digital events. Over the past six months, we have seen some of these events pop up mostly for major events that have canceled as well as some newly created events. While these events do not have a physical location they seek to fill the void by trying to emulate the convention feel by hosting on discord and a streaming service like Twitch or Youtube. I’ve become super fascinated by these digital events and have worked on or consulted for a couple of digital events already. With these new approaches come new challenges. This might come as a given; however, its not something that many event organizers (myself included) necessarily thought about when transitioning to a more digital format. Specific events or panels need to be reworked to fit the new format I could probably go on and on about the transition and implementation of a digital event but I’ll hold back, for now, I don’t want to bore the readers. As the community moves towards that new normal I see these digital events being an important part of our community as I don’t believe we will be back at an in-person event until either late 2021 or early 2022.