Hello! Rey here. Over the weekend (March 17th-18th), I had the pleasure of attending FanX, Salt Lake City’s biggest spring comic con. I’m here to share my experience with you!
FanX is held in the Salt Palace, which is close to the arguable heart of Salt Lake: Temple Square. Everything about this area is beautiful, especially in the spring.
I had to park a little over half a mile away to find a spot (not bad for a Saturday morning!), but the attractive downtown area and easy weather made it an
enjoyable walk. I followed the crowd into the white-stone building and ended up being passed through a couple of people when it came to where I was supposed to pick up my press badge. It took a lot of volunteers asking other volunteers and walking around from different areas in the con, but everyone was so incredibly cheerful with me and the way that they spoke to each other. From the perspective of someone who has worked behind the scenes at more than one convention before, it was a very interesting and refreshing experience! Being a staff member or a volunteer at a con is a very rewarding, but exhausting experience, especially on Saturday mornings, which are usually the busiest days of the weekend. The stress of it can and often does wear out usually patient people, making snappish responses very common. I was pleasantly surprised with everyone’s good nature!
During this time, an older gentleman even offered to personally escort me on my wild badge chase. He and I lightly chit-chatted on the con’s history and he explained that he’d been a volunteer for FanX for three years running. He filled me in on a little bit of FanX’s history:
FanX, short for FanXperience, is a branch off of Salt Lake City Comic Con, the only slightly older sister con that is held in typically the first weekend of September. If neither of those cons sound familiar, don’t feel too bad, because both of them are still relatively young. SLCC opened its doors to the public for the first time in September of 2013 and had an impressive 72,000 attendees. This shattered records not only in Utah, where the previously most attended convention totalled 27,000 attendees, but also across all of North America; SLCC became the largest first year convention in North American history.
With such a huge turn out, and fans hungry for more, FanX was birthed the following spring and the results were just as spectacular. FanX broke SLCC’s record of being the largest first year con with over 100,000 attendees and was crowned the third largest comic con in the United States.
In spite of this wild success, con producer Dan Farr has taken FanX an interesting direction and in the past two years, tickets have sold out at 50,000 attendees, while SLCC’s attendance has grown into six digit numbers. On their website, they explain that this is to provide fans with a more intimate experience than they might ordinarily get from larger conventions. Because of this, it was much easier to get into celebrity panels, or even to meet a celebrity guest.
I really appreciated this when I attended Greg Grunberg’s main event panel. The line grew long, but remained orderly and easy to manage the entire time. It was easy to find a seat within the front fourth of the room and when I looked around during the event, the room always remained full, but not crammed. There were always seats somewhere for anyone coming in late, even if they had to look for them a bit.
If you ever have the chance to see Greg Grunberg live, I so highly recommend it. Most will probably recognize him for his role as Matt Parkman from Heroes, Snap from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or as Alex Mathis in Big Ass Spider, though honestly, you’re probably a part of a random that has had him in it at least once. Greg spoke extensively about how his relationship with JJ Abrams has shaped both of their careers, how close he became with many actors over the years, and how much he admired and adored Carrie Fisher, among other things. He’s such a huge fan of every work he’s been a part of and it was so endearing to see someone so famous to be just as enthusiastic as you or me about the fandom.
But to be honest, the celebrity I was holding my breath to see was Stan Lee, who at 94, has been slowly but surely becoming a more and more rare sight to see at conventions. He has already announced that 2014 was his last year for European con appearances, nor will he be attending any more conventions in Canada. New York Comic Con 2016 was honored to be able to host him one last time. This past weekend was supposed to be his final appearance in Salt Lake. His panel was due to take place at 7PM on Saturday evening in the Salt Palace’s main ballroom, but on Friday afternoon, the staff was forced to announce to his adoring fans that he had to cancel his appearance at the show due to his health. Many fans were disappointed, but FanX offered flexible accommodations for fans who had bought photo or autograph ops with the much loved comic book author, either by way of trading them out for another celebrity op, getting a refund, or receiving credit for an op next year.
Throughout all of the con, I was most impressed by the strong “family-friendly” culture. From con events, items sold in the dealer’s room and artist alley, to cosplays.
Most cons (at least in my experience!) have some manner of nightlife, where around nine or ten, the kids start to go to bed and the rave usually starts, supplemented by panels that contain more adult-natured content. There was none of that at FanX. In fact, towards the end of the day, the con usually started to wind down and con-goers were encouraged to go home and come back in the morning. Come to think of it, maybe a good night’s sleep for all of the staff and volunteers contributed to the super good mood everyone seemed to be in….
Who hasn’t seen dealer room or artist alley content that had carefully placed sticky notes on pictures or posters or body-pillows to keep the artwork on them PG-13? FanX had a fantastically huge shopping floor where I may or may not have spent all of my money, and I might not have visited every shop, so I won’t say that there wasn’t any non-PG-13 material present. But I can for sure safely say that there was a lot less of it than I’ve ever seen in any past convention. If avoiding lewd content is something that you’re interested in, shopping at FanX might be a really rewarding experience for you.
And much like the dealer room and artist alley, much of the cosplay scene reflected this nature for modesty. It would be wrong for me to say that every costume had been altered in favor of greater coverage, but it was definitely a very common theme among the cosplayers there. Flesh-toned body suits under corset tops, full shirts instead of crop-tops, and just generally longer skirts were everywhere. It was a really cool thing to experience. I would definitely recommend to anyone who planned on bringing their young children!
Thanks so much to Dan Farr Productions for allowing The D20 Girls Project to be a part of FanXperience this year!