Flight was uneventful and on-time. We got to the hotel, the lovely recently remodeled Crown Plaza Baltimore North (kind of like the Crown Plaza Oakland South in Union City... what's with CP naming hotels after cities they're not in?) a bit before dark. It's an odd little atrium hotel with a large open area where once the indoor pool resided. Ricky was sitting at the reg desk, and a bunch of people were already there. We got checked in, picked up badges, got into our room and got dinner at the hotel restaurant. We ate there over and over, but it was pretty good.
When we finished dinner, quite a few more people had showed up in the lobby. Bruce and Nora and others were folding tri-folds to promote the ICG Archives. Carol and Stephanie were drinking champagne-like substance. We brought down the bottle of Agua Azul Añejo, and ended up staying up until 1-ish. The Agua Azul was almost (but not quite finished) that night.
Friday we got up early-ish. Tech was moving in, building the stages at the far end of the atrium. It looked less than promising; the stage position was limited by the bar/restaurant entrance, the risers provided by the hotel were crap and the available area for seating looked way too small. On the other hand, Technofandom is an amazing co-op of highly skilled folks who have made silk purses out of bigger sow's ears in the past.
The ICG meeting was relatively painless. There were really no reports that were surprising. There were only two items of "new business" and both could be referred to the appropriate officers and did not require votes of the membership. A new slate of officers was elected, and the previous administration will be missed.
Consuite was the main lobby (outside the area that was being changed into a stage) and a conference room off to the side (where the food and drink was). It was successful because it was a great public space for meeting and talking, but it was flawed because it wasn't immediately obvious that snackies could be found in the Timonium room.
Dealers' Room (or rooms in this case) was, well, mixed. There were several interesting dealers whom we don't see much (not getting out to the east coast very often) including Kass McGann (Reconstructing History), Devra (Poison Pen) and some interesting fabric dealers. There were also some prop and weapons dealers (odd, as someone noted, because east coast conventions tend to have very strict weapons policies).
Programming seemed to run well, and panels were generally well-attended.
There was a lot of experimentation because of the nature of the space. CC28 tried an experiment, hosting the spies' cocktail hour at the bar (since officially serving alcohol in the Timonium room or out in the lobby wasn't going to fly), bringing in several unique bottles of gin and vodka. It was a little out of the way because of where backstage started, but it was well-attended.
One of the other experiments was moving the Single Pattern Contest to the consuite on Friday night (instead of co-running with the Fashion Show on Sunday). This was a mixed success. Its location was changed at the last minute (well, earlier in the day; but the night before I had seen the BEOs for the lobby set-up that was canceled) to one of the ballrooms. I missed it. From what I heard, the day change was a reasonable success. Still, I would have liked to see it run in the social as a "cafe style" fashion show.
The social itself was well attended, with music and silly trophies provided by Thomas Atkinson. It ran very late.
Saturday, ah, Saturday. We slept in late-ish, got up in time for breakfast and K's panel. I hung out and chatted with people. Tech finished building the stage, and it started looking like a real serious operation. Tech rehearsals for F&SF ran. Tech rehearsals for Historical were rescheduled for Sunday afternoon. When things settled down, I confirmed with Larry Schroeder that I could sit up on one of the spotlight platforms to shoot pictures of the masquerade. Best seat in the house.
In the afternoon, we went to Donna's Kentucky Derby party. It was a blast. We heckled bad celebrity fashion, drank mint juleps and chatted about all sorts of costume silliness.
When it was time for the F&SF Masquerade to start, I climbed up the spot platform and talked with Talis until it was time for the show to start. Seating was a bit short, but not as bad as I expected. It wouldn't have been nearly as short if there had been a "voice of god" call asking people to scooch over and fill the empty seats between them (best seat in the house, as I said). The show ran very smoothly. Unfortunately, with an 8:30 start time, we got to see how, even when everything goes well, awards can still wrap up after midnight. I shot around 700 frames.
After masquerade, we went up to the Pretty, Pretty Princess party. It had kind of a shaky start, but eventually got rolling. Pear vodka in little tiny slippers was very popular.
Sunday morning we almost got another experiment. There was a plan to reset the stage and have the fashion show in the consuite side of the lobby, but this didn't happen; it wasn't logistically feasible. Instead we got the fashion show on the main stage (with a quickly-assembled runway). Once again, I arranged with the stage manager to sit up on the spot platform. Since single pattern ran on Friday night, after the fashion show entries ran we got a preview of Andrea Schewe's new patterns on real bodies. This worked out very nicely. I shot around 700 frames.
Sense a pattern? Yeah, the 8gb card I'm running can fit about 770 RAW files.
Sunday afternoon historical tech rehearsals ran. Again, I hung out with folks and chatted, and confirmed that I could return to the spot platform for the last show. The Historical masquerade started a little late, but not horribly late. I shot around 700 frames.
There was an "incident" on Sunday night that I'm not going to go into. It was, at the time, rather low-profile if incendiary. It's been referred to the proper folks for action. Do not ask about or comment on it here (this is your only warning). There were also drunk obnoxious mundanes (and I use that term intentionally) at the bar; one threw a drink on the bartender and they were ejected from the hotel.
Around midnight we went to the tech party. The crew was taking a well-deserved drink after making it through so many shows.
Monday we were thinking of going to the Smithsonian, but we decided to sleep in and went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore (inner harbor) instead. We packed a bit when we got back, and went down the Ridgley room for the dead dog party. I sorted pics and ran a slide show of some of the best while we sat around and chatted.
Tuesday we moved out, headed to the airport, and flew back. It was not a good day to fly; we had turbulence for most of the flight from Baltimore to Vegas. I spent a lot of time cropping photos. Vegas to SJ was much better. Got in at a reasonable hour.
So in the end?
The hotel was quirky and charming, perfectly sized for the event.
Timonium wasn't thrilling, but it would have been better if not for the rain (which made leaving the site for near-by restaurants inconvenient).
The new experiments were a qualified success, but still for the most part a success. A few that had to be aborted/modified still came off well. Some were even wildly successful in spite of execution errors.
Kudos to Technofandom. They are a well-oiled machine, and made the show directors look very good (I know about how the tech crew makes show directors look good). Big thanks to Larry, Syd and Joel for giving me the space to work during their shows.
Hall costumes were great. The competition entries were, to a one, stunning. Even the trashy ones.
Several of the Milwaukee and New Jersey folks were there, taking notes. They've got a lot of new information to work with.
All in all, a great time.