Huntsville and Madison Anime Convention also known as Hamacon is located in downtown Huntsville at the Von Braun Convention Center. The con this year was held on the last weekend of June. The same weekend a Jehovah Witness convention was being held and parking was mostly regulated to just the Jehovah Witness goers, so if you wanted a parking space it was best to get there at least half an hour before the con opened to get one. Hopefully next year this will not be an issue, but it also affected hotel availability both on and off site of the con and prices for a room were higher than what I ideally like to pay for a safe hotel near a con.
If you pre-registered expecting to beat the lines to pick up your badge, you didn’t. You of course saved money purchasing in advance. So if you had your heart set on a certain panel or event, you needed to plan accordingly to wait a bit to get your badge. Once you got your turn only one person was doing pre-register badges. Some efficiency could be put in place here before the con grows much larger. For Friday and Saturday Hamacon hosted a blood drive in which donors were given a free movie ticket for their donations. This is a great component in a summer con as often in the summer time blood supplies are low and every pint is a big help in saving lives.
Badges and a clear map with schedule were given out and the con took place entirely in the convention hall area, so there was no need to wander around endlessly looking for a room. Safety was brought up clearly at registration and it was made clear to all attendees who were staff and to bring anything to their attention. Staff wore clearly marked arm badges and security had shirts marking them as such.
The con hall was attractively decorated with large inflatables of characters such as Pikachu and balloon art shapes. In the main part of the con hall there was an event stage which was used for events like Cosplay Checkers and martial art demos. Artist Alley was housed in the main con area and the selection was very good from handmade steampunk jewelry to art prints. The gaming area housed more modern to vintage game systems along with some arcade consoles. Over the weekend in that area a Mari Kart tournament was held. Next door to console gaming was an area dedicated to table top gaming with games you could borrow and play at the many tables. Next door to table top gaming was an area called Workshop. This area served two functions. One was as a pre-judging area for the cosplay contest; which I entered and was pleased with their choice of judges. The judges were all very knowledgably in cosplay construction and friendly. The other function was for crafting such as Dekoden, which is a popular way in Japan of decorating your cell phone among other items like your 3DS, a hand mirror and more. This was apart of your con badge and it was a nice change from usual con offerings. These were a good way to mingle in a fun casual atmosphere with fellow con goers.
The Huntsville Space and Rocket center had a large interactive booth promoting their programs and this neat little moon rover RC would roam their booth. Next door to them was an actual Mario Kart with RC cars you could race against other drivers.
Hamacon even had a live concert to offer con goers as well with Junko Fujiyama, musician and an amazing pianist. Junko played and sang original songs and songs from animes such as the Attack on Titan theme, even some JPop. Junko is originally from Japan, but now resides in Georgia and plays at different events in the US.
The cosplay contest was ran very well and the room was packed for it. They had awards for most types of costuming including one for kids competing as well. The only complaint I had about the contest was the stage was not accessible to anyone in a wheelchair. This left a cosplayer who was in the contest having to remain in front of the stage instead of being able to take her place on the stage like everyone else. This was unfortunate because I don’t think most of the audience had the chance to enjoy her costume. I will say for the winners photograph Hamacon organizer did try to make sure she got in the photos being taken by asking photographers to go back three rows to take photos, but even then as I reviewed others photos, she was cut out. It’s my hope that the organizers took note of this issue and will have it corrected for next year’s con.
I wish the dealers room was in a bigger area as it was very tight and if you don’t like crowds, this would make you melt down fast and not look for long. It was the only area where they had to regulate how many could come in and out due to the smallness of the room. Selection was decent, but I didn’t look much as I mentioned, it was crowded in there no matter when you went.
Panels were of a good variety from Hetalia fan panels to cosplay embellishments. The only downside is most panels were limited to two rooms, so if there were panels in each you weren’t interested in, it was hard to find a 3rd option of something else to do.
We didn’t stay at the host hotel, the Embassy, as I waited too late to get a room and the aforementioned Jehovah Witness attendees filled it up. It’s the usual host hotel with a coffee shop that serves Starbucks, with a Ruth’s Steakhouse. The hotel connected to the Von Braun Center by a sky bridge so if the weather was poor, you didn’t have to be out in it to get to your room.
If you are a vegetarian, gluten free or any other dietary restrictions, this was to be a challenge. In the con hall the concession stand served your usual fare of hot dogs, burgers, nachos, pretzels, etc. I ended up leaving the con to get food, but it was a short drive to most fast food places and the good thing about the parking at the VBC was you got in and out access all day as long as you kept your receipt for parking.
For cosplayers who enjoy getting photos taken the outside area between the Von Braun Center and the Embassy hotel proved a lovely area with a pond with steps and fountains and bridges.
Overall I was pleased at how well this con was ran. The friendliness of the staff was amazing, it was very family friendly, guest selection was good and the autograph area was easy to locate. I really hope it continues to grow. Hamacon also does a Mini one day con in November and we are hoping to attend that one. If nothing else we will be at Hamacon 7 next year.