614 W Superior St
Alma, MI 48801
February 9, 2018 - February 11, 2018 | Table Cost:
Layout - Unlike back when I attended, the artitsts alley was in a gym sectioned off, where there was more space. WAY, more space. While this was great, this was during a blizzard where I would guess than 25% of the artists ended up not attending due to the horrible weather conditions, so the big size change ended up hurting us. While we could originally choose our own table, (I picked the sweet corner spot), we were forced to move on Friday night close together because it was clear that most of the setting was going to be empty. How can this be fixed? ASSIGN TABLES. While some artists may not like it, it is truly vital in order to crate a stable and equal opportunity for traffic flow of customers. If I had stayed where I had, I would have been screwed, as I was in the middle of no man's land.
Venue - This is a partial critisism of the staff, but the instructions/map were NOT clear. My artisto brother and I wandered in the freezing cold for 15-25 minutes, trying to find where the damn artists room was. The map stated that the vendors and artists were two different locations, so when we actually FOUND the artists alley, we thought it was the dealers room and left! Thank goodness we asked someone, but it would have been appreciated if the map was actually up to date. Overall, the venue is not good for a winter convention. Too much walking with no shelter for customers, imo. Change dates, or change the venue. Or at least keep things closer together! It's possible with out small this con is getting. Speaking of which...
Attendance & Affordability - This hurt the most, arguably, besides the layout screw-up. There were virtually no sales made on Sunday, and Friday was a ghost town as well. Both days combined we made $30 in total, which was a fraction of Saturday's price. Honestly, Alma Con is no longer built to run a 3 day convention anymore. The people aren't coming, as told by the attendees and from what we artists experienced. With a $50 ticket price, this is honestly not too affordable, especially when gas and hotel is considered.
Staff - I'll be honest, combined with the lack of communication and outdated messages/maps/visuals, the staff were...lackluster. Sure, they helped move our table after the whole layout debacle which is greatly appreciated, but this was a problem THEY caused. The staff didn't seem to be very concerned about security either, seeing as my parents who decided to visit and bring us food from good ol' Micky D were allowed in without a badge. Hell, when I asked for badges they didn't see the amount I had signed for, but just straight up asked me...I could have completely smuggled another 4 away to some friends if I was that cruel! All that considered, the staff weren't too cheery either. Just gave off a bad vibe for me, which can be enough to drive people away.
TLDR: DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. It's just not worth it, as the con is losing its touch, and they don't seem to know what to do with their artists at this point. Back in 2015 things seemed to be looking up, but I can see that 3 years haven't aged Alma Con well. I'll try them out again in another 4 years, if they're lucky to have good reviews. I was glad to have gone for the learning experience, and I made enough for the trip to be worth it, but it was just...not something I want to go to again.
- Decent attendance
- Most who came were a buyers crowd, but many would wait until it's time to pack-up before rushing to buy things.
- Dealers were in 2 buildings over which was worrisome at first, but since AA was right next to registration this year we got a lot of foot traffic.
- Everyone in AA was AMAZIIIINGLY friendly! Our table mates both next to and across were wonderful people to be around.
- Staff was helpful once found, they worked hard to rectify any issues we had. Example: is the wifi - signal there was spotty at best and they were able to get security to log us into the wifi for all three days rather than the 'guest' for just one.
- Cost of table is rather low, and if you split hotel travel costs can be kept to a minimum as well.
- Friday parking made me want to shoot myself - as there was virtually NO parking until the con started. I ended up parking two blocks away which leads into....
- NO SIGNAGE on where to go! The email neither left a contact person nor where artists were to be set up at - which also leads to...
- A long walk to the artist alley. For those that didn't have to lug all their stuff around by hand (unfortunately our dolly is broken at the moment) it was a NIGHTMARE carrying all of our supplies a lengthy distance in the freezing cold since the buildings were not connected in the area, and sick to boot.
- There was no one to announce artist alley was closed; since I was sick over the weekend and felt like death on Friday this was terribly irritating when people continued to browse until half past close.
- AA was very cold, at times it felt like the heat was barely on. If you were unlucky enough to be at the front of AA you were likely wearing a coat and blanket all weekend.
Summary: I think this con would do better as a 2 day convention (sat/sun or fri/sat) rather than 3 days; there doesn't seem like quite enough going on to warrant 3 days of attendance. Organization needs a massive overhaul; emails need to be more specific and have contact info. and the parking situation on friday needs to be stated clearly in the emails as well so artists can prepare properly.
Despite my complaints, overall we made enough to come back for next year. Cost of table is low, and if you split a hotel then travel expenses aren't too bad either.
It seems like the AA traffic and general con attendance has went down a little for the past couple years, but it's still better than some other small-midsize cons in Michigan. They do seem to have a decent number of panels and events to draw guests and the local college scene brings in people. However, there are a few big problems that stand out to me and make participating in their AA a headache sometimes.
-They ALWAYS send out their acceptance emails SUPER late. They are very apologetic, but it keeps happening. 1-2 weeks just is not enough notice to give, it makes everything stressful and feel last minute. I feel bad for out of state artists especially.
-Last year they gave out AA table locations on a "whoever shows up first to set up gets to choose" which I really dislike. They also did not give any kind of warning that this was how you would be getting your space assigned. I did not need hours upon hours to set up my space, but I would have shown up much earlier so I could have chosen a better spot if they let us know.
-The location of the AA within the campus keeps changing, making it difficult for people to find. Last year it seemed to be in a building by itself, which I think led to less traffic since there were no opportunities for people to just be passing it by on their way between panels. Make sure you bring a book or something small to work on, things can get pretty slow at times.
Despite these problems, it's still a decent con. The staff is very friendly and a lot of little details show they do appreciate/care about the artists- for example every so often someone offers to bring water to thirsty artists etc. Their volunteer staff are always enthusiastic and eager to help too.
A little more organization would go a long way for Alma Con.