Mad Monster Party hit Charlotte last weekend March 21-23 at the Hilton – University Charlotte location. Last year, I was overwhelming unimpressed but still attended this year due to snagging a free badge. Rumors say that MMP was supposed to transition from the Blake hotel into the Charlotte Convention Center this year, but for whatever reason we were instead at the Hilton. This location was not a good fit. It was simply too small of space. Every minute of the convention was spent shoulder to shoulder, and since MMP is a relatively small convention of less than five thousand attendees, this just wasn’t cutting it. Dealers were stationed everywhere. Divided into three separate rooms along with the guests. This made finding anything very confusing. Dealers were even in the hallway and their displays spilled over designated areas into the walkways, further impeding traffic. Though the staff claims a fire marshal went through for inspection,it was hard to believe them when tripping over everything on the convention floor. It was definitely dangerous.
Registration was supposed to start for all attendees at 5pm. At 6pm, registration started for VIP ticket holders only. Those who had pre-registered and those waiting to buy tickets day of all waited in the same line. The first panel was slated for 6:30pm, a Rocky Horror Picture Show cast panel that was definitely a heavy hitter for many when they were even considering purchasing tickets. I immediately started wondering if the panel was going to start on time. I was even more curious to know if my friend was going to be able to make the panel on time. When the general registration line still hadn’t started any tickets by 6:15pm, I headed up to the registration table to get answers. At first glance, I thought everybody was just sitting there doing nothing. No VIP attendees were being helped and nobody seemed to have any signs of urgency to the hundreds waiting outside. Volunteers explained that they didn’t have a list of those that had pre-registered. Because they had to print one, they were now running behind. I tried to gain clarification as to whether my friend would be able to make it to the panel on time. My friend was arbitrarily switched between three different people at the registration table, but he thankfully did get his badge and since the panel was pushed back half an hour, my friend made it just in time. In spite of this, there were still numerous attendees that didn’t make it in solely because of the fact that registration started an hour late.
In the panel tent, the front twelve rows were reserved for VIP ticket holders. 300 seats had been reserved even though only 138 VIP tickets were sold. Though the emcee did finally cut the number of reserved seats down to 200, there were still always empty seats right at the front of every panel. The final event I tried to attend for my own enjoyment was the burlesque show Friday at midnigt. The volunteers apparently had decided to let people in for the burlesque panel when they were supposed to be start the show at midnight. This would mean the show would start around 12:30am. None of the volunteers gave us the courtesy of letting us know this panel was going to start late. After seeing the poor organization run rampant throughout the day, I finally confronted a volunteer asking for an explanation. She couldn’t provide one, nor could she provide an apology. Then I asked where I could talk to a staff member who I could voice my concerns to. None of the ten volunteers near the panel room could direct me to a staff member. At this point, I was admittedly irate. I finally went looking myself and did find a staff member. When I started calmly voicing my thoughts, he interrupted me mid-sentence. He explained that he was head of security. He couldn’t help me with these concerns of mine. When I asked how I could talk to someone that could help me or at least would listen to me, he informed me that everyone on staff was simply too busy and then shut the door to the main entrance in my face before I could respond.
The rest of my con was spent with friends, and I tried to stay away from most of the inner con itself. Admittedly, I spent most of my remaining convention time drinking just so I could enjoy myself. There were bars “strategically placed” throughout the con. By that, I mean wherever there was an open space, they put a bar. This further added to the lack of space on the convention floor. Later on, I heard a general consensus growing among the attendees: At Mad Monster Party, attendees were either disappointed or under the influence (alcohol or something stronger).
Since I model, photography and harrassment policies are both very important to me while attending conventions and were definitely on my mind once I arrived. I enjoy being able to have my picture taken at cons, but I also like to know that I am doing so in a safe setting. Both of these policies at Mad Monster Party, are uncomfortably vague. The photography policy is, “Photography is not allowed during any screenings and flash photography and standing photography is not allowed during panels (seated non-flash photography is generally permitted unless a celebrity guest specifically requests otherwise).” Besides the fact that these simple vague rules were broken constantly during the con, it says nothing about photography/equipment restrictions on the convention floor or the hotel. The vagueness of this policy allows far too much room for people to just change the rules at the drop of a hat, and for photographers who invest money on equipment and time for quality images, that is not a situation to be taken lightly. Additionally, the harassment policy is also incredibly weak. It reads, “If someone’s behavior is deemed harassing, we reserve the right to intercede at our discretion – our goal is for everyone to have a good time.” Especially after my incident with the head of security Friday evening, I realized that this person was not interested in my well-being and that I would not be able to trust him in any kind of safety or harassment situation. This further attributed to the predatorial undertone that was ever-looming at Mad Monster Party.
MMP had plenty of volunteers, but I only saw a couple actually working during the weekend weekend. Most were wandering around buying things, chatting with guests while others waited in line, and just standing around awkwardly. While I understand that some might have been off duty, they should have been required to change shirts. I never saw a badge checked. I never saw any staff member other than the “head of security”.
Everyone has a bad convention experience. I hadn’t had a truly bad overall experience in awhile, so this was bound to come around. I’m sure there are worse. But my bad experience was easily preventable and most of it was common sense. Show up to your convention prepared. Make registration as fast as possible. And first and foremost: be appreciative of your dealers, guests, and attendees. When they are trying to find answers, find them answers. When they are trying to complain, regardless as to the reason, listen, apologize, and make them feel better. I never heard a single apology all weekend. That was all I had wanted, and it was not an unreasonable request.
I figured after last year, MMP would die off. They decided to increase their longevity by spending more money on guests. Apparently the headlining guests were able to make money and have a good time. It is unfortunate that they seemed to be the only ones who were able to enjoy themselves midst the chaos. I think the folks at MMP need to work out their logistics more before continuing to attempt events of this magnitude, but I truly do hope that they are able to work out these kinks so that they can continue to grow the potential of MMP and increase the number of fantastic guests they are able to provide.
About the Author Michaeline “Mikki” Stith is a convention specialist who enjoys all forms of nerdom. She typically works at least twenty conventions per year across the country. Well-versed in sci-fi, comics, anime, video games and more, she is currently a full-time professional traveling model and marketing student.