Okay, it's 2/3 in February and 1/3 in March...
With the convention season undeniably underway for 2009, this coming weekend sees not one but two major shows, taking place on opposite sides of the country. For the Southeast, it’s Mega Con in Orlando, Florida, and for the Bay Area of California, it’s all about Wonder Con.
We kick off conversations with the showrunners of both Mega Con and Wonder Con today with a chat with Mega Con’s owner, Beth Widera.
Newsarama: Beth, just so we have the history down, how many years is this for you holding MegaCon? It dates back to when it was owned by CrossGen, right?
Beth Widera: That’s right. I started with CrossGen in 1999. They owned the show for the first four years that I ran it. I purchased the show from them in 2003 and have been running it ever since. So I guess this is my eleventh year running the show and 7th year of owning it.
NRAMA: You've clearly had growth in the years since it moved to the Orange County Convention Center and since you took it over. Can you give us some scale in regards to that growth?
BW: The first year I ran the show our attendance with Stan Lee (as our Guest of Honor) was around 4,800 attendees. Last year we had 30,023 in attendance. Our average growth has been about 8-10 percent a year. Every year I think we might slow down but it hasn’t happened yet.
NRAMA: Of course the major topic that comes up this year with conventions is the economy. What, if any effects of the recession have you seen on MegaCon? Was the floor sold as quickly this year?
BW: We sold out pretty quickly but vendors were not as quick paying off balances. Things are tight so I tried to work with everyone as best as I could. Most of my vendors have been doing the show for a long time. We have around 85-90percent in repeat vendors every year, so they become like part of your family. Unfortunately a few of my regulars did go out of business.
NRAMA: You've moved back to Hall D this year - what are the benefits of being over there?
BW: The older building really suits us better. We were in the new building last year and were suppose to be there this year but I did a little complaining and finally got re-assigned. The lobby over there is incredibly small in the so there was nowhere for people to go. The ticket lines were so long you couldn’t tell where they were in comparison to the lines to go into break out rooms. It was a disaster.
NRAMA: For you, what are the highlights this year at the show?
BW: We have a few new things this year like the Lego Pit; children costume parade and Robot Wars. I always get excited about new things and hope that they will be an event that takes off. Of course, having George Perez as a guest of honor is always a highlight. He is such nice guy.
NRAMA: This year, MegaCon and Wonder Con fall on the same weekend. While its doubtful that it had that much of an effect on attendance of fans, did it have an effect on professionals able to attend MegaCon?
BW: Actually it didn’t really affect us. We typically have our dates two years in advance, so I start working on a guest list way ahead of time. The entire list of guests that I had lined up stayed with us.
Wonder Con actually did send us a nice note apologizing about booking on the same date which I thought was very nice. I’ve been dealing with convention centers for eleven years I know how difficult it is to get dates, so I wasn’t upset.
The same thing happened with the New York ComiCon a few years ago. It didn’t really affect us either. (But I am glad it doesn’t happen all the time) I don’t really get a lot of support from the big publishers anyway so I just go for a good list of talent. That seems to be what makes the fans happy.NRAMA: You travel around to other shows throughout the year, so you're pretty familiar with the circuit and the other offerings. With the understanding that you're a bit biased toward your own show, what makes MegaCon unique and gives it its own particular flavor?
BW: We are a great costume show. So many people (Many of which are doctors, lawyers and other professionals) like to dress up and escape for the weekend. I think our show gives them the opportunity to do that.
We have a lot of different events that meet a wide range of interests. Every year we try new things and hold on to the ones that are popular. I have found that the popular ones will grow if you give the people running them the support they need.
NRAMA: Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention that MegaCon is held in Orlando, so there's plenty of things for people to do after the show. Any activities that you recommend in particular or have worked out deals with?
BW: A great thing about having a convention in Orlando is that it is a popular vacation destination. Disney is always great fun and they have worked out a special discount for our attendees. There are also, a lot of night time shows in the Orlando area like the Mystery Theater that give our attendees a special discount.
We also work with a local company that provides us with local attraction discount coupons to hand out at the show. They are usually a hot commodity.
Mega Con will be held in Hall D of the Orange County Convention Center this Friday through Sunday, February 27th-March 1st. More information can be found at the convention’s website.