Belting to Broadway Musicals with great friends in the confines of a lime green Veloster for three hours after work is how our road trip ensued. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Las Cruces Convention Center the sun was setting behind the Organ Mountains. Unfortunately, there are limited 3 Day Passes for this convention and we were too late that Friday evening to purchase any. This meant that each morning of the convention we would have to get up early to be there before they opened at 10AM to purchase a pass each day. Disappointed, but not yet downtrodden we retired to the Days Inn. @skyberry13 accidentally booked a Motel instead of a Hotel, meaning less nice accommodations. She should probably have guessed it was a Motel when it offered free Wi-fi and free breakfast all at a reasonable price. Another damper on an already long day. But we finished it out with a nice dinner at Cracker Barrell and, after watching the end of Ghostbusters II on TV, we turned in.
We got to the Las Cruces Convention Center a little later than planned due to the sheer volume of costumes that we had to prepare that morning. Because the guest we were most excited about was Dante Basco, the voice of Prince Zuko and General Heiro, from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, we were wearing our Korrasami cosplay.
We assisted my best friend in throwing together a closet cosplay of Katara last minute, so we had to help her do her hair. And @skyberry13‘s boss’s daughter was wearing a Ben Drowned cosplay we had put together for her (also last minute) from a Creepypasta story. So, there was allot of fake blood involved in preparation, which led to what could only be described as the aftermath of a murder scene in the bathroom. This is what you get for cosplaying from Creepypasta. Anyway, Drowned Ben and the Avatar gang in tote we made it to the convention center where we waited in line to get wristbands for the day.
The price for the day was pretty reasonable coming out to $30 per adult. There were weapons and bag checks, but it did not seem that they were turning any weapons away upon inspection. The guy at the weapons check did say he had turned away a bunch of knives and a bee-bee gun earlier that day, though. So, I guess the inspection was working. We got Ben’s sword checked, fake blood and all. And then were on our way down the long hallway leading to the dealer’s room which was also full of vendors. There was a good selection and some pretty impressive vendors for being a smaller convention. We ended up purchasing some items right there and then.
We downloaded the free and handy “gather” App from the GooglePlay Store which harbored a schedule for this convention. It was easy to use, though, you did have to select which convention you were attending each time you opened the app. This App did have a ticket purchasing feature which I’m sure was useful earlier, but had been turned off at this point. Anyway, we selected our first event of the day which was a “Painting Class: Take and Paint” in the gaming room, held in the larger of the convention center’s two ballrooms. The teacher for this class was a local professional painter who is often commissioned for his pieces. We got to choose from a hefty selection of army mice mini-figures that he had pre-primed for us, even letting us use some of his brushes for detail. He was very informative, walking around throughout the hour long class making sure everyone had the colors they needed and offering his expert advice wherever he thought needed. Many of his tips on washes and what colors to lay over each other helped in making our army of mice nicer than any other mini-figure we’d painted at A-Kon. It was a great kickoff to the convention and we got to take home a souvenir of our experience.
We wandered the dealer’s room for a bit, letting our mice dry before we grabbed some food in the cafeteria room which was along the hallway. It was well set up and the menu had some good options including a favorite of ours: brisket sandwiches. We, of course, had some of those which came with house chips. Once our bellies were full my best friend wanted to get our photo taken with Dante Basco. So, we purchased our photo op and walked in. He was thrilled to see us and immediately added us to his instagram story before we took the photo. He loved our cosplays and told us about the time he, with some assistance, cosplayed his character Prince Zuko. After our photo op was his panel so, we got some good seats in the second row and settled into one of the most enjoyable panels that we have ever attended. Dante was a natural and the moderator kept up a great dialogue involving questions about how Dante had his first big break in Hook to his growing up in the “hoods” of California. Some of the audience questions brought out Dante’s incredible slam poetry and he performed a couple of his works involving story lines from his acting and voice acting roles, many of which can be found on his instagram.
After the panel we were tired and the loudspeakers announcing the next big panel had led to some dull headaches. So, in search of relief and rest we returned to the hotel to change out of our costumes. After a short break, during which was a quick but powerful rainstorm-the only aftermath of the hurricane in Texas which reached us at this far corner of New Mexico, we returned to the convention center for the Costume Contest.
Earlier that day we read in the program book that there were special wristbands required to get into the Costume Contest so we went to the ticketing booth where we purchased our wristbands to inquire. We were told that extra wristbands would not be necessary then. Unfortunately, this was untrue. As we walked up to the costume contest a woman was giving out the last three wristbands to the people that came before us. This was quite distressing as we had inquired earlier about this technicality. She informed us that the individuals at the ticketing booth were convention center staff and not convention staff, though, one is left to wonder about the necessity of communication between the two staffs leading to misunderstandings like this. Either way, our only criticism of this convention was these limits on tickets which was poorly communicated and enforced with unnecessary attitude. The lack of space was especially confusing bearing in mind that the ballroom the costume contest was being held in was a fourth the size of the ballroom that housed the tabletop gaming part of the convention. Perhaps, some better planning for next year? This was the third year of the convention and, although supported by El Paso Comic Con, still had some major kinks to work out. I would caution any cosplayers planning on attending this convention to be well aware of all these ticketing roadblocks that we ran into before driving across the state only to be turned away at the convention center or ballroom doors.
Disappointed we would not be able to see all of the costumes that individuals wore specifically for the contest, we left in search of food. After a nice dinner at Jason’s Deli and a stroll around Target we retired to rest up for the last day of the convention.
We had allot of costumes to prepare this morning so it took us longer to get ready between unique hairdos and lacing a corset. We were premiering our Big Hero 6 cosplay with the addition of a third to our group. So, as Hiro Hamada, Honey Lemon and Gogo with a Bulbasaur tag-along we strolled into the convention to get our wristbands for the day. This was our panel day as there were multiple interesting panels that we wanted to attend. We hit up the dealer’s room first, making some last minute purchases. The convention was pretty dead until around noon so we were one of maybe twenty people in the convention center not including staff. We attended the “Lizards, Snakes and Arachnids” panel by the Island of Misfit Morphs. They are a local group that rescues these animals and utilizes the ones who cannot be re-homed to educate the public about them so people will have a positive, safe experience. They had a booth in the dealer’s room where, for a donation of $5, you could hold one of their pythons.
Our second panel was “Ask An Author” featuring three published panelists: R. S. Dabney, …and Julia Joseph. This was possibly the best panel that we attended at this convention! The panelists, all from the young adult fantasy genre, really opened up about their personal experiences and had different outlooks on writing. The audience questions were great at steering the dialogue to subjects everyone in the room wanted to touch on. The topics ranged from the inevitable how to deal with writer’s block, to how to get published through different means.
Among the panelists there were all different blends of self publishing or promoting to having an agency marketing on their behalf. I would highly suggest checking out these author’s works and rating them on Amazon, because that rating is vitally important to an author’s career. These women are all incredible authors and entertaining individuals! We later went to their booths and got to have some more interaction with a few more writing specifics. And walked away with two new autographed books to read!
There was a lull in our personal panel schedule for a couple hours so @skyberry13 got some henna done by Starlit Skies Henna. This artist will also have a booth at Santa Fe and Albuquerque Comic Cons, so be sure to get your henna out there in the upcoming months. While we were hanging out there, the HD2 Hip Hop Dance Studio had a performance in the main hallway.
The “Star Wars Costuming Panel” was a great pitch on why you should join your local 501st Legion or Mandalorian Mercs. During the panel they were guarded by a Mandalorian on each side of the stage. There was a member with a screen accurate Darth Vader costume the day before and, one of the best kept convention secrets which we found out too late: They had a laser prison at their booth where they would find and entrap whoever you wanted for five minutes if you payed them $5. Be sure to find this group at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta with the Darth Vader or Yoda balloons.
Next, we attended “How to Build Cosplay Props” with Garage FX. I would not say that this panel taught you how to build cosplay props so much as elaborated upon Garage FX’s success in doing so through a slideshow. They had a large build onstage with them and, while the foam base seemed to be well built with detail, the paint job was just splattered on and seemingly ruined a great build. This build also did not seem like it was a wearable piece as they even had difficulty moving it with the manikin inside. All in all I am sure that these guys have experience in creating cosplay props, as they had some demos at their booth, but I am not sure why they are invited to conventions around the country to give panels when they cannot adequately convey how it is done.
Our final panel of the day was unexpected as it was a Pop Up Panel featuring Dante Basco, Ming Chen (Comic Book Men) and Ann Mahoney (The Walking Dead)! This panel centered around audience questions, many of which detailed these actors stay in Las Cruces, NM. Ann Mahoney is a huge fan of our “chili sauce” enough that she jokingly invited herself over to an audience member’s house for some. There were also some questions about Hook for Dante Basco which led to his telling the story of how his three flaming red mohawks came to be added to his costume. This was a relaxed and entertaining way to end the convention, getting to hear from the two other guests we had not interacted with that weekend. A long drive back to Santa Fe followed with some beautiful sunsets as we winded down from a great weekend.