I had a blast at Denvention 3. For all the worries among smoffish types, it turned out to be a flawed but generally good convention.
There was reason to worry. The facilities contracts and usage was a mess (don't blame facilities, the actual facilities team came on after the letters of intent had already expired and had to renegotiate everything from behind the 8-ball). The local fannish groups (as in Denver local, not the more generous Colorado local) weren't feeling the love from the committee over the last few years, and weren't happy about that. Programming was showing some pretty rough edges, and there was a definite lack of breadth compared to what people expect from Worldcon programming. Communication with top levels of the committee (with the exception of lauriemann, who ran the website and posted buckets of useful official information on denvention3) wasn't terribly reliable.
On the up-side, in spite of the long (and understated) walks between some hotels (like, say, the hospitality/party hotel) and the convention center, downtown Denver was an excellent location and (wonkiness aside) the facilities were, for the most part, excellent facilities for a Worldcon. With better facilities options/contracts during the campaign and different people running the bid, I would vote for a Denver bid again.
So what happened?
We flew in on Tuesday morning, got our badges (pre-reg pick-up on Tuesday was pretty efficient, but we heard it wasn't on Wednesday) and got checked in to the hotel. The Sheraton was being a bit sloppy with check-in, but after a bit of fiddling we got into our party-floor room. There was a bit of concern about parties being on the top (and concierge/club level) floor of the Sheraton, but it turned out to work far better than expected (though there were problems). We also caught up with Jill and Don (for whom we were working on the Masquerade) and Jim Mann in program ops (who was applying massive amounts of fixit to the program) to confirm that the supplies for K's Friday panel were actually arranged. We also stopped at the Australia 2010 Bid Party (in a function room in the secret sub-basement of the Sheraton, which triggered the 8th sign of the apocalypse, no beer in an Aussie bid party) and chatted with folks there.
Wednesday was the beginning of work on the con. K was making an appearance in opening ceremonies, and unfortunately things were a bit confused. Still, we found the Mannings and got adequate answers on where and when he had to show up. We also visted philfoglio and kajafoglio at their dealers table (where K showed off his Van costume). I also grabbed a little time with mishalak to run to the liquor store to pick up champagne.
Opening Ceremonies did turn out to screw up more of the day than we had anticipated, but not that badly. On the upside, they were short and simple, rather than long and boring. The "Barrayaran Summerfair" that followed was a nice idea, but the execution was a bit mixed. I don't think they were really ready to open the Summerfair when opening ceremonies ended, and the convention center catering staff certainly wasn't. There was also no attempt to clear the chairs from part of opening ceremonies, so a large ballroom full of people sitting was stuck with a small (1/6) ballroom of social area.
After dinner we headed to the parties. Xerps in 2010, Reno in 2011 and Seattle in 2011 were anchoring the floor, and would continue to do so throughout the weekend. We ran into Wil McCarthy (with whom K was working on Masquerade) and talked over MC scenarios and plans for the show. Wil had some great ideas that we helped flesh out.
Thursday was a bit of madness. I talked with a few of the other masquerade judges about our direction for Friday night, and we ended up doing a printer-shopping run for Jill (who discovered the printer they were planning to use for mug shots was a bit too slow). Parties happened again.
Friday was real madness. K had to spend the day at masquerade tech rehearsal, working with Wil. That was the theory at least. Programming, though, hadn't taken Wil's job (as Toastmaster) into account, nor K's job as MC's assistant. Wil had two panels scheduled against rehearsal, and K had one. This was a really big, really bad mistake, but one that could be covered for.
I had to sort out things with the judges, and we got everyone we could over to "Pi" at the Hilton Garden for happy-hour appetizers (so we wouldn't die of starvation). There we dealt with the other program schedule screw-ups. Rick Sternbach (artist GoH and all-around great guy) was scheduled for his GoH interview in the last slot before the masquerade, so he had that deadline hanging over him. That wasn't a real big deal, but he couldn't join us for dinner. John Hertz was scheduled for his Jack Vance retrospective panel in the last slot before the masquerade, while he was supposed to be in the green room judging workmanship. That was a big deal, and one that couldn't really be covered up.
With all that mess, though, Jill and wren13 pulled together an excellent masquerade. The facilities were superb. Don G. ran a great green room. We started on time. Tech was rock-solid. Wil was funny. The entries were great. Judging wrapped in an hour. Awards were given (although the entrants had a difficult time hearing their awards). We were done and cleaning up by 10:40, well before the "you must be out" deadline with the theater.
Parties happened again. We missed the Gaylaxians party and Match Game SF but still had a great time. We had folks over for champagne, and eventually went to bed.
Saturday we could finally relax a bit. We showed up for the post-masq panel, but didn't stay. Most of the day was spent hanging out.
We did, though, go to the Hugo Awards on Saturday night. The theater was so nice we decided it was worth it to attend in person, and it was a good choice. Alas, my choices for the fan Hugos went unrecognized, and my fave for best Pro Artist came in 4th (of 6). It was an excellent show, though. Wil, again, was fabulous, as were all the presenters.
Saturday was the last big party blow-out. It was fun, though. kevin_standlee passed along his "Hugo Losers Party" invitation to us, and Wil got us in to the SFWA suite, but both were very crowded so we bailed quickly and headed back to the regular party floor.
Sunday the con wrapped at (I think) 2:00pm. Closing ceremonies was as short as opening, and Anticipation (Montreal 2009) ran a funny (but partially inaudible, until a microphone was retrieved for them) little sketch introducing their division heads and pimping their skills (I think to point out how they wouldn't be another Torcon 3 or Denvention 3). There wasn't much of an official or unofficial "dead dog" party, just the consuite trying to clear out all their excess food (and having to close down at 10:00 because of the aforementioned renegotiated contracts). We cleaned up, checked email and went to bed.
Monday morning we awoke to a wonky hotel bill. Apparently, so did everybody else who was staying on the 22nd floor. It was remarked that the Sheraton's billing system was written by drunken trolls, but I'm betting on drunken gnomes. Still, the fabulous TR was able to get our bills correctly credited as we checked out and made our way to the airport.
So, again, a flawed con, but in many ways better than it deserved to be. It wasn't another Torcon 3. It wasn't even close. It wasn't another Nolacon. It was easy to overlook most of the problems, or even miss them entirely, and that's a sign that the on-site staff and committee were doing, for the most part, an excellent job.