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Weekend at the TopCon Pop Expo 2019

We went to TopCon last year when it was only a comic con. This year they decided to expand their convention into an entire pop culture convention. Did this make a difference? More than that, was the con better overall with a name change? Let’s dig into it and if you’re reading all of this, don’t worry, you’ll be treated to a full-fledged video at the bottom of the article!

Pros:

  • New location. There’s not much to say about this. TopCon had not only a name change but also a change of scenery. They moved their setup into the Stormont Vail Event Center. The center is currently being renovated, but it didn’t affect anything going on as they had stopped for the weekend. This space is much larger and that was great. The only downside of having the larger space while it was being worked on was that the place echoed pretty badly.
  • Lots of parking. By moving to the new area, TopCon has found itself a much larger parking area than before. Last year we had a parking lot that was obviously decent in size, it was almost the same parking lot. But since it was extremely hot and the location was across the street, everyone was trying to park close and people were not happy about having to walk as far. This time, besides the weather being better, the parking lot is positioned closer and had a lot more available spots.
  • Freebies. This is a super easy and fun topic to discuss. We usually try to go around and find freebies at conventions. No, we’re not cheap! We just like to know where they are if there are any. We know that a lot of people spend a fair amount of money to get into cons and then leave empty-handed. Luckily, TopCon is inexpensive to enter, but children aren’t usually walking around with their pockets lined with cash.
    There were free things to do once you entered, naturally. We’ll be talking more about those things shortly. But as far as tangible freebies go, there was a whole booth dedicated to giving away stuff. Booths that usually give you free stuff require that you sign up for something or put your name and email address into a raffle machine. These guys were just a TV booth dedicated to letting you play a fun game and winning free stuff. Even if you didn’t win the casino-style game, you still earned prizes. Yes, prizes plural. We thought that that was pretty great.
  • Cosplay Competition. The main fun part for us at any convention is what the locals can bring to the table with their cosplay inventions. And while some people don’t like going to cosplay competitions, we find it to be worth the price of admission. We had great fun as always with TopCon’s 2019 cosplay competition. It was hard for us to remember that Topeka is a smaller city and TopCon is a smaller con. So naturally, there were fewer contestants and the whole event didn’t even last a full hour. It’s just a bummer overall and it’s nothing TopCon can control. We love cosplay competitions so much we never want them to end!
  • Pet Cosplay Competiton. So luckily we were treated to a pet cosplay competition on the second day. It’s the cutest damn thing in the world! The audience kept letting out “awww!” and laughter at the cuteness. Surprisingly, there were more contestants than we thought there would be. And not only that, but it was a wide range of animals too. We were probably more entertained by the pet cosplay competition. Best of all, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place contestants were all different animals. One ferret, one cat, one dog. It was simply a blast!
  • Concessions. We hate leaving when we’re covering a convention, but we gotta eat right?! Luckily the concessions were open and the prices were decent. Even better than that, it was a convention that had places for people to sit and eat!
  • Tabletop Games. Tabletop games, we feel, are essential to conventions. Aside from being fun, you are forced to meet and socialize with others and ultimately make new friends. TopCon had this in spades. Several tables were used and there were plenty of card and board games to choose from. While there isn’t much to say about this, it’s worth noting that every time we passed by the tables, everyone that was playing was smiling.
  • Lots of artists, authors. Aside from there being plenty of vendors of all types, we wanted to focus on some certain types of sellers. Yes, it’s great when people bring nostalgia to resell or things that they’ve imported, etc. We’re talking specifically about how many booths that TopCon had that were authors and artists. People that create with their minds and craft with their hands. These are the people that bring something special and unique from right there, locally.
  • Escape room. The escape room from local escape room company NOTO Escapes was technically another freebie. However, we think that this deserves merit on its own. It was themed in conjunction with the new Batwoman CW show coming out October 2019. We had to help a victim escape the Joker’s clutches and he took our tools from us. So we had to use clues in the room to figure out how to get our tools back as well as open the locks to ultimately defuse a bomb within 15 minutes. It was truly, honestly great fun. We hope they do a unique escape room every year.
  • Movies & More. There was a separate room sectioned off from the rest of the convention. That room had been screening movies for people to watch. When they weren’t screening films in the room, they were doing other things. We had taken pictures in the room whilst a man was doing special effects makeup for us. This was truly a treat as we needed to see how zombie effects make up is done! It was so cool to watch that, but we didn’t stick around for the movies. We had too much to cover elsewhere.
  • Plenty of standing space, comfortable spacing. We had previously mentioned that the space they moved into was much larger. Given this, that also means that the setup of the convention was better. There was plenty of spacing for all of the events, vendors, artists, etc. But there was also plenty of space for the attendees, even at the busiest of times.
  • Video Gaming. There was a video gaming booth set up that let everyone play games from wicked old games like the Atari 600 to more modern consoles like the PS2. We were chuckling because we found the most Hackinformer relevant booth. They had a phat PS2 with HD Loader on it and we thought that that was just great. And honestly, it makes sense to bring your backups on an internal hard drive when there are children involved. While cartridges might survive kids touching them, discs are simply bound to be scratched up.
    Separately from that booth, there was also a gaming trailer. That one costs money, but rightly so, as they featured current generation consoles and games. Additionally, they had seating so that you could play comfortably for as long as you paid for. Nobody wants to play standing up unless its an arcade scenario.
Us with a younger nerd who needed someone to join in with.

Cons:

  • Repeats. A lot of the same booths as they had previous years. Now, we’re not saying that the booths have to all be changed out every year. We’re sure that the more that are there, the merrier. We agree with all of those points. What is a bummer is that there was a name change, a change of location, and so we expected to see lots more vendors. Instead, it almost looked like the same convention as last year and it just took place in another location.
  • All Weekend? We always go to both days of TopCon to get plenty of coverage. One thing we notice every year is how much of a decline in people and activities Sunday has. Sunday doesn’t really need to exist if the showrunners just try to find anything that could be a panel and make it into one. If all of the best parts of the whole weekend just happened on a longer Saturday, TopCon Pop Expo might be the most happening place in Kansas on that day every year.
  • Food. This point isn’t necessarily a con, as the Event Center has food. We just thought we should mention here that more and more cons are opening up their parking to having food trucks from 11-3. We think that by having a larger parking lot available, having 2-3 food trucks at a minimum would be the smartest. There are plenty of people who leave TopCon to go get non-concession food. This might instead keep them closer and not feel like they’re going to lose their good parking spot or feel that they’re going to be gone too long and miss something fun in the expo. There’s so much standing space outside too that people could eat outside and not bring food/drink inside. Or there could be 5 picnic tables on the ready for people to eat at.
  • Panels. Panels need their own dedicated room if at all possible. As we had mentioned before, there was a ton of echoing. This was the most prevalent at the busiest time of Saturday. It made the panels less enjoyable as the speaker system would drown out in all of the external noise and echoes.

Final Thoughts:

We thought about it and believe that now that they have the new location with extended parking we could see more booths showing up over the next few years if we just get the word out. And by that I mean locals sharing that TopCon is growing and is getting better and better. We would like to see more Lawrence, Manhattan, and KC vendors and artists out there though. We came to the conclusion that by making it one day and making that day longer, you could definitely convince some of those more long-distance vendors/entertainment to come out to the event. By having it be 10-8, you’ll convince more people to come out as well. Saturday is always the better day of the two and Sunday is quite lackluster. This would also bring more people out on Saturday as they would be forced to actually plan ahead if they wanted to attend. Furthermore, since the day would be longer, anyone being forced to work would still have a chance to come at a different time. Meaning it would be busy all day, not just part of the day.

Video:

Photography and videography by @el_lee7
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