This weekend I was at the Alabama Phoenix Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. I have only been to two other cons, Altcon in Tallahassee, on the tiny edge of the spectrum, and DragonCon in Atlanta, one of the largest cons in the United States. Alabama Phoenix Festival was on the smallish side, but is held in a facility that has plenty of room to grow. The hotel is the Sheraton in Birmingham. next to the Birmingham Jefferson County Civic Center. The Weston is also attached to the complex, allowing the opportunity to add another venue to the con. The Sheraton itself seemed to large for the crowd that gathered there. I was told that it had been larger in past years, and that this was an off year for this con.
I learned the story behind the con on the first day. Birmingham had been host to another con in the past, but the promoter was a true con, as in con man, and took all of the funds one year. Phoenix Festival is the rebirth of the con from the ashes of the old. There were about ten venues, from the main stage to the meeting rooms where panels were held. The rooms were small, but there were up to eight rooms hosting panels at a time. The panelists, while not big names on the whole, were knowledgeable, and I definitely learned some things on the panels. The con was well organized, and for the most part panels went off when they were supposed to. The display area was well attended and spacious, though I thought it could probably hold quite a bit more in the way of venders. While nowhere near DragonCon as far as costumes went, there were some interesting costumes. Iron Man, War Machine, The Joker, and others. Steampunk was represented there, with the showpiece being a steam Darlek. The Alabama Ghostbusters were there, Nick Fury was providing security, and I saw the Phantom and Wonder Woman on the premises. Panels covered Star Trek, Self Publishing, and Comic Books among other topics.
The most important thing for me is that I met a lot of people, some that I only knew from Facebook. Bobby Nash for one, James Palmer for another. I also saw Van Allen Plexico, who I had met at DragonCon last year, and will see again there this year. Networking was important, and I can see where some of these contacts might help me in the future, while I can possibly do the same for some of them. I think I will attend the festival again next year, unless something else comes up. I would like to see Phoenix grow through the years and become a mid-range con with ten thousand people attending. I was hoping to be able to sit on a panel at DragonCon this year, without claiming guest status. I may have to start a little smaller, applying for guest status at a con like the Alabama Phoenix Festival. I hope to see some more of you there.