ASTL 2021 Review
Y'all. I've been preparing for this convention for a month now. I had to crank out Tiana three weeks early (We'll talk about her in another post), work on orders, help my partner with his business, finish making onesies and loaves and all the other fun stuff because I needed my first ASTL as a vendor to be *Perfect* and profitable and memorable. And I'm so happy to say that it was! Besides me being exhausted the entire weekend, I had such a wonderful time.
Let's start off with: I'm not wanting to go to conventions. Do I want to be in cosplay with people adoring me, talking about cosplay, eating garbage and having room parties? Absolutely. Do I want them right now, while we're still in the middle of a pandemic? Absolutely not. But being a small business, I have to go where the money is. So, when ASTL had to happen because St. Charles doesn't have limits on social gatherings, I knew I had to mentally prepare. It was extremely rough, worrying about going, but being vaccinated and having a TON of people tell me they were vaccinated as well (Let's hope they were telling the truth) I felt a lot safer. I'm friends with a lot of the staff and every single one of them didn't want this convention to happen this year. Not because they hate it, just because of the hate they were getting and being forced during a very distressing time.
So while ASTL had the in-person event, they also had a virtual convention at home for folks who were either unable or unwilling to come, but still wanted to support the convention. I only heard that there wasn't a lot of programming, which is understandable as the in-person staff was also in charge of all the virtual panels as well. These poor staff members were run ragged while hosting not only in-person panels, but working a discord channel they may not have been versed in. My only suggestion would be to have staff who are savvy in that type of work next year (If they're doing virtual paneling next year). Otherwise, it seemed to go off without much of a hitch.
The Artist Alley and Dealer's Hall was pretty well spread out as well as having an incredible variety to choose from. I wasn't able to buy as much as I wanted, only because I knew I didn't have the space to store it! I talked to every single artist about how they were doing (because if they weren't doing as well as they thought, I'd have made it rain) and every one was saying they were doing so much better than they expected. So thank you for that. I can't speak for everyone, but as someone whose lifeblood is mostly made through conventions, thank you for taking a little stress off. I had so many people come up and were so excited that I finally made it into the vendor's hall, that I was just overwhelmed with the support. I really appreciate you folks supporting me and my work. I am really happy we were able to cross off one new pokemon, let alone 11! We're so so close to hitting 500, so if you see this, any pokemon that's not crossed off is $35 off until Friday or 5 people claim it. I really want to cross those babies off!
Anyway, back to the article at hand. We had some incredible sales numbers and I'm glad other artists were able to enjoy those as well! I know some folks cosplayed, and I myself was only able to cosplay on Friday. I wanted to debut Tiana, but am unable to get into the dress myself, it would have been difficult being a princess all day. I'm hoping to have a photoshoot soon with her, where I can show you all the hard work I managed to pull off. My only real gripe with the convention is that, while the in-person cosplay contest was cancelled, they still should have announced a winner on Saturday, or at the very least, Sunday at Closing Ceremonies. I asked some of the staff members what was happening and all I received was, "We're having difficulties with the submissions." Those of us who were competing entered our work 3 weeks ago, there shouldn't have been any issues. If there were, they needed to be addressed ASAP, but weren't. I believe we're getting an announcement Thursday (April 29th), so I'll hopefully know then if my hand embroidery was worth it.
Other than that, I didn't really hear or witness any terrible things. No one belly ached about having to wear masks or wearing them properly. The only other thing I have to really complain about was the convention center staff. You can tell they didn't want us there, as well as most of us not having clear bags (to make it "easier" to look through), there was a lot of sour feelings between convention staff and the center staff. I tried getting into the upper doors about 20 minutes before the vendor's hall opened and the security team stared at me for a minute before shrugging, despite the fact that I had an Exhibitor badge. The security guards at the lower doors were much more accommodating and pleasant to speak with. I really hope that in the future, ASTL is able to find a convention center that isn't rude to the people that host events with them.
Now, about the attendees. The only issue I had was some of the more infamous folks in the STL Cosplay Community trying to throw parties in the hotel lobby, which reflects poorly on the convention itself, and rather than just kicking the offending attendees out, the convention could be kicked out for next year. Until ASTL is ready to move to a better venue, this is what we have and we *must* respect what we have. We still have to remember that although this convention is happening, COVID is still a very real thing and we don't want to accidentally kill our friends. Small parties (3-5 people) are still fun and can be had in rooms without getting the convention in trouble.
All in all, I had a really wonderful time, and have even bought some upgrades to both my PokeRoom, and my business, which couldn't have been done without you wonderful folks. Thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart for making this return to convention vending such a success! I really appreciate you and hope to see you in person next year!