Sunday, December 19, 2021

Naka-Kon 2021

The badge, and the new refined booth setup.
There are no words that can really put into perspective how odd it feels for a lot of us doing any sort of conventions this year. Speaking from my own limited moments, it's been so odd, so VERY odd. 

Even this post is ridiculously late in being created, just because it was taking me a while to keep my head in the right space as I wrote this. 

Most of the show, I spent trying to record video, and take in the fact that I was back at a show. I know that sounds crazy, but when 2020 made this show disappear, literally the day it was supposed to begin setup, my mind went to a weird place. 

"Oh great,... what now? What happens next? How long will this affect shows for?"

I know why it happened, and it was for all the right reasons. The same thing for the other shows that happen around here, and for so many of the larger ones all across the nation. The earmarked factor for 2020 will be how Covid was able to bring communities, events, and all sorts of interactions, to a very definitive halt. 

So very much has changed, in how I take a better look at things I do. I know I'm not the only one that faced the reality of job loss, life directions changing, and a more attuned look at the future. The cancellation of shows last year was more than a metaphor, it was frankly, a moment of bitter and scary challenges for myself and so many other people in the convention community. 

Of course I was a bit distressed and worried. I was wondering when, and if things would come back to some level of normal... whatever that could be. I know more than a few shows that didn't survive the year's absence, as well as a good number of creators that either closed up shop and moved onto other endeavors, or in some cases, found other temporary income and simply played the waiting game.

Setting up and early arrival

Very much appreciated that they were forward with the state of the show and it's future.
Being able to come back to the same hotel convention center after two years away, felt like a dream in some ways. Maybe more like a fuzzy memory. There were less people milling about, as the amount of vendors and staffing were reduced, as was the attendance cap that was going to be allowed for the return of the show.

If you want to watch the videos that I did during most of Naka-Kon, you can look them up on TikTok under theartisanrogue. I'll also put them together soon in a video for YouTube.

Set up went pretty smoothly, and I got it all set up and organized pretty quickly. I had to make a few last minute adjustments and additions, and I took the extra time to figure out what changes I wanted to make for presentation this next year.

I added Dungeons and Dragons based player class button pins to my display, and thank goodness there is a place locally here in KC that sells a great display spinner display rack. They didn't have black, but this white one is begging to be customized before my next show.
You can see the new spinner rack in the left hand corner in this photo. It was a last minute expense, but it paid itself off over the weekend thank goodness.
I don't remember exactly how many people the attendance cap was set to, but if memory serves me right, I believe it was right at about 3000. 

This resulted in a more laid back experience for me in general over the weekend, but thankfully not in sales or in interactions. Quite the contrary, I had my best show yet! As I look back over my journal entries and show notes, and even these photos as I upload them onto this blog entry, it still kind of feels as if the show didn't happen. I don't mean that in a negative way at all. I mean it felt like a fleeting bit of happiness that seemed like it was over, before I realized it.

If you go through any of my past posts about shows, any of you familiar with this blog know that I talk about how much I enjoy seeing people interact, play games, socialize, and just have a great time at any convention I do. There's a lot of reasons for that, but probably the top one is that it's being hyper aware of the good vibes, the positivity and fun that is there. Especially considering the ups and downs of both 2020 and 2021.
The weather was phenomenal, and once again, it was nice to see people out and about on the center greens area.

Cosplay on display

Though I am not a cosplayer myself, I am always super happy to see the awesome and creative ones that I will see at conventions. I didn't get to see as many cool ones at Planet this year, seeing as how I didn't have a table to sit at for three days to watch people from. 

This time I did, and here are some of the ones I really loved!
[Left] This fragrant fellow is the unsung hero every convention deserves. [Right] I LOVE the She-Ra Netflix show, so this was so dang cool to see.
Most of the cosplayers came around my table area, but there were a few that I had to run from my booth to chase down because I was worried they would not come back by.
[Left] Kamen Rider! [Right] Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil!
By the way, for anyone that wasn't at the show, the areas do look pretty open, and that's because they were. There was a LOT of space in between the vendors. Aisle widths were epic.
Not even going to lie, I don't know any of these characters. Well except for the Five Nights at Freddy's purple guy. I think that's right.
This was also the first time I was able to walk around and talk to a lot of the other vendors more than I'd ever been able to prior. The vendor room crowd would come in waves that were more apparent because of the smaller number of attendee, so that certainly made for a more relaxed atmosphere.
I also don't know these character cosplays either... I feel like a pop culture failure. :D

Time to say so long, farewell...

Gaze in wonder at the amazingly packed and organized booth loaded onto my tiny dolly. And yes, I do bring my own chair now to multi day shows.
The show came to a quiet end for this year, with a few groups of people still in the vendor room as the time wound down.

Saturday and Sunday both, I had some great conversations, caught up with some old friends, and met some new people - fellow artists, collectors, and old school anime enthusiasts.

I waited until early morning on that Sunday to do my shopping. I picked up a few things I'll show below. 
Final photo I took, just before I headed to the elevator to take the last of my booth equipment to my vehicle. Could already feel the post con blues beginning to set in.
I picked up a few things, including a Revival Run pack from Naka, two of the Aaru Garden figures, and a paper theatre and frame (that I still have yet to assemble). My wallet thankfully didn't take a huge hit as this year because of my own self control.
As I'm still trying to make sense of some of the display stuff I have here in my studio, I've not yet assembled or properly displayed any of the items above.

2022 and beyond...

This year did see some changes, from an honest message of support to help NakaKon move onwards, and a pretty cool virtual vendor hall.
It's not the easiest thing to contemplate when one deals with change. Life has a way of carrying us forward through time both hard and trying, or joyful and exciting.

There was a bittersweet energy in my mind for a good part of the show, as to whether or not Naka could make it through this year and into the next. As it turns out, yes it was able to. But the real challenge has arisen, will the show triumph onwards into 2023 and beyond?

I've never been shy about telling people that this is my favorite multi day show. The incredible high and emotional release I feel just being in the venue, being able to sell artwork to people that really enjoy my work, is all wonderful. But as I've said in years past, it's the incredible community, diversity, social acceptance, artistry, conversations about fandoms,... all of that and so much more, that makes this show something special.

I've met and spoken to many people at this show that feel the same way. I've kept in touch with a few that I've met over the years, and made friends with some vendors whom I am ecstatic to have seen over the years at this show.  

Show ticket advance sales are up now. You can find information on Naka-Kon's Facebook and Instagram about it. If you'd like to help keep NakaKon going, here is a direct link to a page on their website: Donate!

Until next time, remember to support artists and local businesses. Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

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