ConnectiCon has grown significantly since its founding at the University of Hartford. The multi-genre convention, now in its fifteenth year, draws thousands — mostly in costume — to downtown Hartford.
There remains room for growth and improvement — notably when it comes to the number and quality of panels, better-informed staff, the whole registration and badge pick-up process, and finding friendlier ways to check badges — but in just the last couple years the locally-grown convention has evolved in important ways that might not be noticeable to attendees for whom last weekend’s gathering was their first.
In short, the convention has become increasingly accommodating and diverse.
There are more retreat spaces for people who need mini-breaks from all the noise. Thousands of people in one building creates a lot of that, especially when so many of them are teenagers who are running amok and shrieking frequently and with no warning. These developed organically at ends of hallways and where individual charging/work stations were created in the Connecticut Convention Center. More could be done to inform attendees unfamiliar with the area that Hartford has a beautiful riverfront just steps away where more of that peace and quiet can be had; for adventurous as those donning superhero costumes may seem, there is definitely a reluctance on part of attendees to do much exploring beyond the building.
The other side of this is having additional events, like karaoke, planned to give an outlet for those who need to take the stage. Though not the first year for karaoke at ConnectiCon, it showed more interest this time around. DJ Stephanie Stardust was called in last minute and managed it well. Twelve hours of scheduled karaoke over three days was not enough to accommodate the hundreds of visitors wanting to sing anything from the Pokemon theme song to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Those who wanted to have fun with this had fun. Another difficulty she handled with grace was the demand placed on her to limit slower, downbeat songs, along with anything involving cussing, since sound travels and this could be heard a bit beyond the immediate area, though not through the entire building as some prone to exaggeration have claimed. And for anyone wondering, sober karaoke is still fun.
The most refreshing and remarkable change has been the increase in diversity. Nerds are not a homogeneous group, and it is about time that the convention began to reflect that.
This was the first year that I regularly saw other adults in my generation. I never much cared for that feeling of being the oldest one in the room, which happened so often in previous years. Who wants to feel like they are the parent waiting to pick up carpool? The majority of attendees still appear to be under 25, yet those well above that mark are no longer rare finds.
The racial/ethnic diversity has also increased. Those who live in Hartford and other places with actual diversity are perhaps more sensitive to how it feels when you arrive at an event of this size and find it way out of sync with the city in which it is hosted. ConnectiCon might never become as inclusive as it could be, but for whatever reason, it made huge strides in the right direction this year, from attendees to vendors.
Not everything went as smoothly or awesomely as it could have, and that is to be expected when it comes events of this scale. Looking forward to seeing what improvements organizers make next year.