The goal of every convention is usually to have a good time with fellow nerds that share at least one similar interest with you. You get to forget real life and meet new friends. Some people choose to go the route of rummaging the dealers’ room for items, while others stick to panels and meet-ups. There are those who attend conventions for the celebrities, and there are those that go for the cosplay and photoshoots. And of course, there’s the attendee that attends for all of the above. With Immortal Con, there was an extra attribute – those that attended for a cause … that cause being the fight against cancer.
The Immortal Con website describes the event as:
A Long Island Convention created for a day to share your super human spirit. We are STRONG TOGETHER! For this reason this day will be filled with heroes both directly battling an evil foe called Cancer and others providing their shields, if even for a day, to fight alongside with these warriors. If ever a convention called for your attendance in your wonderful costume creations, electric enthusiasm, high energy participation and support it would be this one: IMMORTAL CON. We will all wear our gear of strength and cheer on for LIFE as we enjoy panels to both entertain as well as educate, meet special guests, take in a game or 2, win a costume contest, capture memories with all the pics to be taken with friends, shop the dealer’s floor, and most importantly take with you all the empowering elements the event will offer so that you can face tomorrow like an IMMORTAL.
Immortal Con is a convention that started up this year in Long Island, New York. It took place on Saturday, October 3rd, from 11 A.M. to 11 P.M. at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Ronkonkoma. It was run by TwitchTwitch Productions with LC Macabre as the head organizer and Nicole Oliva as the vice chair and event manager. The con was a mix of panels that focused on anime, fantasy, and sci-fi, but also featured panels where the focus shifted toward cancer awareness and healing.
There were two vendors’ rooms, a kids’ room with colorings books and kids’ comics, a room with a large stage for performances, and multiple smaller rooms used for the panels and the film festival that was held later on in the evening. It was a packed day of fictitious adventure for whoever walked into the hotel. The proceeds and funds ($1,459,00 and counting as of early October) made were donated to the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Center which is a part of StonyBrook University Hospital.
As someone who is constantly traveling far away from home to attend conventions, it came as a great relief to have a convention that only required 15 minutes of driving to attend. Accompanied by a group of eight friends, we arrived at the Clarion Hotel around 11 A.M. and were greeted by a line of attendees waiting to be let loose to wander around the hotel. There were two separate lines – one if you had ordered your ticket online, and one if you were buying your ticket at the door. Once we were let in, we gathered in the lobby for photos and to plan out our trip. The day was packed with events and things to do all until 11 P.M., so there was certainly no opportunity to be bored. Wandering around the different rooms, there was no shortage of cosplayers. There was everything from Jedi and Disney Princesses, to Sailor Soldiers and Survey Corps members, there was a little something for everyone roaming around the halls.
Our first stop was the vendors’ room. It was more of an artists’ alley with the majority of the items up for sale being handmade in one way, shape, or form. The one thing I find myself loving more and more about smaller events is the more evident uniqueness of the vendors’ room. Larger conventions have giant vendors’ rooms where they could very well be multiple booths selling the same items for varied prices. At smaller events, you have more shots at finding more unique and rare items.
As previously stated, the vendors’ room at Immortal Con was certainly leaning more toward being what is more commonly known as artists’ alley. It featured art by local artists whether it was anime-based or not. There were artists’ with drawings, paintings, and offering commissions on the spot. There was a booth for Sera’s Stitches where they brought in their sewing machine and were offering to begin working on any commissions on the spot. That was something that immediately caught my attention. I’ve seen multiple artists’ bring their sketchpads or maybe knitting needles, but I’ve never seen anyone bring their sewing machine to a convention. I loved that. Everyone was very friendly and willing to talk about anything regardless of if it was related to their booth or not. It provided a welcoming atmosphere to the convention that seemed to flow throughout the event. There wasn’t a single space where my group and I encountered animosity of any kind. We were all welcomed and treated with kindness and respect the entire time we were there by everyone from guests, to staff, to fellow con-goers.
But back to the vendors’ rooms… Aside from art, there were booths for local events and groups, as well as booths featuring some of the guests of the event such as KuroPOP, IchiP, Robert Axelrod, and Brittany Lauda, to name a few. Another difference at Immortal Con was the fact that there were two vendors’ rooms – one on the main floor, and another on the lower level. The main floor’s vendors’ room also held what was referred to as the Crystal Room Stage toward the back of the room where interviews and fashion shows were held. Sera’s Stitches held a “Fairy Fashion Show” that took place on this stage later on in the day.
We had no set schedule for what we wanted to do; we were all just thrilled over being at a convention that didn’t require an hour train ride into New York City. After taking time in the vendors’ room to scope out booths belonging to my brother and close friends, my group and I wandered around the hotel to locate all the different rooms and what they all had to offer. We were essentially giving ourselves a tour of the convention, complete with multiple pauses for photoshoots.
The Clarion Hotel has a bit of an old school vibe to it. I don’t think it’s been updated in multiple years, and therefore is very old fashioned, including the lighting inside, which is rather dim. We did not have the optimal conditions for photos whatsoever what with the combination of old, subdued lighting paired with cloudy weather. We made the best of it, however. The old school vibe was quaint, but Immortal Con and any other event held at the Clarion will absolutely benefit if the hotel gets a much needed makeover.
Makeover aside, the Clarion held sufficient room to hold a mixture of screenings, interactive panels, performances, and films to look forward to and enjoy. With cancer awareness being the cause of the event, there were multiple panels regarding healing and awareness held in the Shore Room on the lower level. Multiple yoga practices were held there throughout the day, as well as a couple of informative panels discussing and providing a better understanding of cancer.
Of course, no anime convention of any size is complete without their quintessential masquerade. Immortal Con held their own as well, with hopefuls in cosplay lining up at 6:30 P.M. There was also a room for video games and tournaments that were held from 12 P.M. until 6 P.M. And finally, there was the Macabre Faire Film Festival held from 6:45 P.M. until 11 P.M. Personally, I ended up missing most of the events, panels, and performances that were taking place due to getting caught up in photoshoots, food excursions (thank you, Applebee’s and McDonald’s employees, for sharing your amusement with us!), and the Sailor Moon Meetup panel that I co-ran with Lisa Terlato, the organizer of the meetup group.
Our panel was held in the same room that was being used for Kids’ Comic Con up until 5 P.M. Because of that, there were multiple sets of markers, colored pencils, and regular pencils up for grabs. Lisa and I arranged the tables to form one large table and held an hour long interactive Sailor Moon discussion complete with coloring and drawing. It was a great ice breaker that tore down any nerves and shyness and allowed everyone to chat without fear.
There were many reasons why I wanted to attend Immortal Con. One being its close proximity to me. It was located in a town I am familiar with and can easily navigate around. Another being to assist with cancer research and information. I’m happy that my money could help with such an important cause. Cancer, unfortunately, affects everyone. Whether or not it strikes us personally, it will affect someone we know or a friend or family member of someone we know. It’s a horrible reality that I hope one day will be in the past. Until then, I’m glad that such a fun event had its perks and priorities set in motion.
The final reason was I had so many friends directly involved with the convention. I wanted to support Lisa and the Sailor Moon Meetup. It’s been a great ride being a part of the meetup group for the past three years and watching the group grow and evolve has been very enjoyable. Raven, of KuroPOP, is a very good friend of mine. Once a member of Rainbow Bubble, Raven is a very talented singer and dancer and I’ve been proud to call her my friend for a few years now. Her talent is incredible, but I had yet to watch her perform with KuroPOP until Immortal Con. KuroPOP’s performance took place at the same time as the Sailor Moon Meetup panel, but because both rooms were across the hall from each other, it was rather easy to run across the hall multiple times to crash their performance with support. My brother Pete and friend Brendan are the creators and artists behind Fat Guy Inc. They had a booth in the first floor vendors’ room and it was a fantastic opportunity to watch them at work and see their interactions with fellow attendees firsthand. They love doing on the spot commissions and talking to people, and it made me very happy and proud to be able to witness it.
Last but not least, I wanted to support Nicole Oliva, the vice chair of the event. We met through mutual friends at New York Comic Con a few years back, and she wowed me with her talent. She is very active in the Long Island community when it comes to events, whether it’s through cosplay, singing, modeling, or even more. I thankfully got an opportunity to ask her a few questions in regards to Immortal Con and information behind the scenes.
1) What made you guys come up with the idea for Immortal Con?
Through TwitchTwitch Productions. After a few very successful Macabre Faires, Elsie (LC Macabre) had wanted to do some kind of pop culture events that would be a cancer benefit. The event eventually was put on the back burner for a while from other things coming up including Elsie’s breast cancer coming out of remission. This past February, while working at Walker Stalker Con in Chicago, Illinois, she had expressed to me wanting to bring this idea back into motion but wanted to do something different then the pop culture conventions happening on Long Island recently such as LI Con, Eternal Con, and many others that have been created on Long Island recently. Not only did she want a event that stood out she wanted a cancer awareness event that was also fun. Being a cancer survivor herself, she knew how upsetting cancer conventions can be. Knowing that the Long Island community has been longing for its very own anime convention, losing both ICON and New York Anime Festival… and how much the anime community is so supportive and that the magical girl anime community, like the Sailor Moon Meetup group, is very empowering to women as well… I suggested that we have an anime and fantasy convention.
2) What was your part in it?
I am the vice chair of Immortal Con. To be honest, I kind of gave myself that title because within the events we do at TwitchTwitch Productions, we have a very small but very supportive and hardworking crew. The best way to describe it would be like if you worked on a performance, Elsie was the producer of the project and I was the director. I handled almost every aspect of this event with some exceptions of what Elsie was better versed in. Elsie knew absolutely nothing about anime until this event so I was her guide into this world.
3) How did you come up with the events and plans for the day?
A strange combination of large-scale planning and filling in the blanks. Elsie had already reserved the venue before she even asked for my suggestions of what the event should be. We were also moving back and forth between plans for Haunt Fair in August and Immortal Con in October. We started out by reaching out to local performers within the anime convention scene followed by building the website. Promoting the heck out the website, taking in panels, vendors, volunteers, and contests, followed by booking our celebrity guests… and then of course arranging the entire hotel for the event.
4) What was it like running such a big event?
A Bit tiring to say the least. There is always some form of stress that comes with putting together an event of this scale even though were considered a smaller convention. Since we were a charity event, we really had to push our publicity to the best of our abilities with the little budget we had so we could get a decent amount of money into the hands of those struggling with cancer and also pay our hotel and guests. There was plenty of worry about the success of the event with it being a first year event and also competing with other local events on the same day such as Ruffle Con, the SCA East Kingdom Coronation, and New York Comic Con being the next week. There are plenty of nights where myself Elsie and our other manager, Rob, stayed up way later than we should have to complete anything that needed to get done. […] I was constantly on the move making sure everything went smoothly and on time. Luckily nothing went wrong, but I still had to keep moving with very little time to stop other than for food. I barely had time to talk to anyone other than my staff which is probably one of the hardest things about running an event that you created – [you] really can’t stop for anything. I was asked so many times by people I knew why I wasn’t in cosplay, and I either gave them a quick answer of ‘I’m a manager, I can’t,’ or just walk right by them and be like ‘can’t talk now.’ But at the end of the day, I am very, very happy with how everything turned out. I’m so grateful to the patrons who came to the event and help raise the funds for those in need. I’m also grateful to my amazing staff and volunteers for helping make this happen. I am also very glad that after everything the attendees really enjoyed the event as well.
The first year event went very well with practically no problems. Like they say, ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ But of course, we will improve where we can. Mainly changes will come with the arrangement of some of our panels and events. For now we are also keeping Immortal Con as a one day event. If the need arises with the amount of ticket sales or panel applications, we have the option to bump it up to a two day weekend event.
Thank you so much Nicole! And thank you to LC, TwitchTwitch Productions, and the rest of the Immortal Con staff for such a fun-filled event. Be sure to save the date for next years Immortal Con – Saturday, September 24th, 2016!
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