Last weekend, Nerds and Beyond had the opportunity to attend the biggest show in the smallest state — Rhode Island Comic Con! RICC took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center (two separate buildings conveniently connected by a skywalk) in Providence, Rhode Island from November 1-3.
This year’s RICC lineup was nothing short of impressive — Christina Ricci, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Englund, Evanna Lynch, Elijah Wood, Alex Kingston, Gaten Matarazzo, and Chevy Chase to name a few. But if you’re a fan of…anything, RICC had a guest scheduled for you. Autographs and photo ops were available for each and every guest, with the schedule planned out perfect enough to make sure everyone had the opportunity to catch just about any celeb that they wanted the chance to meet.
Photo ops (by Epic Photo Ops) took place in four separate booths in the back of the main expo hall. They had an MC facilitating, and this was by far one of the smoothest run celebrity photo op experiences that we’ve ever had. They began the lines about 10 minutes before each scheduled photo op, utilizing color-coded flags and tape to guide con guests to their designated booth. (VIPs had their own special queue at each booth, along with anyone needing ADA assistance.) Ops started on time, the Epic staff making the process smooth, and the photos themselves were great quality. Even picking up your photo was a breeze, as you followed the same colored tape as your booth to its designated pick up table, grabbed your photo that was printed in seconds, and then checked out to get any ordered JPEGs (which were emailed out instantaneously!). Kudos to the Epic Photo Ops staff for making what was sure to be a busy weekend a seamless experience.
Autographs were also a fairly smoothly run process. Celebrities were in a couple different locations throughout the convention centers (to be expected with the amount of guests in attendance), each with their own table. Some guests had autograph tickets that were available for pre-purchase on the website before the convention, but all guests had autograph options still available on-site as well. For every guest (minus a few), cash was taken at their table directly, where they also supplied 8×10 photos for anyone who maybe hadn’t brought their own special item to be signed. A few guests were located in the spacious downstairs section of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and for those particular celebrities’ autographs, you needed to purchase a ticket at a box office located in the same area as the guests (which was always open!). Staff were present to help guide attendees to where they needed to purchase tickets and explain how to get their autos.
The vendor area is always an important aspect of a comic convention, because it gives attendees the unique opportunity to find merchandise and artwork from so many of their favorite fandoms in one convenient place. The vendor areas in both buildings were packed with an assortment of sellers, companies, and artists. Some of the types of items that could be found included, but were not limited to: comics, Funko Pop!s, clothing, children’s items, books, collectible and vintage toys, pins, stickers, patches, posters, original artwork, and so much more. Despite the large amount of booths, the floor plan was set up with ample space for both table shoppers and passersby headed elsewhere. This is quite important for a vendor room at any convention, as it can be very difficult to navigate the aisles if the booths are packed too tightly together. Also, though many vendors readily accepted payment via credit card, there were many ATMs (in both buildings!) for anyone that needed cash.
Food was available on-site in many different locations. It was typical convention center fare at the Rhode Island Convention Center, along with a Dunkin’ Donuts in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (I know, shocking right?) and some fried dough booths lining the halls. In addition, there were two bars and a few places to just grab a soda or water between both locations. A decent amount of restrooms were available throughout both of the buildings, all kept clean and stocked, and we were pleasantly surprised. Restrooms can potentially be a low point when attending a massive show like this, but between the two centers, there were no issues.
There were also a plentiful amount of attractions set up with a variety of different photo opportunities. The 501st New England Garrison, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. New England, and Pink Heals were just a few of the many that were in attendance, most accepting cash donations to various designated charities for an opportunity to get a picture with all of their props, actors, and/or vehicles.
The official Rhode Island Comic Con mobile app proved to be extremely helpful in navigating all of the sights and events that this convention had to offer. Not only did it allow guests to customize their schedules for each day and set reminders for events, it also sent out push notifications any time that there was an important announcement (such as a guest leaving early). Maps were available directly in the app as well, which made navigating a convention that spanned multiple floors across two buildings much easier than we originally anticipated. To top it all off, free wifi was available across both buildings, and there were phone charging stations readily available for those that needed a mid-day battery top-up. It was clear that the organizers of the convention really put some thought into how to best meet the most important needs of con-goers.
Overall, Rhode Island Comic Con proved to be an incredibly fun time, and the Nerds and Beyond team looks forward to attending again in the future! Despite the fact that the convention spanned across multiple buildings, had a number of high-profile guests, and drew in huge crowds each day, it was very impressive how smoothly the show was run.