As a writer for this site you might think that I’ve shared in most of the experiences that the other Nerd Bastards crew have taken part in, but that would be a misconception. There are a few things I’ve personally never been a part of and one of them is going to a convention. So, this past weekend I took part in the third year of Hal-Con, the largest science fiction convention of its kind in Atlantic Canada.
The event, as I’ve said, is only in its third consecutive year. Having begun back in October of 2010 with an attendance of 1500 people, it quickly expanded to an astounding 4000 visitors the following year. The event has a few staple shows that have since become fan favorites of the young convention, but those I’ll touch on later. For now hit the jump and I’ll give you the story of one nerd’s first convention at this year’s three day event.
Having never been to a convention before, my nerves were a bit shaky the morning of the first day. Personally I blame the apprehension of going to an event like this not only as a fan, but also going as a member of the press – it was an experience. Since I already knew the Halifax area from my previous years of living in the city, I headed straight down to the World Trade and Convention Center, the home of Hal-Con since it’s second year and 30,000 sq. ft. of wall to wall science fiction, anime, comic books and games of all types and styles.
Hal-Con, as I was told by Cassie Williams, the director of Media Relations for Hal-Con, was three floors of multiple panels and events all going on at once. I thanked her and made my way to the convention’s opening ceremonies. The ceremony was relatively small, but opened up with Space‘s AJ Fry welcoming guests to the third year of the convention. Guests quickly dispersed to speak with AJ, who was just hanging out on the side of the main stage with some of the volunteers for the convention.
Heading over to say “Hello” to the host somehow resulted in a 10 minute conversation and a few pictures with AJ, a pretty cool guy in person as well as on television. The remainder of the day was a sequence of walking around, gathering photos of people in their awesome cosplay and talking with friends I hadn’t seen in nearly two years.
Day two was more of the same, but instead of sitting in on panels and checking out the shows, day two was about just having fun. I spent a good deal of time on the third floor, otherwise known as the gaming hall of the convention, playing free pinball and entering the various fighting tournaments the organizers had on display. After a small bracket of Street Fighter IV -and a technicality – I was told to come back at 9am on the last day of the con for the finals of the Street Fighter match ups. The rest of the day was spent waiting for the Paul & Storm concert later that evening so I hid out among the crowd buying prints from artists Mike Holmes, Faith Hicks & Kate Leth. If you’ve never seen their work before I highly suggest taking a look. They’re cool people and really great to fans of their work.
If you’ve never been to a Paul & Storm show or even heard of the comedic musical duo then your missing out. These two had the entire main stage in stitches by the end of the night with songs about Nun fights, video games and Grandma cooking the family dog, after which they signed cd’s and shirts for fans outside the hall. Personally, I bought two albums (which they both signed) and had a nice round of discussion for a few minutes. Day two was almost a blur by the end of it all, but thanks to the massive amount of photos and footage, everyone will get their chance to see grown men make fun of the SPCA and talk about working with Felicia Day for a new show on Geek & Sundry in the near future.
I awoke to the final day of Hal-Con with a slight sense of dread. I knew that after Sunday it would be another year till something this cool happened for a lot of people, but I huffed it back to the WTCC building for the finals of the tournament. It was a pretty quick tournament though, as only myself and one other gamer were there for Street Fighter. Everyone else was there for Persona 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom. As a cocky individual and gamer I went with Ken… and was quickly beaten into the ground by Cammy and her painted thighs. It wasn’t all bad though, as my second place showing earned me a free weekend pass for the new year. The rest of the day consisted of getting autographs from Nicholas Briggs (Doctor Who), Manu Intiraymi of Star Trek: Voyager and veteran actor John Rhys-Davies, otherwise known as the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy for those of you who never watched the first three Indiana Jones films.
The convention’s final show of the night before closing ceremonies was the tightly packed Geeks Vs. Nerds, a local comedic debate show and podcast that has ended the convention for the last three years. Hosted by Pigmonkey Andrew Dorfman, the show consists of a back and forth discussion about various subjects. There are normally two shows and on Friday they debated “Sunnydale versus Gotham – Which is the deadlier place to live?”. Sadly I missed that one and must wait for the podcast to hear who won.
On this night, the topic was “Green Lantern Corps versus The Jedi Order – Who are the more effective intergalactic peacekeepers?” I was able to get to that and it was packed. There were close to 700 people in one room listening to the teams curse at each other (and there was a lot of cursing). Pigmonkey has actually had to create a warning song that is sung at the beginning of each show. If you’ve never heard it, suffice to say that it contains just as many F-bombs as you would expect. Watching the show live is very different from watching it online or listening to the podcast (available at geeksvsnerds.com) as it allows you to see the crowd as they react to the verbal beat downs and amount of trivia knowledge some of these geeks and nerds have. Honestly, for that show alone I would come back next year.
After that it was time for the closing ceremonies, held by Kill Shakespeare co-writer Conor McCreery. After a brief thank you to everyone involved, co-chairs Jennifer Lambe and Amanda Schreiber showed off a quick teaser about who would be showing up for Hal-Con 2013. The guests in attendance subsequently tore the roof off the building with joy. I don’t want to spoil too much for those that were unable to be at this year’s convention, but when you show people that Sylvester McCoy and Billy Dee Williams are going to be in the same building at once people are going to freak out.
Hal-Con was an experience unlike anything else I’ve been a part of in the last few years. It was host to a bunch of firsts for me and will not be forgotten thanks to 658 pictures taken over the course of the three day event. If I could round up my experiences into a single moment it would be this: As I sat with my friends in Boston Pizza for the Hal-Con after party, watching as guests, security, volunteers and the Hal-Con Board of directors were applauded as they walked in the door, it became clear to me. Hal-Con was and is something special to these people, the convention nobody want’s to see fail. And neither do I.
I hope Hal-Con has many successful years ahead of it and look forward to coming back in 2013. It was quite the experience.