The Giving Back Tour Convention in Cleveland was not only the first ever Supernatural Convention in Ohio, it was also the first convention ever for me. Believe me, I’d watched every panel possible online but nothing could have prepared me for the energy in that Convention Hall. Misha Collins was headlining the convention and true to form for him, it was focused on ways to make the world a kinder and weirder place. Donations were being made to Family Promise of Greater Cleveland as part of the event and there were lots of activities focused on showing kindness to others. This being my first experience with a fandom convention, I thought it helpful to share some highlights and lessons learned.
Let’s face it, we’re there to see the actors and musicians we admire. We want to ask them questions, hear their stories, scream and yell with everyone else. Admittedly when I was planning the day I thought there were some panels I was going to skip in favor of doing other things but I found that even the panels I originally was less interested in were really engaging. The general mood in the room was joyful and expectant and some of the guests are the complete opposite of their characters. I’m looking at you David Haydn-Jones and Adam Fergus!
Supernatural actors are really attuned to the fans and this was made more evident by the interactive games during the panels that are a special feature of The Giving Back Tour. For example, Ruth Connell taught us a flash mob dance to perform during Collins’ panel that was a total success. Rob Benedict and Matt Cohen struggled mightily through Charades to try to get their fan participants to guess “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, though I wondered if they were old enough to know the song! Yes, these activities cut into Q&A time a bit but when else are you going to have Misha Collins yelling at you to get back to your trailer as you pretend to be an actor doing a scene from Supernatural?
Tip: Make time for the panels you don’t think you’ll enjoy. I attended one of the panels I was initially going to skip and I was really glad I did.
Photo Ops and Autographs
Photo ops and/or autographs with some of our favorite people can be a major source of anxiety for some of us, I know it was for me. I purchased the tickets for my photo ops and autographs as soon as they were available online and then proceeded to stress about how that experience would turn out until the moment it was over. That may not be something you struggle with and if so, that’s fantastic! I have to give credit to Chris Schmelke and the staff that work with him during the photo ops. The music and atmosphere helps everyone to relax a bit and if you find yourself feeling extremely anxious, there is staff there specifically to provide support. The line moved really quickly which definitely helped to keep anxiety down since there wasn’t a lot of time to worry. My photo ops were with Briana Buckmaster, then later with Misha and both of them were incredibly friendly and warm, especially considering the number of people waiting to have a picture with them. Their attitude about this brief moment spent with each fan is a gift and made it a memorable experience for me.
Tip: Be respectful of the person you’re having your photo op or autograph with. Follow the guidelines set forth by the guests handlers and Creation Entertainment.
A Shared Experience
One of the things that isn’t talked about much is the shared experience with fellow attendees. Even if you go by yourself, you’ll find that you’re laughing and screaming along with your seat mates, reassuring the person ahead of you in line for autographs when they feel nervous, or crying in the bathroom after ops because you’re just so overwhelmed by the experience of being so close to someone you’ve adored from afar. What? Just me? Moving on then.
This particular convention took me far out of my comfort zone with Escape from Perdition. GISH sponsored the game and asked attendees to complete nine random acts of kindness from a list of thirty four potential activities that involved things such as grabbing three friends and singing your favorite rock song in four-part harmony or making a devil’s trap out of human bodies. Yes, that happened. I was so uncomfortable but in the end, it was an awesome experience and I’m so glad I participated. Plus, I got to take home a really cute angel pin! If you completed nine of a much smaller list of activities you would receive a Random Acts Halo Coin. It was definitely a nice memento to take home and remember the ridiculous things you did in the name of kindness.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to chat with the people around you. Many people are feeling the same way you are and probably would love to have someone to talk to as well! Some of the best memories I have are of people who offered a kind word to me when I was overwhelmed after photo ops.
There is no guarantee that there will be working vending machines or restaurants at the Hotel or Convention Center, this is especially true if you have special dietary needs. Sometimes the best time to eat is during a panel because other ticketed activities are going on and you may not have any down time to grab lunch.
Also, portable chargers for your phone, especially if you like to take pictures. It will save you the hassle of trying to find an electrical outlet along with everyone else who has a cell phone that is on the verge of death and needs to call an Uber.
If you’re going to the convention to see someone specific understand that they may end up cancelling or may be moved at the last minute to another day. This is especially prone to happen if they’re filming. When I purchased tickets, I only purchased two of the three days because everything I wanted to see was happening on Friday and Saturday. When Misha had to change his appearance to Sunday, Creation offered to accept Saturday tickets for Sunday admittance to try to accommodate the fans. If you can afford it, go for the weekend pass. You’ll have the same seat all weekend and you won’t have to worry about a schedule change.
You should know also that the actual schedule for the Con doesn’t come out until a couple weeks before so if you’re planning to do things in the evening that aren’t related to the convention you may need to wait to plan them until closer to the actual date.
The staff at the Convention is there to help you. Always treat the staff with kindness and make sure to watch the website for the convention you are attending in the days and weeks before for any updates and/or changes.
Finally, be kind to yourself. You’re going to be tired, especially if you’re rooming with friends! Try to get plenty of rest and to stay hydrated. Set reminders on your phone if you have scheduled medications to take or need to eat at certain times. Try to keep expectations reasonable as well. Photo ops and autographs move very quickly, especially with headlining guests so the likelihood that you’ll have the conversation you’ve played out in your head a million times is pretty low. Enjoy the little things like a shared smile, a hug, or a “thank you” that’s meant just for you.
I was so glad to be able to go and experience this convention with other Supernatural fans.