Last weekend marked year five of working for Wizard World Comic Con when it made its stop in Madison. I signed up initially because it was a way to experience a comic/fan convention without needing to pay admission, plus it would give me something to do during a winter weekend (the first year was in February I believe) when I typically spend as much time as possible burrowed under a blanket in my apartment.
When people ask me what it’s like to work for the convention for a weekend, I can honestly say it’s unlike any other experience. You spend three days answering questions, reminding people to have their items ready to be signed, asking (and re-asking) that people have gotten their wristbands before standing in the admission line or ensuring they pre-purchased their autograph or selfie with a celebrity. You also get to see impressive cosplay, make a child’s day by saying ‘Oh, Supergirl – I’m glad you’re here, I was a bit worried some villains may try to cause trouble here,’ and occasionally have a fun and memorable celebrity encounter or witness someone get to meet a person who they never imagined meeting.
But as a I reflect on this weekend, I thought about how much fun I had with the other convention crew and the people I’ve gotten to meet. I get to spend a few hours with Adam who I met the first year when we were tasked with working at the doors in frigid weather – bundled up in our winter coats as we directed people into the exhibition hall. Adam and I are actually both UW-Whitewater grads and have several common friends; we probably ran into each other on campus back in the day. It was Adam who helped me learn the ropes of working at a convention since he’d already done a few.
I had the chance to chat with Kathryn about working as a celebrity handler this weekend and even though we were several booths apart, liked to visit one another on occasion when our actors were on break or taking part in a panel. We’d wave to each other when our tables were quiet and even had a minuscule “dance off” Sunday morning. Despite both of us working multiple years at this particular event, we’d never really gotten to talk before this year.
Then there was my name twin working at the actor booth next to me who’d worked the Wizard World Chicago show and told me about her experiences there. She and I told the actors whose tables were near us about Culver’s and cheese curds; other Amber even went out to purchase food from the chain so they could get a taste of Wisconsin fast food. We compared notes about the weekend and shared a few selfies with the actors we were working with.
And of course, George who was back after needing to take last year off to recover from surgery and is from nearby Fort Atkinson. Those of us who’ve worked the convention since it started were glad to see him back with the crew instead of an attendee.
Plenty of other familiar faces show up at the event year after year, other crew members who in the past have worked line control or registration with me, who know what it’s like to lay down and pull up tape lines on the floor and know exactly where the restrooms, bubblers, concession area and ATM are located. There are the security staff who despite their occasional intimidating exterior are among the nicest people and will joke with the rest of the con crew and celebrate when we make it to Sunday. I’d be remiss to mention the Wild Bill’s Soda vendor whose name I do not recall, but I see each year and chat about how things are going for him for the weekend.
Having a good group of co-workers can make any job pleasant, even on days when things may not go great. My con crew co-workers can commiserate about sore feet from standing most of the day, be in awe of someone’s cosplay or a certain famous guest, help acclimate the crew newbies, and swap stories about our weekend experience. The crew is one of the reasons I keep coming back to work at the show. It’s a mini reunion each year, greeting each other with ‘Hey, how’s it going’ and reminiscing about the previous year Friday or Saturday and leaving Sunday by saying ‘See you next year, safe travels’ and joking about how we made it through another convention weekend.