For six days and five nights, I was enlisted as a t-shirt merchant operating out of a booth at the Calgary Expo, an event for fans of comic books and television shows alike to come together in one weekend of appreciation. This was my first convention outside of Winnipeg and my first time leaving Winnipeg in five years. It wound up being quite the adventure.
The trip began with a 20-minute delay, during which time I noticed my flight had the typical baby on board. The Devil had decided to spare us as the bundle of joy didn't detonate into tears for the whole two hours. When flying, I tend to hate takeoff and landing as that's usually about the time motion sickness joins the trip. This pilot's skills were still honed from whatever war he had spent his 20's flying in, as the smooth and steady handling at both departure and touchdown made the start of my trip as relaxing as it could have been. After a 30 minute connecting flight featuring less grace and a hell of a lot more turbulence, I was ready to start setting up for the convention.
We had a length of about five tables to work with and a booth the width of two tables filled with shirts waiting to be organized and folded. It was somewhere close to five hours later we began making a dent in that pile of clothes. By then, most of us were tired from early flights, so we called it a day and headed out for something to eat. We went with Carl’s Jr. since it was near the hotel. I thought it tasted like a Wendy’s or Burger King burger, which is to say it was nothing special. We then went to the Super 8 Hotel, where my king-sized bed awaited me along with a nice view of the McDonald’s a block away. Immediately upon arrival, I blasted the air conditioning to the coldest it would go, found irritation at the inability to skip commercials while watching television for the first time in two years, and eventually fell asleep to the soothing sounds of Netflix around midnight.
Day One: I woke up for the Expo and went right down for the continental breakfast. A bagel with cream cheese, apple juice, and some fruit. It was a weird feeling to finally eat something healthy in the morning. We then went to finish setting up the booth, after which we had an hour or so to spare, which gave me some time to myself. There was a handful of food trucks waiting for all the hungry attendees in between the two buildings the event was being held at. I decided to go with The Happy Truck and got myself a ginger beef poutine, which was deliciously expensive. I walked around eating and kept an eye out for anything interesting. Typically I look for just about anything that can catch a moment of my attention, but my go-to is Funko Pop! Vinyl. Luckily for me, there were a good five to ten exhibitors selling the figures. I didn’t find anything reasonably priced that I wanted badly enough to risk throwing into my luggage. If anything, I would have probably picked up the Walmart exclusive Village Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
The Expo was then meant to start for VIPs, although it started for people who were clearly without a VIP pass as well. It was VIPs and anyone who bought tickets before the weekend, which still makes the $500 spent on VIPs ache even more than it already did before this revelation. Even with the extra people, the event started slow. From my vantage point, it could have been because it was a Thursday. However, I was later told it was just a slow day.
Day Two: I waited in the lobby until my boss/ride arrived, which allowed me time to go outside and look behind the hotel to admire the breathtaking mountain skyline. This was my first time seeing mountains, and when I finally saw it, a sense of calm rushed over me. While taking a closer look, I noticed the parking lot was connected to a hill with a few prairie dog holes, with one sitting right out in the open. I’ve seen prairie dogs before, but I’ve never been within a few steps from one, and I had definitely never heard one screech before.
Guest lineups were busier today. The lines for Christopher Lloyd, Will Wheaton, Jodi Benson, Paige O'Hara, and Jessica Nigri were super busy for the time I was around. I'd love to have been able to meet a couple of the guests they had at the Expo if I had the time and money, maybe one day I will. Even though the guests were swarmed, the exhibitor area was still slow, which prompted multiple people to mention it was much slower than usual. I heard a murmur that it could be due to the sale of the convention, which leads to an eventual rise in ticket prices. When the same product is peddled for a few extra dollars, you are bound to see a backlash in sales.
As the convention ended for the day but before we went out to eat, I turned on Pokemon Go, like every other day. This time, unlike any other, I encountered a shiny, gold Magikarp for the first time. I was overjoyed since it was one of the shinies I've been looking for since March 2017. After all this, we went out to eat, at which point we ended up at Peters' Drive-In. This place had over twenty-five people in front of it at all times and at least twenty cars in the drive-thru during our half-hour wait to order. Finally eating the burgers, I felt they were average. They were better than the traditional fast food burgers like Carl's Jr. but still have nothing on a place like Fatburger.
Day Three: I woke up at 7 am for the big, busy Saturday. While going to Ai-Kon or C4 back home in Winnipeg, Saturdays were always the crazy days. However, in Calgary, the convention is separated into two buildings. It was nearly impossible to walk through the crowd and get by anyone because there was just no room. I don’t think I’ve ever sold that many shirts in one day before at other conventions. It was something completely different.
There were several more cosplay today. I thought I would see more over-the-top costumes with it being a bigger con, but it was a little bit of the same as other cons with a few incredible or creative exceptions. Weird Al, Tony Stark, Pink Lars, Shuri, and an Impala were my standout favourites.
The biggest highlight of Saturday was being able to find time to have a quick meet with the amazing Zach Callison, also known as the voice of Steven from Steven Universe. All the Steven Universe fans were going, one by one, to each of the main four members of the cast and leaving Zach for last which gave me an opening where nobody was lined up. I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe, and therefore Zach, and I have kept up with him on social media and have listened to his music as it has come out as well. I instantly told him I was a fan of SU and his song “War.” He started to say thanks after I said SU, but then very ecstatically said, “Thank you!” again once he realized I also mentioned his music. I told him I couldn’t wait till his next single, which is when he told me that his next single, “Curtain Call,” was coming the following Friday (May 4th) and that it was privileged knowledge as he hadn’t publicly told anyone at the time. He also mentioned to be finishing up the album the same day and it would be out shortly after. I said thanks and that it was nice to meet him and went on my way. Hopefully, I can get a picture with him next time I get a chance, whether it’s at another con, or at a concert.
Day Four (The Final Day): The last day of the con was finally here, and it was a lot slower with the exhibitors but still crazy for guests. Chris Jericho had the longest meet and greet line I saw all weekend. He even had to cancel his panel just to finish autographs and photo ops with everyone lined up. The rest of the day went by at a crawl. Fewer guests, fewer sales, fewer reasons to stay open the entire day. We decided to get ahead on taking the booth down and finished in record time, which allowed us to leave the building by about 11 pm. We finished off our last night in Calgary by enjoying Denny’s with some wings and Vanilla Coke. It was a nice place to have a farewell before I went back to Winnipeg in the morning.
My luck with crying babies had already been spent on the incoming flight, which left me with the sleep-deprived waking nightmare of being the lone adult on the returning plane that was otherwise filled to the oxygen masks with miserable, crying infants as if some unproduced script of Black Mirror had come to life around me. But as I boarded that last flight, the paranoia withdrew, the script stayed on paper.
Overall, I found Calgary Expo one of the better conventions I’ve been to. To compare, I have also sold shirts at C4, and I think without a doubt that the Calgary Expo is light years ahead of C4. To compare it to the ones I’ve attended as an attendee, I would say I had almost as much fun as when I have been to Ai-Kon and FanQuest. I do hope to one day attend again, helping with an exhibitor or as an attendee.