Monday, September 29, 2014

Con Report: Weird West Fest 2014

Saturday September 20th was Weird West Fest in Giddings, TX.  This is the second year for this event, and the first time I was able to attend.  I was a vendor for this event as well.

Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
I love the idea of placing a steampunk event in a small town with historic locations.  Small towns are always looking for more ways to increase tourism and I get the impression everyone local was super supportive of this event.  The event was sited in the downtown of Giddings, spread over several buildings withing a couple of blocks of each other: the Historic Train Depot, the 1910 Silent Movie Theater, and the modern Landmark event center.

How ADORABLE is this trio?
I spent most of my time inside the event center, where the bulk of the vendors were, and where the talks and panels were located.  It was also the only air-conditioned location, which is significant when it's 90 degrees, quite humid, and you're in period dress.  Last year the event was held in December and actually had to be rescheduled due to a huge winter storm.  It's Texas, there's never an ideal time to hold an outdoor event that can't be messed up by the weather.

Scientific displays,
photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
Although the various locations of the event were within fairly close walking distance, they were just far enough apart to discourage flitting from one to another, with the effect that events and vendors were fairly isolated from each other and people didn't really know all that was going on or available in the different locations.  In fact, I missed some of the displays because I didn't know there was anything INSIDE the train depot!  Better communication and signage as well as possibly more volunteers directing people to attractions would improve actually getting attendees to see everything.

There was a film festival as well in the 1910 Silent Movie Theater nearby.  Unfortunately, I heard the theater was unbearably hot because it was enclosed and not air-conditioned.  That's not something the festival organizers can change, obviously, but it meant that something that should have been a nice rest for attendees (sitting and watching indie films) wasn't an option for many.  And it's Texas, so temperature is always difficult to predict.

Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay after the vendor room shut down because I was in a lot of pain and exhausted.  There were several entertainers performing that night I was looking forward to.  I do think it would have given people more to do and more reason to stick around if there was more continuous entertainment throughout the day.  I think quite a few families took a quick spin through the vendors and then left.

Myself and my husband
Photo by Charles Lincoln Miller
The selections offered by the vendors was really fantastic.  I was totally impressed by both the number and quality of the vendors.  Unfortunately it seems there were actually too many vendors for the crowd, and it was a low-selling event for most.  I about broke even, but I know some vendors sadly took a loss.  This points to the real need for MORE attendees and better advertising of the event.  The attendees were definitely split into those who were aware of steampunk, and those who showed up with no idea what to expect.  Some apparently expected more of a rodeo show and were confused.

The problem with locating your event in a small town is that you have to be able to convince your audience to TRAVEL to your event.  Giddings is an easy drive from Austin, and a reasonable drive from Houston, but it still takes planning and effort for people to make the trip.  I think Weird West Fest needs to ask what it is that is going to inspire people to make the drive so that they get the numbers of attendees and the target audience they deserve.   Bigger name performers? More organized events?  I don't know exactly what would attract the masses, but this is an event I'd love to see do really well.

No comments:

Post a Comment