Everything came off well, but it wasn't pleasant. This year we took off Monday too, and that made a big difference.
We also went in knowing that we weren't going to run the ALA 2008 masquerade. FC and ALA being a week apart was deadly, and with CC26 coming up next year, we haven't got the bandwidth to dedicate to ALA again. ALA is also moving up three weeks (to the first weekend after New Years) which makes things even worse for us.
Anyway, this is going to be much more an ALA Masquerade Report than an ALA Con Report. That's all we really saw of the con until Sunday afternoon.
The drive down after work on Thursday was uneventful (except for having an ugly head cold). It definitely showed up how much more bearable the drive down I-5 is in the dark; it was nothing like the ennui-fest that driving down the Saturday before L.A.con IV was. We got to the hotel at a little after 1:00, and thanks to making phone calls to ensure that the space weasels didn't get our room, were able to check in quickly and say "hi" to folks who were still up working on last-minute setup.
I slept like crap because of the head cold.
Friday morning we got up to open the masq registration desk at 10:30. fairegoddess (our able assistant director) joined us, and we started accepting and processing paperwork. Last year's database worked well, and L got the hang of intake processing very quickly. I spent a fair amount of time hanging out at the costume repair station and out of their way so L could get plenty of hands-on experience with our system.
K and L went to do the "Masquerade 101" panel at 3:00, so I took over the table. By that point, registrations had quieted down a bit, so I only took in 3 forms. That still put us in the realm of 20 entries, and it was only 3:00 on Friday. We kept the desk open until 7:00 pm, and then got some dinner with karisu_sama, didjiman and the younger of their daughters.
We didn't stay up late, because we had to open the masq desk again at 8:00 am. Again, slept like crap because of the head cold.
We did open the desk on time, an important thing because on Saturday it would only be open until 12:45 so we could have the 1:00 pm contestant meeting.
By that point we had 39 entries and somewhere around 100 people. I'm not sure if it was the adrenaline or just the virus running its course, but my head cold started to clear.
We had a few photographers and videographers ask about front-row seating, and since we had more seating we arranged for 6 seats at the front of the house (in exchange for copies of what they shot).
The contestant meeting went smoothly, but the room was packed. We got three more registrations which put us to 42 entries and 109 presenters (not counting personal ninjas for groups with large props). Of those, two small groups withdrew before the show.
Since K and L had paperwork processing in hand, I went down to the masq ops room where didjiman was handling early official photography and karisu_sama and hoshikage were doing early workmanship judging and minded their door and appointment list for them. I also did a little research on pizza joints for the Judge's dinner and ordered pizza.
K and L had the run-order set before dinner, and were printing tech cue sheets, MC scripts, green-room check-in forms and judges worksheets when the judges and the pizzas appeared. This was much better than the previous year. lionboogy called (from ops) and asked if he could get video seating, and as it was still well before the house was set, we added one more reserved seat for him.
That's when the bad news started coming. The tech crew, valiantly attempting to run a video feed from the house to the green room, discovered that the awning over half the green room (the "Landings" restaurant patio) was leaking badly. Facilities got an agreement from the hotel that we could use the lower deck inside the restaurant as an extension of the green room (it was almost as large as the space we lost to drippiness, but we had to move photography and workmanship into the green room since we couldn't ferry entrants across the rainy courtyard to the ops room.
On the upside, the tech crew did get the video feed working.
On the downside, we also learned that the propane heaters that the hotel was supposed to be providing for the somewhat chilly curtained-in patio were all broken. Of course, they couldn't tell us that earlier (when, perhaps, some logistics person could run to Costco or Home Depot and pick up a propane heater or two). So we had a wet and cold green room.
Zelda and her team once again worked magic to make an otherwise untenable green room at least survivable for the entrants, and L and I took on green-room support duties once the rest of the show was in friendlypinet's hands (when it gets handed to the MC, pretty much all a director can do is sit back and enjoy the ride). It was cold and damp, and we were out there with everybody else suffering.
We also had about 20' of uncovered space that entrants had to walk through. Fortunately, the rain was letting up.
At about 7:20 I got a call from Ops. A big-name photographer was asking about getting preferred photo seating. There weren't any good angles anymore, and I wasn't going to call the house to ask them to reset again 5 minutes before doors opened. I told him he was too late. He left in a huff, bitching about how badly run things were. Of course, he was the guy who pulled his handicap sticker out of his car last year (when we didn't provide reserved seating at all) to get a front row seat to shoot.
The house crew opened the doors on-time at 7:30. This was a good thing, the line ran literally the length of the hotel. The show was supposed to start at 8:00, but the house was still filling and we held the start until something like 8:20 until they got everybody that would fit in.
From there, Jackie and L handled taking badges and other items that shouldn't be going on stage, Gizmo and I led groups of entries through the kitchen and back hall to the stage door, Patricia took entries one at a time into the wings, Ali (like "Allie," not "Muhammed") and Greg got them on and off stage, respectively, and Evan brought them back to the green room. It was pretty much assembly line. K watched from the side of the house in case anything needed to be taken care of there.
The presentations ended around 10:00.
Around 9:40, when the last entries had been queued in the back hall, I had to take care of some logistical problems. Much running around in the rain ensued, but I've got to say the ops team was very helpful to me, and we got both problems solved.
Zelda disbanded the green room, and many of the entrants went into the house (where people who were only interested in watching the show had vacated many chairs) to watch the half-time entertainment and wait for awards.
K & L took the judges back to our room to deliberate and print certificates. By the time I was done chasing down missing objects, the judges had nearly finished their deliberations and K & L were printing certificates. At 10:55, we were back in the house with results.
Hooray for debugged database and merge reports!
After the show, we went back up to the room and were landlords for karisu_sama and didjiman's (Early) Lunar New Year's Party. It was a blast, and I was only two hours past the "I need a drink" stage when I finally got one. A bunch of the masquerade crew, and quite a few of the entrants came up. We ate leftover pizza from the Judges' dinner (just because it was there) and buckets of take-out Chinese that was brought in for the party.
We had one more early morning on Sunday, because the Masquerade post-mortem panel was at 10:00. Almost nobody showed. I think we had representatives from 4 entries.
K printed extra certificates for the Best in Show and Best in Division winners, and for one entry that asked for extra copies. We checked out the dealers' room for the first time all weekend. It wasn't bad, but we're watching far less anime than we used to (I think it's just Trinity Blood at this point) so there wasn't that much we were interested in. Mostly we talked to Margaret Mannatt (used and rare bookseller) about Costume-Con 26.
We got a second-hand complaint about one of the masquerade entries on Sunday, but the person wasn't willing to talk to us about it.
Then there was much napping.
We got up and phoned hazelchaz to find out where the dead dog party ended up, and drove down to Mogo's Mongolian BBQ. The food was decent, and it was fun seeing so much of the staff not being busy.
Monday morning we got up, chatted with a few folks, loaded the car, and drove home on 101. With time and traffic on our sides, we made it up to Solvang at around 2:15 and spent a bit of time getting lunch and wandering around. I like Solvang. As tourist traps go, it's one of the best. We bought really good cheese at Epicurean Picnic and really good pastries at Olsen's Danish Village Bakery. Then we drove the rest of the way up and went to basfa before going home.
You would think things would be over on Tuesday, but that's when the scream-fest about convention security (that I already posted about) kicked in. In the midst of this, one of the masquerade presenters decided it would be clever to post an in-your-face brag about not having a membership that screwed her friends out of the award their entry had won. We also got another second-hand complaint about that entry I mentioned before.
After a bit of waiting, we got the complaint first-hand and were able to investigate it (yesterday). Then we had to disqualify another entry.
Now this was two people out of well over 100 presenters. Still, two disqualifications in a competition sucks.
I'll be posting a "thanks" entry later. It's time for me to head home. I'm already late.