LeakyCon Portland: A Forest of Fandoms

LeakyCon 2013, Part 1 took place in Portland, Oregon from Thursday, June 27th to Sunday, June 30th. LeakyCon 2013, Part 2 will take place in London, England, from Thursday, August 8th to Sunday, August 11th. I won’t be attending, because I will be portraying Motel Kamzoil, the poor tailor, in a small local production of Fiddler on the Roof. While going to London sounds like an incredible experience, Motel has been a dream role of mine for a while now and I don’t want to pass this up. Besides that, I can’t afford to go to both conventions—so I chose to attend LeakyCon in Portland.

Actually, my choice to go to Portland was an easy one. You see, I (proudly) work for LeakyCon. This year, as I did in Chicago last year, I reprised the role of Main Stage Manager/Coordinator. In addition to that, I also filled the role of Charity Row Liaison. If you were at LeakyCon this year (or last year), I’m the guy who made a few announcements from the main stage—the guy who looks strikingly similar to Hank Green.

All of this is just to say that I am going to be somewhat biased in my “review” of LeakyCon, because it has become like a second home to me, and there are very few negative comments that I can make about LeakyCon—and quite a few positive.

In Comparison with Previous Conventions

LeakyCon 2011 in Orlando was my first convention. I wrote half a dozen articles while there, but I want to refer to the last paragraphs of my last one:

Instead of “disbelief” that the movies are done, I think I need to “turn a phrase” and say, “relief” that the movies are done. These things aren’t meant to last forever. Because things are finite, that’s what makes them special to us. If the Harry Potter movies, or books for that matter, were to drag out for another ten years on top of the ten years they have each already celebrated, they would no longer be special to us in the fandom. Instead, they would lose their magical quality and simply become commonplace. I think that’s where my disconnectedness came from that I wrote about during my first post on that Saturday. I was so excited for my first Con, but then I saw the last movie, and I realized too soon that I was ready to embrace the finality of this franchise. I really think my “first” Con should be my “first and only”. For me, I can’t drag this out for longer, because it would cease to be special to me. I want to look back and remember the books, the movies, and those great times that were, because “the time we have to spend apart will keep us in each other’s heart”.

All great things must come to an end. I am truly happy and relieved for this end.

Obviously, LeakyCon 2011 wasn’t my last one. It might have been my last if a friend that I had made there hadn’t asked me to come back to Chicago and manage the main stage. However, what I wrote two years ago serves as a reminder: except for Pottermore.com and the expanding theme park, the Harry Potter series is done. As much as some might like for LeakyCon to continue being a Harry Potter-exclusive convention, it can’t. In can’t, for the sake of longevity.

From the opening ceremonies, that was made very clear: a cast of comic book, Disney, Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkein, Doctor Who, Glee, RENT (ANTHONY RAPP), Twilight, Hunger Games, and of course, Harry Potter characters took the stage, as they sang a parody of La Vie Boheme that very clearly encouraged everyone to celebrate all the fandoms, not just Harry Potter. Here’s a video of that performance:

On a more subliminal level, I feel that LeakyCon is more closely tied to LeakyNews.com now more than ever. It’s worth noting, if you’re not aware already, that The-Leaky-Cauldron.org is still a Harry Potter-only website, and LeakyNews covers Harry as well as other fandoms.

In short, I think it’s awesome that LeakyCon is expanding to include other fandoms. It’s also necessary, as I said, for the sake of longevity. If you want LeakyCon to continue and to grow, it needs to expand past Harry. However, that was the biggest complaint that I heard from other attendees: there just wasn’t enough Harry Potter-related programming.

What We Can Expect from Future Conventions

If you were upset by the lack of Harry Potter programming at LeakyCon in Portland, you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to not attend LeakyCon in Orlando. I should emphasize that I don’t have inside information about plans for LeakyCon in Orlando. Even if I did have, I wouldn’t relay that information here. You should, instead, refer to LeakyCon.com for official updates.

However, allow me to speculate for a moment. LeakyCon 2014 will return to the site of the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios in Orlando. Simply due to this location, LeakyCon is probably going to feel more like the Harry Potter convention that you remember from “days of old” and less like the “forest of fandoms” convention that you experienced in Portland three weeks ago.

Why “Themed” Conventions Are Totally Awesome

Opening ceremonies in Portland referred to a “forest of fandoms” where all the fandom worlds collide. The main stage, shown above, was decorated with trees. The beautiful programming book, designed by the incredibly talented Jordan Edwards, is titled “A Field Guide to the Fantastical Worlds of Fandom”. Oregon and the Pacific Northwest are known for its forests. Why the “forest of fandoms” theme? Because it’s memorable. Themes set each convention apart from the previous and from the next. Themes tie together each aspect of the convention. Themes tie us with one another. At every Esther Earl Rocking Charity Ball since Orlando in 2011, my friend Olivia and I have planned a formal-wear theme: this year we both rocked black and gold.

More about People and Less about Programming

It’s the real reason I keep coming back to LeakyCon. It’s not for the celebrities. It’s not even for the programming. It’s for the people that I keep coming back. I’ve made many life-long friends through LeakyCon, and as long as they continue going to LeakyCon, I will.

In 2011, I had a bit of a “disconnected” experience only because it was my first convention, and I didn’t really know anyone yet. However, after donning a self-made “hug me sign me” t-shirt, I started to meet people, and when those people called on me to come back to LeakyCon in Chicago, I answered. In Chicago, I made even more friends. In Portland, even more. And do you know what I am most excited about for Orlando? Riding the Hogwarts Express with all of my friends to Hogwarts. “Open at the Close”, the LeakyCon-only theme park event in 2011, was difficult for me because it was held on the first night, and I didn’t really know anyone yet. In 2014, however, I am going to have a blast with some of my closest friends.

It is because of LeakyCon that I have these friends. Whether they live halfway across the country or halfway around the world, most are better friends than those who live next door to me. It’s because we all have this common interest: Harry Potter (and now other fandoms). So yes, I have Harry Potter, and by extension, Jo Rowling, to thank for my friends. Additionally, and perhaps even more than Jo, I have Melissa Anelli to thank. It’s because of her that we have The Leaky Cauldron, LeakyNews, and LeakyCon. So you could say that it’s directly because of her that I have the friends I have today.

Why I Work for LeakyCon (and Hope to Continue)

Why do I continue to work for LeakyCon? For two reasons: 1) if I can give back to LeakyCon even a little of what it has given to me, then I will be happy, and 2) if I can help make the LeakyCon experience the best possible experience for every attendee, then I will be happy.

Here’s to having the time of our lives in Orlando next year! Hope to see you then!