MegaCon in Orlando, Florida has become the place to be in the South to celebrate fan culture. Over the four-day event this year (March 30th through April 1st), MegaCon in Orlando, Florida had an estimated 160,000 people, beating the previous year’s record of 140,000. With numbers like that, it places itself nicely in the slot for the second-largest North American convention and the largest convention in the south, beating out Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia.
While the crowd was intense at times, there weren’t nearly as many “elbow-to-elbow” moments as the previous year. Funny enough, Thursday was busier than Friday. Thursday seems like an odd day to be super busy, but I think that is because it was the only day The Mandalorian panels were being held.
Compared to previous years, I think this one was more enjoyable for me because it didn’t seem as crowded on the vendor floor. I’m not sure if they trimmed back the number of vendors or if the rows were just a little larger to accommodate the crowds, but either way, it wasn’t too bad. I will disclose that I tried to stay off the main floor on Saturday.
Big Names and Big Crowds For Them
I would be remiss if I don’t mention the guests in attendance this year, which shows the kind of growth MegaCon has had since FanBoy Expo bought it a few years ago. To name a few, we had Hayden Christensen, Rosario Dawson, Chevy Chase, Sam Raimi, John Cleese, Zachary Levi (for a second year in a row!), and James McAvoy to name a few.
They did something different this year to control the crowds. Instead of having the movie/TV stars out in the open with the lines on the convention floor, they had them behind curtains. I think this made for a more private interaction with the fans and avoided people from walking up and just taking random photos without consent. The anime and voice actors were still out in the open like previous years.
Hayden was only there for one day and he was put in a room by himself off the convention floor. Both his photo opps and autograph tickets sold out long before the convention opened. This doesn’t surprise me because of how little he attends these kinds of events. It’s nice to see him getting the love he deserves after years of ridicule.
Vendors and Artists Brought Their “A” Game
The vendor floor and artist alley had some of my returning favorites and a few new ones.
One of my favorite purchases came from EnchantedEnigmaCrafts and was a sleeping Pikachu bonsai tree. It was all plastic, which I loved because that meant it would not break in my bag while I walked the convention floor. My other favorite purchase was my leather turtle shell backpack. I missed out on this last year. I knew the vendor would be at MegaCon this year and with only one in tow, so I grabbed it as soon as I saw it.
Lucky thing I did because a gentleman on Saturday stopped me to ask if I bought it at the con and when I said yes, his wife looked and him and said, “You should have bought it when you had the chance.” Apparently, he saw it on Thursday and was going to buy it but wanted to give it more thought. I felt bad for him but happy for me because that was the boat I was in last year.
Something I saw a lot of was this orange dog with a chainsaw in his head. I sent a picture to my son and he quickly told me that his name is Pochita from Chainsaw Man. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single aisle of artist alley had at least one or two tables selling keychains, stickers, or other merch with this character. I found out that some of the cast of Chainsaw Man was in attendance this year, so it doesn’t surprise me to see as much as I did.
Panels and the Paranormal
This year, there was no shortage of panels and things to take in at the creator stage. The most popular segment I think has to be the paranormal track.
The paranormal track has grown by leaps and bounds at MegaCon with many of the panels being standing room only (and some had to be closed off because the room was at capacity). We are hoping that the event organizers recognize the popularity of this area of fan culture and make it not only a bit bigger next year but also provide them with larger rooms. My husband spent the majority of his time in this area, passing up some of the celebrity panels for the ghost-hunting ones instead. ay but I did venture into Artist Alley for a bit (where I broke my “no shopping, only picture-taking rule”).
The “Could Be Better”
My biggest pet peeve (okay…one of two) is that the panels are divided by the North and South sides. In between them is the vendor floor. If you have a panel on the North Side at 12:30 and another on the South side at 2 PM, it’s a heck of a trek across that vendor floor and at times, impossible if the crowds are too tight. I would like to see a “lane” of some sort for just people trying to get from one side of the convention to the other.
The other pet peeve I have is that the Quiet Room for those that need an escape from the crowd and the overstimulation that comes with a convention was not easily accessible or easy to find. They had one on the North and South sides but both were on the third floor and far away from the area that you might need to get a break from. By the time I walked to the Quiet Room, I was already a good ways away from the crowds anyway. I would like to see these rooms put closer to the vendor hall, on the second floor next year.
Parking was more expensive this year (per day it averaged $30 versus $10 in years past). I know of at least one couple that has been attending for 20 years that could not justify attending since their 4-day passes were cheaper than parking their car. MegaCon tried something new this year by giving attendees the option to pre-buy parking at one of the official locations a week or so before the convention. If you did not pre-pay, you took a chance that your preferred parking area would be full by the time you arrived.
On the topic of parking, despite the price increase, I heard it wasn’t that bad getting into the convention or parking in general this year. Many people also opted for ride share this year, which could have contributed to this.
Until Next Year – February 2023 To Be Exact
MegaCon is one of the highlights of my year to show off costumes, see old friends, and enjoy a few days away from my daily life. I already have my hotel booked for MegaCon 2023 which is being held February 1 – 4, 2023. You read that right. February! It’s rumored that MegaCon is trying to place itself as the first big convention of the year, but honestly, I’m not sure that is a wise idea. Previously, the convention has been in mid to late March, April, or May (for years it was on Memorial Day weekend). February doesn’t give people who have just spent a lot of money from November to January on the holidays to recoup before making more travel plans. It will be interesting to see what MegaCon’s numbers will be and if the fan base will flock like the past two years with less than a year before the next.
I have never attended a MegaCon that I did not enjoy, so even with the earlier time frame, I’m still excited. On the upside, it means we have less than 10 months until the next one.