New York Winter Con was held at the World Resorts Casino in Queens, New York on December 5th and 6th. It was my first time attending this particular con and I was not entirely sure what to expect when I arrived (mostly due to the vague and unhelpful con website- more on that later). The con was held primarily in one large room on the hotel’s 6th floor. Merch stands were plentiful, mostly focusing on artwork and comic books (classic and indie), but there was plenty of apparel, jewelry, and various odds and ends for whatever meets your fandom fancy.
The main panel stage was in the hall itself, which I have never seen at a con before but rather liked. It was not a huge seating area, but the open space allowed for plenty of standing room so that even if you didn’t get a seat for a panel you could still watch and/or listen to it from nearby, since the speakers used by the venue made the panels audible from a significant radius within the hall. There was a separate panel room in the back of the hall, but I missed the panel I wanted to see there, and did not have a chance to check out that space otherwise.
The main stage panels and performances were really interesting, and the cosplay contest on Saturday was a lot of fun. To no one’s surprise, there was a lot of Star Wars love (which bills itself as a comic and sci-fi exposition), and this meant the presence of many talented and hardcore Star Wars fan groups. The 501st Legion was there with an awesome trash compactor area you could take photos in, as well as functioning R2D2 units you could take photos with and have beep (probable) obscenities at you. And of course, they had lots of photo ops with seriously badass Storm Troopers. The Mandalorian Mercs were there as well, with their awesome jail cells you can imprison friends in (for a small donation to a good cause). The New York Jedi had a booth and did an outstanding performance on Sunday, demonstrating the real world combat and sword techniques they use to battle with their light sabers, and the Saber Guild was present as well, and had a really fun, energetic performance on the main stage Saturday afternoon.
There were a lot of panels on cosplay, which was awesome. There were several panels focused on ways to enhance your cosplay, including incorporating magic tricks (props, sleight of hand, etc.), and one panel specifically on creating cosplay mashups. I was sorry to have missed most of these due to timing, especially the one on Cosplay and Disability—as a cosplayer with chronic pain and several invisible illnesses, it was really awesome to see a panel dedicated to giving disabled cosplayers a chance to meet others with similar experiences. I feel like cons have been working on stepping up their accessibility games lately, though I noted the main stage panel was not handicap accessible, made evident when larger cosplays were not able to present on stage during the contest, and again when Nichelle Nichols had to be hoisted up onto the stage in her wheelchair for her panel—that was a cringe-worthy lack of oversight by the con runners.
While I had a blast at NY Winter Con and hope to attend again next year, I have to say the organization of the con through its website was horrendous. There was very little information on the scheduling; while there was a list of panels and events occurring on the main stage and in the panel room, some had no description about what they were and there was no information regarding celebrity signings and photo ops; no schedule about who would be there when, no pricing information, etc. This was very frustrating, since personally my main goal of the convention was to meet Nichelle Nichols (which I succeeded in, with no help from the con runners except for one awesome volunteer. David, you rock!).
Additionally, the website’s information about all things cosplay was next to useless. The format of the actual contest was not the same that was specified on the website (the website implied skits were required for entry, but later also said they were separate from the main contest. Uhm, what?). There did not appear to be any prejudging as the website said there would be, though I don’t know that for a fact—the con schedule simply made no mention of when that would occur and I did not hear any announcements for prejudging to be done. I was disappointed by the misinformation on the website, since the business about skits deterred me from entering. When I saw only some people did a performance besides their basic walk-on, it was pretty frustrating. I also had issues finding a cosplay props and weapons policy on the website; sections of the site told readers to view their policy page on the matter, but I could not find a single link for the actual policy. I also noticed questions about the contest and weapons policy went entirely unanswered on the Con’s event page on Facebook, and users comments and e-mails to the con staff went unanswered entirely.
That said, New York Winter Con is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area! Good merch, good panels (assuming they have a similarly performance-focused lineup for next year), and great cosplays! I just hope the social media and website team step up their game and get some consistent and correct information for next year’s convention. Either way, I’ll see you there!