Convention Tips & Tricks Part One: A Day-by-Day Look at Creation Entertainment’s ‘Supernatural’ Conventions
We get questions all the time from people who are new to Creation Entertainment‘s Supernatural conventions such as, “What do I do for photo ops?” “How do I know where to go?” “What is /this/ event like?” “How do you even LOOK at them, let alone speak to them?” Convention veterans are always quick to offer advice to anyone who asks, but sometimes a con-rookie may be so lost, they don’t even know which questions to ask in the first place! Well, we’ve got the perfect thing for you! A day-by-day how-to of Creation Entertainment’s Supernatural conventions! Here we will explain what each day looks like, and how to navigate a crazy convention schedule. In part two, we’ll talk about what your photo op or auto session might look like, along with some tips and tricks from some convention veterans!
Thursday is the unofficial first day of the convention. This is the day that many of the out-of-town fans arrive in the host city. Friends meet up, explore a new city, and relax before a hectic weekend. A few convention-hosted activities are scheduled for this day: The Bus Tour*, The PJ Party*, and Thursday night registration.
Registration on Thursday night is not required for attendees, but it is recommended. Though you can register at any time during the convention, it is helpful to get it all done on Thursday. This is where you get your wristband and lanyard (if you have Copper, Silver, or Gold tickets) that will allow you access to the convention. Some photo op PDFs require validation (ones with Jared, Jensen, and sometimes Misha), and there will be a table that will allow for those with these tickets to complete this process. Attendees are able to also purchase any photo ops, autographs, special events, or meet and greets that have not yet sold out.
Thursday night registration is also the perfect opportunity to talk and meet new people. Don’t be hesitant to make friends! Talk to the people near you in line – ask them their favorite episode or character. Everyone at the convention already has one thing in common with you – we all love Supernatural – so use that as a starting point and go from there! You will be amazed at how quickly you have a new friend.
Also, make sure to wander the Vendor’s Room. The vendors are all amazing! They all have so much talent, and are all willing to chat about art, Supernatural, other fandoms, and conventions. Pick up something neat for the guests to autograph, a new candle, pillow or artwork to decorate your home, a button to add to your collection, a binder to hold all of your photo ops, or some jewelry to complete your cosplay! The vendors at conventions are incredible and deserve all of our support and admiration.
- Thursday night is your chance to scope out the area where the convention is held. Locate the bathrooms and food locations. Find where the photo op room is or where your meet and greet is held. That way you won’t be lost when it is important to quickly find your way during the con.
- Typically, the only photo ops to sell out before the convention are ones that include Jared, Jensen, and sometimes Misha. Autographs rarely, if ever sell out before the convention. You can buy these at the con, but it’s best to buy them early to make sure they don’t sell out during the weekend.
- Jared and Jensen ONLY sign autographs for those with a Gold or Silver pass. These are not available for separate purchase.
- Make sure to get photo ops validated before it is time for the op to begin. You don’t want to rush around and potentially miss your picture because you forgot to get your ticket verified.
*Special events like the Bus Tour and PJ Party are discussed in full in their own section later in the article.
Friday begins bright and early with the welcome from hosts Richard Speight, Jr. and Rob Benedict, and some help from the house band, Louden Swain. The welcome is typically one of the funniest parts of each day. Rich and Rob improv the entire thing and you literally never know what crazy nonsense is going to come out of their mouths. By attending the welcome each morning, you will be privy to any and all ‘inside jokes’ that may continue for the rest of the convention. Please remember, Autographs, photo ops, and meet and greets will be going on throughout each day as per the schedule. More information and convention tips for those activities will be in part two of this series so keep an eye out for that!
Each day’s schedule of panels differ per convention, yet some guests are traditionally showcased on certain days. If Rachel Miner is in attendance, her panel will likely kick off the entire convention. Rachel loves to talk nerdy – Dungeons and Dragons, magic, and Harry Potter are some of her favorite questions to answer along with discussing Random Acts and sociological issues. Rachel’s panels are always inspiring, insightful, and full of magic.
Jason Manns will also have what he terms his ‘Quoncert’- a combo Q&A and mini concert. Many people new to conventions and fandom may not know who Jason is or why he is one of the guests at the convention. Jason is a long time friend of Jensen and has performed at these conventions so long that it is strange to imagine one without him. He’s an incredible musician in his own right, and he is also part of a band with Rob and Billy Moran (lead guitarist of Louden Swain) called Station Breaks. Aside from that, he has produced multiple CD’s with the actors of Supernatural such as: Briana Buckmaster, Gil McKinney, Richard Speight, Jr., and the Covers With Friends CDs that feature MANY of the actors, including Jensen Ackles. Jason’s panels are the perfect combo of music and questions so get to know this talented dude because he is awesome!
The panel with Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster is guaranteed to be full of laughter, cursing, and some of the most inspirational moments of the entire convention. It starts off with a bang… literally… when Bri kicks her chair over as per her tradition. Next thing you know, the panel is over, and it feels like you have been talking to your best friend for the past 45 minutes. If you ever want to know what a Kim and Bri panel is like then just listen to their podcast – Wayward Podcast. These women are their complete genuine selves no matter what, and we cannot help but love them dearly for just that.
Other guests that might be in attendance on Friday are David Haydn-Jones, Adam Fergus, Samantha Smith, Alaina Huffman, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Gabriel Tigerman, Chad Lindberg, Lisa Berry, and more. Each convention features a variety of guests, and every single one of them brings something unique and wonderful to the stage. Research the guests at your convention, and be prepared for a fantastic time!
- Unless necessary, don’t skip panels. You might just fall in love with someone you never thought you would like.
Once official paneling is done for the day, there is a break before karaoke begins in the evening. Some autographs and photo ops will continue for a few hours during the break. Certain special events** like the Mann’s Cave, Chris Schmelke’s Photography Q&A, and Victoria Righthand’s Makeup 101 Class are usually held during this break in scheduling. This is the best time to grab a good meal, rest for a few hours, or make some new friends or, you can wait in the line for karaoke! This line does not mean that you get to sing since singers are required to sign-up during the day, but it can get you front row to the stage! People do begin to line up as soon as paneling is over for the day, so if waiting to be in the front row is something you are interested in, then be prepared for a multiple hour wait. People have been known to play games, bring instruments, start impromptu sing-a-longs, have a giant pizza party, and more. It is a wonderful place to make new friends BUT don’t feel like it is necessary to sit on a hard floor for hours to have fun; that is FAR from the truth. Whether you wait in line or not, the Friday Night Karaoke party is without a doubt, one of the most fun parts of the entire weekend.
- Line rule is that one person can hold a spot in line for only one other person. Have one person sit in line, and the other go and pick up food for both of you.
- Make friends with your line neighbors. You’ll all have more fun, and now there is someone else to watch your stuff if you need a quick bathroom break.
Friday Night Karaoke is typically hosted by Matt Cohen and will feature a number of guests that have paneled throughout the day. The guests attending will be announced with the convention schedule. This is not your usual kind of karaoke. At these karaoke parties, EVERYONE sings. If you are near the front of the stage, you will notice that there is about 2 feet directly in front that is blocked off. This is called ‘Moose Knuckle Corridor’ and, though a long story, is very aptly named. Make sure you do not cross the barrier, or you will likely be asked to leave. The ‘Moose Knuckle Corridor’ is where guests may come to interact with fans during songs (and shove mics in unsuspecting victims’ faces) and performers are encouraged to run through during long instrumental sections. All people in attendance are encouraged to sing their lungs out, dance their butts off, and cheer for everyone brave enough to take the stage. Matt will take a break about halfway through the karaoke party to go and take Karaoke Selfies in the back of the room for those with tickets. During this time, the other guests will take over hosting, until our esteemed circus master returns. While Matt is the best host and the guests are incredibly fun to watch and dance with, the best part of karaoke is having fun and losing your voice from loudly singing off-key with this amazing SPNFamily.
Sign-ups for Karaoke are hours before it begins, in the middle of the day, typically sometime between 2pm and 4pm depending on the day’s schedule. Staff will have a sign up paper and a long list of songs available. Write you and your friend’s names along with the song you would like to sing and place it in the bag. It is a random draw for who gets the opportunity to sing on stage, and there are no repeat songs.
- Sign up for popular up-beat songs that the audience and guests can sing along with you.
- Don’t sign up for ‘Eye of the Tiger’ or ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ because the staff will typically begin and end with those songs, so you will not get to be called to sing.
- The more popular the song, the louder the crowd sings with you. The more energy you put into your performance (even if you aren’t the best singer) the more interaction you will get from both the audience and the guests. So don’t hesitate to go out there and give it your all if you are lucky enough to get called on stage.
*Special events like the Mann’s Cave, Chris Schmelke’s Photography Q&A, and Victoria Righthand’s Makeup 101 Class are discussed in full in their own section later in the article.
The general scheduling for Saturday is the same as the day before: Welcome with Rob, Rich, and Louden Swain followed by paneling, photo ops, and autographs with the Saturday Night Special concert in the evening.
Some of the Friday guests may make a repeat appearance with an additional solo panel or a group panel such as the ‘Ladies of Supernatural Panel’. This panel is a CANNOT MISS. Seriously. Do not skip this panel. The usual suspects at the Ladies Panel are Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Rachel Miner, and Ruth Connell with additional favorites like Alaina Huffman, Samantha Smith, or Lisa Berry depending on the guest list for the convention. The amount of times you laugh during these panels is innumerable.
A mid-day Saturday tradition is when Louden Swain, the house band, comes out to the Vendor’s Room to play a few songs. Vendors Jam is a highlight for many con-goers. More intimate than when on stage, everyone gathers around the Louden Swain autograph table and the boys play a short acoustic jam session. Vendors Jam is the perfect chance for up close pictures, videos, or musical enjoyment for anyone attending the convention.
- Vendors Jam is usually right before the Louden Swain autograph session on Saturday – it likely will not be something listed in the schedule.
- For anyone who knows Louden Swain’s music…. make sure you don’t forget to bring your kazoo!
A can’t miss panel on Saturday is the R2M – Rob Benedict, Richard Speight, Jr., and Matt Cohen panel. Each extremely comedic and entertaining on their own, when these three get together it’s a wild ride of pure hilarity. Starting with Rob and Rich trying to introduce themselves on stage and Matt’s epic rock star jump off a chair, the panel leads you down a rabbit hole full of impressions, stories, improvisations, and more interspersed with the occasional serious question and even more rare serious answer.
Finishing out paneling for the day is Misha Collins. Misha’s panel is always interesting, and you never know what you are going to get. Stories run from shenanigans on set to heartwarming tidbits about his kids to inspiring actions from Random Acts and more. Definitely a fan favorite, Misha loves interacting and messing with those asking questions. The lucky people who get to ask a question will be chosen prior to the panel by drawing names out of a bag. The list of question-askers is posted on the big screens at the beginning of the panel. This panel isn’t one you want to miss!
- Sign up to ask Misha a question by putting your name and seat number in a bag at the registration tables.
Similarly to the day before, the rest of the evening is spent finishing out photo ops and autographs. Other special events* like Ruth’s Witching Hour are held during this break. This is, again, the best time to go and get a good meal and rest before the Saturday Night Special (SNS). Also, like the night before with karaoke, many people will take the time after paneling finishes to wait in line for SNS. Waiting in line is even less necessary for SNS than for karaoke due to the fact that the assigned seating that is in place for paneling remains in place for the concert; however, the perk to waiting in line, is the opportunity to be in the standing-only dance pit on the sides of the stage.
Saturday Night Special is quite a special event for Supernatural conventions. Rob Benedict with Louden Swain put on an incredible show! The band plays all original songs – which are incredible and you should listen to them – with guests joining in and performing covers. Special guests are announced prior to the start of the convention and usually include: Richard Speight, Jr., Matt Cohen, Briana Buckmaster, Kim Rhodes, Lisa Berry, Ruth Connell, and convention photographer Chris Schmelke. On very special occasions, Jensen Ackles will join the band for what is always a fantastic performance. The Saturday Night Special is an unique chance for those on stage to connect with the audience. Fans who have been to SNS before will remember that there are certain songs where the crowd participates. Wonderful volunteers prior to the convention will provide everyone with lights and directions to use them when the band plays the songs ‘Amazing’ and ‘She Waits’. It is a magical moment every single convention. Another fan tradition is to yell, “SO CAPTIVATING!” during ‘Amazing’. Knowing and participating in these convention customs makes you feel like you are truly part of a family, whether it is your first convention or 100th.
- SNS is included in the admission for Copper, Silver, and Gold tickets, but not for general admission tickets. If you are GA and wish to attend the concert you will need to purchase an additional ticket to the show.
- The dance areas (The Pit) on either side of the stage are first come, first serve. People wait in line for hours to be here. It is standing-room only and crowded so plan accordingly. The view of the stage ranges based on convention, but those who have been in The Pit before will almost always tell you that it is one of the most fun experiences.
- The guests that will perform at SNS are always announced prior to the convention. Very, very rarely are there surprise performances. Basically, if Jensen is not announced to perform then he will not be there.
*Special events like Ruth’s Witching Hour are discussed in full in their own section later in the article.
For everyone except those with a Gold Pass, Sunday scheduling begins later than the previous days. If you have a Gold Pass, then your morning begins with a 30 minute panel with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. Since the audience is smaller, people raise their hands to ask a question instead of lining up at the microphone or being chosen before the panel. Jared and Jensen will take turns choosing people to ask a question, and staff will walk around with microphones for those chosen. The Gold Panel is a fun one because it is the first opportunity for Jared and Jensen to see everyone, and they are usually silly due to the coffee not completely kicking in yet.
The rest of the morning is spent having photo ops with the boys. All of Jared and Jensen’s photo ops are on Sunday – whether solo or with other guests. Paneling throughout the day is usually a little more spaced out. There is still the welcome with Louden Swain and hosts Rob and Rich which recently has tended to lead into a solo panel featuring one of our wonderful MC’s. Whichever co-host does not have a panel after the welcome, will usually have the final panel of the day. These Q&A’s are as expected, quite humorous; however, they do tend to answer questions more seriously than when their fellow partners in crime are there to riff off of.
- Depending on the convention and guest list, Rob and Rich may not have solo panels, but instead, will do a duo panel called the “Kings of Con” panel (name based on their amazing Kings of Con show) for the final session of the day.
Ruth Connell is usually the next guest to take the stage for an always unique hour. Ruth is known for making everyone (yes everyone) stand up and learn a dance with her, and the more the audience gets into it, the happier Ruthie is. She also walks around the auditorium through the aisles, and back and forth to those asking questions. Leading almost every interaction with, “What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you want?” As a thanks for asking a question, Ruth likes to hand out ‘borrowed’ hotel toiletries that she has collected from other hotels.
Next is the panel that everyone waits for, Jared and Jensen. This panel is guaranteed to be very crowded, so be prepared for there to not be empty seats around you. J2 like to have a good time, and love to joke around with each other. Be prepared for Jared to go off on a random tangent, Jensen to act grumpy when he can’t get Jared back on topic, and for you to be belly-laughing. Both boys do well when answering serious questions, and their insights into their characters and the developments of the show are fascinating to listen to. Same as Misha’s panel, the people who get to ask a question are chosen randomly before the panel begins and names will be on the screens at the start of the panel. As expected, this will be one of the best Q&A sessions of the convention – the boys make sure of it. This is the only time that the band will remain on stage with the guests making for entertaining musical jokes. When the time comes for the last question, Rob and Rich join J2 and Louden Swain on stage. Jensen and Rob sing the special ‘Last Question’ song while Rich improvs whatever is on his mind for the day. Jared will go and retrieve the next person in line to join everyone on stage when they ask their question.
- Please be respectful of the guests when asking questions. No one likes to watch them try to handle inappropriate questions. Be aware as well, there are some questions that are asked repeatedly at conventions (favorite on set prank anyone?) and are definitely questions to avoid. For more information on questions and topics to be wary of, please see the part 2 of this series where we’ll cover that topic more fully.
As previously stated, the final panel of the day is likely to be Rob, Rich, or potentially both. At the end of the final scheduled programming, our magnificent hosts and the house band will play us out with their version of “End of The Con As We Know It.” But remember, this is not the true end of the convention – only scheduled panels. Staff will soon begin announcements for the remaining photo ops and autographs.
The Bus Tour
The Bus Tour is literally what you’d think – a tour of the city on a bus. It is hosted by one of the guests, but the hosts change per convention. Sometimes the host is knowledgable about the area and other times they figure it out as they go. People who go always rave about having a fantastic time with a lot of laughter along with learning interesting things about a new place.
- Where you sit isn’t important, you will have a wonderful time no matter what!
- If you can’t afford the official Bus Tour, then do some research and plan your own with friends! You won’t have the Guest Host, but you will still get the chance to explore a new place.
The PJ Party
The PJ Party, usually with Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster, is one of the most fun special events offered. Do not be scared to attend if you are new to conventions. Kim and Bri make everyone feel safe and welcome. They even have their own convention tips that they offer along with tips from those who are attending. Kim and Bri take everyone there under their wing and within minutes, the room feels like a big family gathering complete with games! Rarely will you laugh as hard as you will during the shenanigans that happen at the PJ Party.
- Yes! Wear your PJs! Or at least comfy clothes.
- Don’t be shy. Speak up. Participate in the games. Have fun! You won’t regret it.
- Pizza and drinks are provided. Sometimes candy as well.
- Selfies are taken at the end of the event, so have your phone charged so you can get your picture.
Manns Cave is a cool meet and greet with Jason Manns where attendees have the opportunity to ask Jason questions and request songs for him to play. Be thinking about your question/song request and maybe have a back up or two in case someone else shares your stroke of brilliance! In all seriousness, Jason is extremely warm and friendly so musicians and music lovers alike will be sure to enjoy.
- There is a likely chance that Jason may not know or remember your song request- even if it is one of his own songs- so have a backup request prepared.
- Manns Cave is usually on Friday evenings, however, an additional event may also be available on Saturday before SNS. Pay attention to your ticket and the schedule if multiple events are offered at your convention.
Photography Q&A and Editing Tutorial with Chris S.
Chris Schmelke has been the photographer for the Supernatural conventions since the beginning, and is absolutely amazing at what he does (we are truly so lucky to have him). During his class on Friday, spend some time with Chris as he talks about his work and how/why he started in photography. He’ll discuss his process of photographing and delve into the program he uses to edit. He’ll walk you through the entire process on a large screen, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see some behind the scenes pictures he hasn’t shared on social media.
- Expect to walk away with more knowledge of photography, especially in editing, as well as some handpicked prints of his work that you can take home.
- Chris might also send you more information if you email him some time after the class!
Ruth’s Witching Hour
Ruth’s Witching Hour is a very exclusive small event that occurs on Saturday nights. Only offered to thirteen people, the Witching Hour tends to sell out quickly. Everyone who attends this event is sworn to absolute secrecy by Ruthie herself, so not much is known about what goes on behind closed doors other than what is advertised. All we know is that with Ruth Connell, everything is magical.
- This does sell out extremely fast, so if you are interested, then jump on it!
- If you don’t want to be cursed, then you better keep your mouth shut about what happens in your witchy circle.
Director Dick Chat
Director Dick Chat with Richard Speight, Jr. takes place on Sundays and is the perfect event for anyone interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a television show. Richard takes questions typically centered around directing, giving a little peek into what it’s like to helm the camera and watch as your vision comes to life. It’s always a treat to listen to him discuss this topic as it’s something he’s very passionate about, his answers are always insightful and heartfelt. It’s definitely a do not miss event and a great way to slow down a busy convention Sunday.
- Come prepared with a question but also know time is limited, so be disappointed if you don’t get to ask.
- Don’t be shy, speak up!
- Be mindful of the schedule. Since this event falls on Sunday it may fall during one of your ops. See a Creation employee to work it out, they’ll make sure you don’t miss anything!
Other special events that might be offered are Sammies with Sam – with Sam Smith, Dinner with Davey – with David Haydn-Jones, and more depending on the convention (Ex: Vancouver convention features a Location Tour). New events are added all the time so pay attention to Creation’s website for the convention you are attending for opportunities and further information on these events.
This concludes your day-by-day look at a typical Supernatural convention put on by Creation Entertainment. While we’ve given you an outline of what typically happens, it is important to pay attention to the schedule for the convention you are attending as each event is different and there may be scheduling surprises. Remember, more convention tips- particularly information on autographs, photo ops, meet and greets, and asking questions at panels – as well helpful tricks from con veterans will be found in Part 2 of this series. Stay tuned!