Pensacon 2017 has come and gone and it didn’t disappoint. Even though I was slowed down due to an illness, we still had a lot of fun at the con.This is the fourth year of Pensacon and Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple has made it to all four (I missed the first year). This year saw a change in layout in that Pensacon used the Bay Center for Vendors, Artists, and Celebrities only. Panels were all off site. Downtown Pensacola is truly the venue for Pensacon. The new setup worked well for Pensacon as far as we could tell. The volunteers and con organizers made sure the setup went smoothly. Because of the limited space, many lines had to form in hallways with escorts bringing small groups in for popular guests. Unlike most cons we have attended, the Pensacon volunteers are truly about creating a great environment for the fans and celebrities alike. We have never seen a Pensacon volunteer be rude or engage in throwing around their authority. They weren’t pushovers, but they treated each situation as a solvable problem. This to me is the mark of a great con and goes a long way to making sure everyone has a great time.
Each celebrity we met made sure to give us that “30 Second Connection.” Not one celebrity guest was there just to collect our money. Well, actually, they were, but they never made us feel this way. John Wesley Shipp loved my accent (I almost offered to speak to him all day), Henry Winkler listened to my story of Bacchus 1977, and David Ankrum remarked that our Rogue One poster was the first one that he signed. We will have more about our encounters in later blogs and/or podcasts.
The artists and writers were also great. Tony Isabella was a highlight for me (and I’ll talk more about meeting him another blog). He did remark that Pensacon treats him very well, which again shows how well run the con is. Most of the time artists and writers are second tier to celebrity guests, but he volunteered this information without prompting so that leads us to thinking it is genuine.While the vendor section is not huge due to space constraints, there was plenty of great merchandise. Numerous comic book vendors, mom and pop artists vendors, nerd jewelry, and of course mystery boxes dominated. Again, I wish some of the comic book vendors would setup a box with comics from the artists present. The vendor area was crowded but the flow kept moving and I didn’t see many of the problems we saw two years ago. The panels were all offsite, but with the weather that Pensacola had on Saturday and Sunday didn’t hinder people from attending the panels. Even though they had free trolley services, the walk wasn’t bad mainly because the weather was perfect. Friends of ours that held a few panels remarked that the later the panel was the better attended they were. In fact, their panel that took place after Bay Center closed was packed, and their after party game show had even more people. Pensacon goers apparently love to keep the con going! Has Pensacon outgrown the Bay Center? It’s getting there. The artists deserve a little more space then the Artist Halo, but if you move them too far away will it hurt their sales? It would be nice to every thing under one roof. We probably would have attended more panels if they were in the same place as the artists and celebrities, but it didn’t stop us from going to the ones that we did. However, a larger convention center will not solve the problem of long lines of people getting into the center. We have been to cons in New Orleans, Houston, and London, that have had the same issue Pensacon had in much larger venues. In all cases, getting people into the venue is all about human man power. I really wish cons would charge more and mail credentials to pre-paid guests the way Star Wars Celebration does. Now this might have looked to be a problem, but I heard very few people actually complain about it. In fact, when we asked people about it, not one complained even if they waited. I think this is because it was so well run on the inside. Pensacon will be back next year on February 23, 24, and 25 2018. They have already announced Lou Ferrigno and Paul Blake. The most important thing that Pensacon does successfully is that it makes us want to visit Pensacola. Every time we have gone to Pensacon we have explored more of Pensacola and have enjoyed it more. Pensacola has a lot of competition for tourists on the Gulf Coast with Gulf Shores, Destin, and Panama City Beach. The city, especially the downtown area, welcomes Pensacon guests. They embrace it. By creating tours with IHMC Robotics, telescope viewing with the Pensacola State College Planetarium, and panels involving the The National Naval Air Museum and the National Flight Academy, Pensacon gave out of town visitors like us reasons to come back.
And we will come back to both, Pensacon and Pensacola.