Every time I’m on Facebook or Instagram, there’s always someone posting about how they would love to attend some big convention. But there’s hardly any love for the small conventions!
Of course, I understand that it doesn’t make sense to travel far for a small convention unless it’s very niche and within your interest. That being said, there’s a lot to love about smaller conventions.
Slower Pace: At large conventions and especially during comic con conventions, it can be so hectic that it feels like you’re on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange! When you’re at small conventions however, it generally feels calmer and quieter. It’s like when you’re traveling: either you can frantically go sightseeing everything on your travel list (I’m guilty of this BTW :)), or you can just go to a resort and relax on the beach. Smaller conventions are like relaxing on the beach. There’s less things to do, but it’s less stressful and peaceful!
More time with friends: Whenever I attend a large convention, I don’t see my friends much. Why? Because I have so many things I want to do and see; doing photoshoots, attending panels/activities and walking around the convention. And that leaves little time to hang out with friends at a large convention (except for maybe at night). At a smaller convention, there are generally less things to do, so you’ll have more time to spend with friends. If you’re like me always busy working, small conventions make for good catching up time with close friends.
Access to video games: I love big conventions but what annoys me is while most of them have video game rooms, you have no chance of actually getting to play. There are tons of attendees in that room and people lining up to play. On the other hand, it’s much easier to find a free video game station when you’re at a smaller convention. There are less people! In fact, it’s a lot of fun when you’re with your friends and kicking each other’s ass in a multilayer game inside the gaming room. These things are hard to do at a large convention, but much more doable at a smaller convention. (MAGFest is an exception; their video game room is massive!)
Some people will say, “Why would you go to a convention to play video games? You can do that at home!” Well, unless you’re very wealthy you can’t afford to buy every video game. So it’s nice to randomly sit down at a station and playing a game you never played and totally enjoy it. I find this happens more often at a small convention.
Small conventions are cheaper (most of the time): Generally speaking, smaller conventions tend to cost less. Don’t get me wrong though; I’ve been to smaller conventions where registration was pretty damn expensive for its size. But for the most part, you’ll save a lot of money if you opt for smaller conventions more frequently than larger ones.
It’s a different experience from a large con: I’m an explorer at heart, and one thing that excites me is being in a new place for the first time. With smaller conventions, you usually get that opportunity because a lot of them take place outside of a city centre.
Here are 3 small conventions that I’ve attended that have been great experiences:
YetiCon: Definitely my favourite “small” con (although I’m sure it won’t be small for long). YetiCon is a great example of how a small convention can be a completely different experience. The convention is located at Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario; it’s beautiful up there! A weekend pass for YetiCon lets you take part in the resort activities for free at specific times: activities such as riding a gondola, controlling a mountain coaster, an all-day pool party and outdoor mini-golf. It was so much fun! YetiCon is my favourite small convention; I highly recommend everyone to check it out. In fact, some of my friends from the U.S. have already driven all the way to Blue Mountain Resort to attend the con. It’s that good!
Con-G: Con-G was a convention that took place in Guelph (a small city in Ontario that’s about an hour away from Toronto). The first year I went, it took place in a reaaaally outdated hotel. Honestly though, the venue looked like it hadn’t been renovated or renewed since the 80s. But I actually enjoyed the retro look because it was unique.
What was also interesting was whenever a main program was happening (like the masquerade); everyone goes to that same programming and activities at the same time. Whereas a big convention is like everyone at a resort doing their own thing, a small con is similar to going on a guided tour instead; everyone is seeing and experiencing something at the same time. So you end up seeing the same people, making it easier to socialize with others. Con-G was unique in being as well-run as a large con, but having the benefits of being small as well.
EMC2: Another small, fun convention I attended was in Kitchener, Ontario. Unlike some conventions where it’s geared towards the younger crowd, this convention in Kitchener was very family-friendly. For me being used to party cons, it was odd at first to see a bunch of kids at a con. But it was heartwarming witnessing a whole family having fun together at a convention! I also volunteered to help out and it felt like I made a huge contribution because the convention was so small. Plus I got to explore another small city in my province. To be fair, Kitchener wasn’t that nice but it was cool to see how Kitchener is revitalizing after a long decline?
But let’s be honest – most of us wouldn’t spend any kind of money to hop on a plane or bus to attend a SMALL con far away. For practicality purposes, I’d say most would only attend small conventions in their local area.
So depending where you live, smaller conventions can be easier or harder to find. I live in the Greater Toronto Area, so it’s very easy because new cons are popping up all the time. Or if you happen to live in one of these 5 regions in North America. However, if you live in the middle of nowhere or far away from a city centre, you’re out of luck then!
This is kind of ironic but you can find out by going to big conventions. Many small cons have booths setup to inform everyone about it. It’s a great way for smaller conventions to get exposure with their clientele, which are con attendees!
You can also check out Animecons.com and see if there’s one listed in your area. It’s a great website and I use it all the time when I’m doing some travel planning.
One thing I’ve noticed though: small conventions don’t stay small for long. Either they turn into a big convention (which is a good thing) or they discontinue either to lack of success or the organizers deciding to end it (as with Con-G).
While large conventions usually get all the attention, small ones are just as fun. So the next time you notice a small convention happening in your area, check it out. You’ll have a different and refreshing experience.
Do you guys only attend big conventions? Or do you like the small ones as well? Let me know in the comments!