Convention Coverage: ACEN 2017

Anime Central, more commonly refered to as ACEN, happened from May 19-21st in Rosemont, Illinois. It had an attendance of over 30,000 people. This year was my first visit, so I was stoked to go. 

After an extremely long drive, I was ready to enjoy the convention. And I was met with… well...confusion, to say the least. The dealers hall, artist alley and other convention tabling were in the Donald E. Stevens convention center. There was a huge space for all three of the tables. It reminded me a lot of the traditional comic-con show floor. However, I have never been to an anime convention with that kind of layout.

The panel rooms were upstairs in this beautiful walled-off area, with curtains draped along some of the walls that were absolutely perfect for photos.

When we arrived to the convention, we were met with some of the kindest hotel staff I have ever met. Upon checking in, we were offered a free room at a hotel down the road and given free taxi and parking vouchers. Of course, this wasn’t a deal we were going to pass up, so I don’t know much about what staying on-site was like. However, I noticed guards in the elevator keeping drunk party-goers from turning the elevators into parties like I have seen happen at conventions in the past.

A less-than-stellar thing I noticed was the complete lack of visible staff. Most conventions have their staffers in unique outfits that anyone can recognize as them being part of the show. I never once was able to point out an ACEN staff member unless they were standing right by a door. Furthermore, I didn’t even see that many staff members at all. To test, I tried walking into the panel area without my badge visible. There was no one there to stop me, which means that either the station was unmanned and I got lucky, or there was a total serious lack of security and volunteers.

I even saw a woman on Sunday next to the vendor area entrance asking for fresh volunteers, which only fuels my suspicion that the convention suffered from a lack of people to help things run smoothly.There also was  little communication on how to get from the hotel side to the convention center. It wasn’t until Saturday I learned there was an indoor walkway, and on Sunday I even heard a passerby say “Hey, I found the rest of the convention.”

This is upsetting, as both sides of the con had different things for people to enjoy. While the arcade was on the convention center side, there were table top games on the hotel end. There were lots of big-ticket musical guests, including a Final Fantasy concert and TEDDYLOID performance. These are draws for many people, so that is something ACEN has going for it.

The biggest problem to me was the lack of direction on where to go and where and when events were. Signal dropped fairly often in the venue, which made the lack of paper guides difficult. The paper schedules were pretty hard to read too, and since I couldn’t navigate the convention easily, it made it even harder to find events on time.

It really did show the need for conventions to have a strong staff of volunteers to make the event run smoothly. I think if there were more staffers who could have stood at key areas and directed traffic, or signs posted at the very least, the convention would have been near perfect. 

-Cheyanne Kramer