Out of the four Supernatural conventions I have been to, The Giving Back Tour convention in Cleveland has by far been the best.
This convention held many firsts for me: first PJ Party, first meet and greet, first time to meet some of the actors, first time going to a con with photo ops pre-planned, first time in the pit at a Saturday Night Special. But there is one first that actually changed my entire convention experience. This was my first time going to a convention alone with the intention of meeting online friends there. Now, this is not my first time to go to a con alone; my very first convention, I went by myself because I did not know anyone else to go with at that point. This was, however, the only time I have gone with someone to a convention without ever meeting them in person.
In a short amount of time after making the decision to become more involved in fandom instead of watching from afar, I made several new online friends. Many of those people were fellow writers at Nerds and Beyond. A large portion of the Nerds and Beyond staff were attending the convention in Cleveland, and once I figured out that I was able to go, I was immediately sold on the chance to actually meet the people I had been talking to for months in person.
Upon first arriving in Cleveland on Thursday, I was greeted by someone at the airport whom I had never met before, but was also heading to the convention hotel. This lovely person (who ended up being a Creation volunteer) saw my Wayward shirt, asked if I was going to the con hotel, and offered to share her Lyft with me. The small amount of anxiety I had about being alone vanished at that point because here was this person who only knew me by my shirt, but recognized that I was family and treated me as such.
To experience a little more of the city of Cleveland instead of just the hotel and convention center, me and two of the other writers ventured over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a tour. It never felt like this was our first time meeting. The three of us simply said, “Hi,” exchanged a hug, and continued our previous conversation like it had been in person the whole time. The same exact thing happened every other time I met someone I ‘knew’. We would see each other, scream a name or some variation of, “Yay, it’s so good to finally meet you!”, hug, and then continue on with a conversation without hesitation.
One of the joys of going to a convention with online fandom friends is that those people have other friends at the convention, too. So once you make that connection with someone, you begin to connect with one, two, five of their friends, and by the end of the con, just look at how many people you have met and come to enjoy spending time with and talking to!
Compared to my hometown convention of Nashville, the Cleveland con was tiny, and I loved it. With the crowds being smaller, the lines for autos, ops, or bathrooms were shorter. It was easier to navigate around the convention center without feeling like you are packed in like sardines. You were able to get to know people easier or at the very least, recognize more people and give them a smile and wave as you pass by.
Vendors had the ability to not only sell their products, but get to know their customers better, and explain the thoughts and inspirations behind their merchandise. Some of my favorite moments were spent wandering around the vendor’s room with friends, talking to vendors and admiring their products, or spending time at the Random Acts table that was set up in the same area. I was able to have meaningful conversations with multiple vendors that I very likely would not have had the opportunity to have if I was at a larger convention where five or six people are crowding a popular booth at once. I was also lucky that Louden Swain had decided to sell their new CD’s early when bought in person at their vendor’s table. I eagerly bought a copy for myself and a friend in order to listen to it a few weeks before most everyone else.
The ‘Giving Back Tour’ really did give fans more interactions with the cast of Supernatural. The panels were longer, and consisted of actor-fan interactions on stage that were not only in the form of Q&A. You did not even have to pay the extra price for an autograph or picture to have that chance to be face-to-face with your favorite star; all you had to do is attend the panel, raise your hand as a volunteer for a game, and hope for the best.
It was easy to tell that the fans were not the only ones who enjoyed the on-stage games and shenanigans. When it was time to play the games, the cast members really got into it. Fun and amusing panels were made even more entertaining while those both on stage and in the audience would dissolve into laughter about Briana Buckmaster hinting how her knees were not shaking like they were supposed to, or Alexander Calvert not understanding the rock salt clues, or Ruth Connell crashing Misha Collins’ panel with amazing dance moves, or Rachel Miner trying to figure out what in the world her mad libs actually meant, or Rob Benedict and Matt Cohen trying to act out ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, or Misha yelling at the ‘crew’ members on stage to get it right. All of the panels that were already wonderful to watch before, became this amazing jumbled mess of chaos and hilarity.
Speaking of games and chaos, the Escape From Perdition game needs to be added to all Supernatural conventions from here until the end of time. The game gave you even more of an excuse to interact with other people at the convention and get to know them. It also gave you many chances to do a small amount of good in the world by donating to the featured charity, donating your hotel’s toiletries, sending kindness cards, creating an origami unicorn with a special note inside for someone, and many more. I, personally, was especially good at being a “roadie” for people. My friends kept asking if someone had a phone charger or a snack or something else small and unimportant, and I was able to just whip it out of my handy backpack and say, “Here you go! Use it well!” My little group of friends had so much fun figuring out the best and most entertaining ways to ‘earn our wings’ and complete the game. It gave you such a sense of accomplishment to turn your card in, be handed your wings, and hear them ring the bell in your honor. The second part of the game was completing all of the steps again, but turning your regular stamps into ‘Halo’ stamps. The ‘Halo’ items were all ones that promote giving, kindness, charity, and loving yourself and others. If you completed the ‘Halo’ tasks, then you were awarded with a special Random Acts challenge coin.
The Escape from Perdition game was such a blast that I willingly skipped panels for the first time in order to continue playing. It made the time normally spent waiting around on your phone into an opportunity to run, laugh, interact with others, and be inspired to do good works. This game was definitely a highlight of my weekend so thank you to Misha for making it and Charlie Capen and Random Acts for running it.
The atmosphere of the entire convention was one of charity. Every part of it supported giving back to each other and the community. All of the extra activities, quests, and games helped to make this convention something extremely special. I look forward to attending more of these unique conventions if Creation decides to continue with more of them (which I sincerely hope they do).
While I could easily expound upon the adrenaline rush I had when singing “Don’t Stop Me Now” with my girls on stage at karaoke, the constant high of being in the pit during an incredible Saturday Night Special, the sheer joy of being in a Kim and Bri sandwich, or the excitement of seeing Misha enjoying his time in the op room, I will simply say that the memories from this entire weekend will always make my heart full of love for my friends, the cast of this wonderful show, and this fandom.