Several times throughout this past weekend, someone would yell “You…” and I waited with baited breath for the rest of Gandalf’s quote “shall not pass”. Each time, I was let down. Finally, on Sunday afternoon while we were loading up outside for the trip home, a gamer girl cosplayer said to her friend, “I want to stand in the middle of the road and yell ‘You shall not pass!'” Thus I was satisfied.
This past weekend, February 15-17, was Kami-Con – a fifth-year anime convention in Birmingham, AL. It was previously held at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa until its growth lead it to the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex this year. The “complex” of the BJCC is an understatement. The con, probably about 2,000-3,000 people, fit comfortably in just a portion of this large campus that makes up the BJCC. I attended the con last year when it was still at the UoA campus, and the move has indeed helped. College campuses are great growing grounds for young conventions, but the limitations they provide (both physical and regulatory) eventually necessitate a move elsewhere. Just look at Momocon in Atlanta, GA.
I attended the convention as a representative from MTAC, promoting our convention that’s scheduled six weeks after theirs. Several other local convention reps were in attendance: Huntsville’s Hamacon, Memphis’ Anime Blues Con, and Atlanta’s Momocon. For myself, most of the fun from these con trips comes from socializing with fellow con promoters, trading stories from the often hilarious lives of convention staff, and apparently now introducing people to Epic Rap Battles of History.
Another part of the fun of convention trips, as with any journey to a new town, is trying out the local food joints. We found a pizza place called “Slice” on Friday night in what seemed to be recently-revived suburbia. If you’re a Nashville reader, think of the 5 Points area in East Nashville. I sampled a classic pepperoni and cheese, as well as the specialty Mexicali (Braised Pork, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Diced Chilies, Caramelized Onion, Fresh Jalapeno, Cilantro Lime Crema and Queso Fresco). Both were good. However, I’m a wing man, and their wings were quite delicious. They were fire baked with a slightly spicy grilled seasoning, and they were almost all drum sticks (the superior part). We almost went a second time on Saturday, only to find a long wait behind everyone else anxious to try some of their specialties.
If there were any frustrating parts of the trip, they were due to the city itself. Birmingham is in dire need of some modern urbanization. Some is underway, as new small businesses try to revive a city front wounded by a dying steel industry. Unfortunately, several neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown are showing their ragged and worn age. Dilapidated homes and shady store fronts are littered on every path we took between the BJCC, our hotel, food stops, and sightseeing (read “sightseeing” as “getting lost”).
The city was also the site of the Mercedes Marathon on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, making commuting to the convention center hair-pullingly frustrating. We in Nashville, as with those in most major cities, have to tolerate marathons jamming traffic from time to time, so it’s an understandable annoyance that is still ultimately good for the city. The problem however is made worse by the city’s lack of left turn signals, despite several left-turn-only lanes. Several long waits in the middle of the road were due to this poor planning in traffic flow. Trips that should have taken five minutes took half an hour at least.
All of that simply made for lively conversation with our fellow out-of-town congoers and a healthy appreciation for attempted urban revivals of previously abandoned and ghettoized portions of our respective towns.
Overall, I had a fun time with friends. Kami-Con itself seemed to have done well. Its foot traffic, especially that by my booth, stayed active throughout the weekend. Its congoers even ate several surrounding restaurants out of food, which isn’t a bad problem to have at a new, larger location. On the business side, I think we left a good impression on Kami-Con’s attendees about MTAC, which is a short 2.5 hour trip north for most of Kami-Con’s local attendees (even shorter for those north of Birmingham). It’s a con I’d visit again, and next time, I look forward to seeing more headway on Birmingham’s revival efforts.
What parts of a city stick out to you when you visit?
What do you look forward to most when visiting another city?