Hello again Calgary Comic Expo friends and fans,
The weather for the show on Friday was fantastic. It was a very comfortable 23’C or 74’F at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. A dry wind was blowing through the grounds but the crowd was beyond happy with the weather.
The Big Four (B4) opened up earlier on Thursday from 11am until 5pm for people to start exchanging the purchased tickets for badges and wrist bands. Some of the changes this year were because of the multiple buildings set up.
Everyone had to display their pass and their wrist band; an orange one for the weekend pass holder and a different colour for each of the single day pass people. The exchange was done on the north end of the lower building B4.
There were still lineups outside the building but they moved quickly into the building thanks to the fine staff who have developed enhanced procedures for what has become a very popular event to compensate for demand by fans to attend the past number of years that overran the facilities.
Located between the B4 building and the BMO (Bank of Montreal) Center, there was entertainment provided in front of the Coca-Cola stage.
The Viking Warriors (Sons of Fenrir) demonstrated their skills and even camped outside of the BMO Center!
For the enjoyment of Harry Potter movies, there were also “Quidditch Matches” for the fans of that epic series of books and films!
The food trucks were setup along the edge of the parking lot along the street and management closed Coral Trail along the BMO center to provide a safer experience for those outside.
As a fan, I like the idea of having an area outside and I love the two buildings instead of one due to the large scale of the show.
The problem I ran into is that I like to wear short sleeves shirts in good weather and when I went to the photo-ops, it was possible to hide the badge but I could not hide the wrist band.
I paid several hundred dollars for photos and they thought I should wear an arm band in the photos? I ended up cutting my band off for the photos. I am also a light sleeper and the wrist band bothered me overnight.
I must say that for me the Calgary Expo 2013 the wrist band was irritating to wear all weekend. I understand that the event organizers do not want people to take off the badge and hand it to the next person so they can get in free, but please there has got to be another way.
Hey even charge us extra for the 3 day pass but give us a decorative photo RFID card or a bar scanner so we cannot just re-enter all the time. No one ever noticed but it did detract from an otherwise great setup.
The event halls were packed on Friday. There was no access to The Palomino Hall due to another event. The event also made use of Rotary House located near the Big 4.
On Friday morning, beginning at 11am, there was a costume parade in downtown Calgary. Most people arrived at Éclair Market before 10am with full costumes on and at 11am they stated the march South to Steven Avenue and then preceded East toward Olympic square were a white hat ceremony took place with the Mayer of Calgary. Even Brett Hart, a famous Canadian wrestler, was “White-Hatted”.
The funniest points were when Ian MacDiarmid, best known as the evil emperor from the Star Wars franchise commented to a participant in Darth Vader costume “Don’t I know you”? The laughter from the crowd was great approval for the parade.
This year’s lineups into the buildings were swift and orderly compared to previous years. Last year with the Star Trek TNG crew, Saturday was the biggest night. This year, with online only ticket purchases, all days were fairly even for attendance.
Sadly in spite of several online warnings and social media some people did not know about needing to have event tickets in order to get photos and autographs. This was clearly marked on the website when you purchased the photos in January, when I bought my tickets. Information was clearly available that you must have event passes in order to take the photos with the stars.
It was sad to see, but a small number of people who only purchased photo ops tickets showed up thinking they could still get in. One group of ten drove in from Vancouver with no attendance tickets, so they could not get in.
This year, parking was also at a premium. The new AG Agrium complex building also took up several hundred more possible parking spaces. To make it even more of a challenge, the Rough Neck Lacrosse playoff game was staged close by, drawing in 7000 people. With 60k+ people attending Calgary Comic Expo, the number one complaint was parking.
This year the Friday night show was put on by Weird Al Yankovic. Weird Al entertained the crowd with his madcap parody of famous songs and had the crowd on their feet, singing along.
I am doing voices for Star Wars Detours (recently announced as postponed by ABC Disney), which was unveiled awhile ago as a Lucas animated project. That has been affected by the whole thing as well. The new movies are in great hands and I expect great things. I try to do one Star Wars themed song every 20 years like clockwork.”
Saturday was much the same as Friday but the weather was a few degrees cooler. It was still exciting to be outside and to take in the event. Michael Shanks wound up being several hours late on Saturday for photo op’s causing a few scheduling conflicts for some people.
Shanks was not the only one. Several celebrities’ photos and autographs wound up running late. I attended the Stargate panel on Saturday at 4pm and found the corral to be quiet full. The camaraderie between Michal Shanks and Richard Dean Anderson was great.
The whole sixty minutes the two actors had on stage felt like fifteen minutes. Some highlights were, a debate about who was writing the scripts; the actors or the writers. There were several remarks on how comfortable the two were playing up there “gay relationship” at times.
The biggest conversation point revolved around how Michael was still working and Richard was not. Richard made reference to a rule he shared with Michael at the start of the series, Rick teased Michael about making a big mistake on the very first episode.
He had a long complicated speech to make and to everyone’s relief Michael completed it with no mistakes. Richard then walked up to Michael and said to him, “you know what you did right”? Michael asked, “no, what”? Richard then said “now you are going to be expected to perform like that all the time. I have a rule; if the statement is longer than my thumb I will screw it up so the writers will give me mostly simple things to say”.
Michael, at the time thought he was joking and walked away. Later, he noticed that while he and Amanda were always taking home scripts and practicing till late into the night, Richard just showed up and performed great without any home work. The comment then from Richard was, “I guess it didn’t turn out all that well, look who is still working”. The crowd exploded into applause and cheering.
A question directed to Michael Shanks about his most memorable episode turned into a sexual joke about some crazy villain named Hathor (Suanne Braun), who later was referenced by Richard Dean Anderson as one of his greatest nemesis. This drew shouts from the audience about Ba’al (Cliff Simon) and Apophis (Peter Williams) not being included.
Everyone was laughing and responding very well to the chemistry of the two on stage. I thought they were fantastic but found some people disappointed with the two not being able to remember the names of episodes from vague references from the audience. I found that a little unfair as I cannot even remember what I had for dinner last year at this time how can they remember the name of an episode from ten years ago?
I guess you cannott please everyone. Richard also made a comment about his charity work now. Sea Shepherd, his charity, deals with illegal whaling in the Antarctic preserve for whales. He told us of a great adventure where they chased down a whaling ship till it ran out of fuel. Then the crew abandoned ship to avoid being caught.
On Sunday, the weather that so pleasant, and set the tone for the event for the last couple days turned to more seasonal temperatures. It was a cold morning with a cool wind from the north. The sun was out but the warming rays of sun had a very hard time overcoming the wind.
I spent 2 hours in line getting my photo with Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks. Lines were quick and organized and I even made a mistake with my photo purchase and it was easily corrected for me.
I found Michael Shanks to be very professional. He smiled and joked before the photo then was in his serious pose that Daniel always had in Stargate. Some people made the comment that they wished he smiled more in the photo and I said to them, “that is Daniel, very serious”.
I know he smiles when I talked to him. I told him, “It is a pleasure to meet you and I really enjoyed your portrayal of Daniel in Stargate”. He replied, “thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it“. That was my five seconds with him.
Richard Dean Anderson was next and I went straight from the photo op to the next photo op line. A side note: I have to admit I was shocked in the Stargate panel on Saturday at how much he had changed.
The picture in my mind was a strong former military officer as if he was still in Stargate. Instead, he sported long grey hair and there were strong signs that he was not as physically fit as I had remembered.
I was warned before I saw him that he does not look that way and I was not prepared for it. I did realize something afterword, though, he still sounds the same with the obvious characteristics I was used too. Maybe I was reacting more to the “I do not want people I respect to change” syndrome, because I hope never to change.
One person said to me, why are you paying to have a photo with him when he looks so different? I say back “he is still the person I respect and I am happy to have my five seconds with him”, a photo to remember the moment.
I also felt good about knowing I may have paid a bit extra for his photo but he is a huge charity supporter. The write-up for his photo purchase listed several causes I could get behind. My buddy and I split the photo and unlike Michael, who wore a suit, Richard wore a Team Canada Jersey. Way to go Richard!
I may not be a huge hockey fan but was impressed none the less. He was personable, smiley and cheerful. I said to him “I really enjoyed your character on Stargate and hope to see you act again someday soon”. I got back “Thank you very much, enjoy your time. “
I had three hours to kill until the next photo with Lexa Doig and chose not to waste any time. So, I attended an X- Files panel that was packed. I was thinking of staying for the Game of Thrones panel, so I left the Corral room to line up again.
I discovered I was the only one who did and now the Corral was full. Disappointed, but not fed up, I decided to get lunch and then headed off to a Steam Punk panel in the Rotary house. I spent thirty minutes admiring the creativity.
Then, I was off to medieval arts demos at the Coke Stage, chatting with the family members of people who were practicing. What a life I was told about here. Most of these guys consider themselves as Viking-age in terms of dress and fighting style. Their wives are heavily involved with several of the men making it a family affair. They normally practice in regular street cloths every Sunday near downtown.
The halls were filled with good wares to be peddled. Halls D and E were primarily filled with autographs and a few interesting displays. The first two rows allowed for some great booths containing movie prop displays for The Hobbit.
The DeLorean from Back To The Future was available for photos and even, for a small price, the opportunity to sit in it. There were, of course, long line ups for people in the autographs sections. Halls A, B, and C were filled with retailers selling everything related to the show you could think of. Hall A had the comic book artists as well.
I spent lots of time debating on what to I wanted to buy, from a sword, stone works, to suits of armor. This year it was much easier to get photos of people wearing costumes. I always love the community experience of shows like this.
The Palomino, Boyce Theater and Rotary House were busy with panels all day. The Game of Thrones panel in The Corral provided a welcome relief from the earlier crowds in the event halls allowing me to quickly purchase what I was looking for.
There were comments about the panels in The Corral being smaller this year because the stage was pushed more forward then previous years. From my experience, I know the extra space was needed for the back stage equipment required for Weird Als concert.
There was no time for the stage crews at stampede to tear down the stage and have it rebuilt for the next morning.
It was now close to the time for my next photo-op with Lexa Doig, so I re-entered the Big Four for the last time. I found out that Nathan Fillion’s last photo created such lineups that Lexa’s lineup did not start for an additional Fifteen minutes.
I should take time to mention other amenities in the area such as the Kids Zone, which was filled with bouncy castles and a small race circuit. It was very exciting to see the many happy kids. The game zone was also nearby. It included computer games and game developers, and Nintendo, which I hope will have a larger presence next year.
The food area had plenty of spaces to sit down. Even the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides had tables setup to sell popcorn and cookies. My photo with Lexa was fun and she was very personable.
At this point I had a mere forty-five minutes to finish my last runs through the halls. Then, the day was over.
Every year they make a great effort to respond to customer complaints. I love the outdoor portion of the show and hope to see an expanded outdoor portion next year, but that is dependent on the weather.
All together the weather for this weekend was great but the lineups outside could have really gone sour if the snow that fell the previous Monday morning happened over the weekend.
The biggest complaint on Sunday was the lineup to get into the BMO center, but most people just wanted to get away from the chill of being outside. Someone was telling me we will see an expansion of the show to the grandstand, a building that is fairly far away from the Big4/BMO.
There is no doubt that Comic Expo was busy, but I only hope for the best on that one. I would hope for a tent and an extra day next year.
The Inclusion of dinner with some of the stars was a fantastic idea although I did not feel the need to attend any.
However, I heard many good reviews. I do hope they bring in a more advance ticketing system, as a three day pass holder, I would be interested in having an ID card that could be used to keep people from reusing there pass for building entry.
The system would be challenging to implement, but would add a level of sophistication to the show in my opinion.
Another idea that I like that might be helpful would be providing a VIP pass for preferred parking. I agree with many other people that for a three day pass costing $55 I did get to see a lot of things, but I am concerned with rumors of a next year price tag of $80.
At the same time a lot of the panels are run by volunteers with booths. There may be some concern if big names do not sign in early again this year coming up. I do look forward to next year’s Comic Expo and I congratulate all the volunteers, merchants and presenters who really make up the meat of the show.
A special thanks goes out to The Warriors (Sons of Fenrir), Quidditch players, steam punk groups and Lego club trying to promote their clubs at the show. Finally and not the least I give commendations to all the people who dressed up in cos-play and other cool costumes for this incredible and very entertaining event.
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