Preparing for a Fan Convention: Horrorhound Weekend!

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With Horrorhound Weekend looming just over a week away, I can not help but check over my list of “things to do” and pack for the big event. I’ve attended many conventions in the past and it seems like every time I go I realize, too late, that there is something I managed to overlook.

There was the one year I forgot my razor and, by the end of the weekend, looked a bit like Grizzly Adams. Then there was the time I wore my loafers and forgot to pack my walking shoes. Apparently I had forgotten that even the smallest conventions require a sufficient amount of standing in line and walking. The pain and blisters I endured the following week made that a lesson I’d not soon forget.

I’ve forgotten other things over the years as well but, more on that later. For those attending Horrorhound (or one of the many other events slated to take place throughout a horror fan’s year) I offer you a guidepost in the hopes of optimizing your overall experience.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I would advise that you make a list of clothes and personal care items that you can physically “check off” before embarking on your journey. My son is a boy scout and their mantra of being “prepared” is never more evident than when we’re given a packing list before one of his designated camp-outs. They’re usually about 2-3 pages long and contain everything this side of the kitchen sink!

Assuming you’ll be staying in a hotel as opposed to a pop tent, your list will be considerably smaller. Hotels generally supply such amenities as soap and shampoo but, unfortunately for me, razors and shaving cream are not. Some hotels have little gift shops that offer more specialized items but, with that convenience, comes a heftier price tag. Now I ask you; when you’re at a convention, do you want to buy things you need or stuff that you WANT?  Many stores carry special “travel size” items that are also inexpensive!

Once your basics are packed, it’s time to focus on the more entertaining aspects of the convention. You’ve got your wallet and convention pass and are ready to enter the big hall, right? Wrong! Unless you’re just planning on window shopping, you’d best come prepared.

MONEY: I know what you’re thinking; “Duh! Of course I’m going to bring money!” It’s not bringing money that’s the issue but “how” you bring it that counts. Few people like running around with a wad of cash in their pockets and opt instead to pay a visit to the hotel cash station upon their arrival. This, however, is a mistake. Cash machines only have so much money in their reserves. A convention full of eager customers will empty it out in no time. I’m not sure what’s more frustrating; not having money, or having the money but not being able to use it.

Best to have cash in hand before you arrive. Many dealers do accept credit/debit cards but there are an equal number that do not. Be sure to bring your cash in 20’s, 10’s, and 5’s. Dealers aren’t banks and nobody wants to be handed a $50 bill for a $7 item. Smaller bills invariably mean MORE bills and your wallet may not be able to hold so much (or, if it does, you might be walking around with the appearance of having a bad case of elephantiasis).

One solution to this problem is what is commonly referred to as a “fanny pack.” It secures around your waist and has a zipper in front for easy access. Be sure to lace the fanny pack through your belt loops (if you have them) and always remember to zip the pack up after each use. It’s also ideal for coinage, receipts, and business cards you may acquire during the course of the event.

SHOULDER BAG: Do not rely on dealers to supply bags for your purchases! Even if they do offer them you can easily end up with several bags, increasing your chances of losing one while navigating the crowds (the stuff in which nightmares are made). Having a decent shoulder bag (I hesitate to say “man purse”) is not only great for storing purchases but also for keeping items you may be bringing into the convention to have signed by a featured celebrity. Ideally, it will also have a few extra pockets for smaller items you may want to keep separate.

POSTER TUBES: During last year’s Horrorhound Weekend I had no intention of buying posters. The first person I encountered when I walked into the main hall was J.D. Feigelson – writer of one of my favorite films: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW. The minute I saw his 11X17 poster of DNOTS, I knew I had to have it – especially with a signature from the man himself. So, while I had no intention of getting a poster, it ended up being my FIRST purchase!

There I stood, holding a brand new, crisp poster while facing an immense dealer room I had yet to conquer. I had no choice but to return the poster to my room before exploring the rest of the main hall (pain in the butt!). This year will be a different story. Although I still have no desire to purchase posters this year, I’m packing some poster tubes in my carry bag none the less! You can find these relatively inexpensive at packing stores or your local Post Office.

AUTOGRAPH TRANSPORT: I’m not one of those fans that needs celebrities to sign something that I already own in my collection. In many cases, I am perfectly content having them sign one of their own 8X10 stills. Aside from keeping things more simple in terms of convention prep, I like framing them and hanging them around my room. Sort of of like waking up in Hollywood’s Brown Derby (a restaurant known for its caricatures & signatures of vintage stars).

Regardless, there are few things worse than taking the time (and money) to frame something that has a big crease in it. Like posters, you want to avoid them becoming bent but, unlike posters, rolling them up in a tube is not an option. Packing a hard plastic folder (which will fit nicely in your shoulder bag) is one option. Another option is going to the local comic store and picking up some magazine size plastic sleeves & back boards. I like this option, especially when I want to take them out and ogle them back in my room. The plastic protects them from finger prints and the backboards keep them from getting bent.

Speaking of celebrities, tune in for my next convention prep blog featuring tips on optimizing your encounter with the featured guests!

Dave Fuentes~

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