Conbust 2014 took place from March 28 through March 30. For a small college convention, there was so much to do and so much to see!Conbust describes themselves as a "sci-fi/fantasy/anime/gaming convention put on each spring by students at Smith College" that "provides fans of various geekdoms the opportunity to gather and enjoy their interests as a whole" . Overall, this is a very accurate description of Conbust: I noticed that there were many different fandoms represented at this con, and the variety of fans were able to hang out together, without drama or competition. The panels reflected the diverse interests of the attendees as well since there were panels on everything from fencing to Welcome to Night Vale, Homestuck to J-Pop, Kimono 101 to Lolita 101.
What really sets Conbust apart is its focus on the women of the geekdom community, fitting for a convention run by members of a women's college. I cannot think of another convention that focuses on the women of the sci-fi/fantasy/anime/gaming community. Conbust is also an affordable con, especially for students in the Five College Consortium. General admission is $30 for the whole weekend, but admission for Five College students (Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, UMASS Amherst, and Smith College), high school students, and children under 13 is $15 for the whole weekend. Smith College students, high school students, and children under 13 also have the option of paying $5 for a one-day pass.
On Friday, I had class and an afternoon work shift, but as soon as my work shift finished, I returned to my dorm room to change into my cosplay. All day, I technically wore my cosplay outfit (since it was just a black t-shirt, black jeans, and red sneakers), but without the wig and makeup. Makeup took a while for me to complete since I was gray-ing up my face to cosplay as Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck. One of my friends from UMASS Amherst came to my dorm and did her troll makeup too. When we went to the con, it was very lively! There was a short line to pick up pre-registration passes, and inside Seelye Hall, the main location for the con, I remember seeing a variety of people (cosplayers and non-cosplayers, people from different age groups, families) enjoying themselves. I also discovered that the coat/bag room was also a photoshoot room! Carolyn Brown, a Smith student, was in the room with professional equipment to take free photos for con attendees. You can view her photos on Flickr.
On Friday night, I ran an 18+ Homestuck panel called "Homestuck After Dark" with other local Homestuck cosplayers. The panel was conducted in an "ask-the-character" style. We had a great turn-out, and it was a lot of fun! There were some non-Homestuck attendees at our panel who still enjoyed asking us in-character questions. I also hosted a con attendee in my dorm room on Friday night and Saturday night. During ConBust, Smith students can volunteer to host attendees in their dorm rooms so that the attendees won't need to commute back and forth or find a hotel room. I think this is great, especially for fellow college students who cannot afford a hotel room for the convention!
Saturday: Day 2! After waking up my con-roommate, we got dressed and ready to make the short walk to Seelye Hall. My con-roommate Savanna wore a punk outfit, and I cosplayed as Jane Crocker from Homestuck. It was raining a lot on this day, on and off, but I had my umbrella with me and the rain did not dampen our fun.
I checked out the Dealers' Room and the Artists' Alley this day, and I was not disappointed. There was a surprising variety of vendors and artists for a con of this size. You could purchase action figures, games, posters, figurines, books, clothes, Pocky and mochi and Ramune (and other yummy snacks) in the Dealers' Room. I even saw some wigs for sale! In the Artists' Alley, there were artists of all ages and there were pins/buttons, jewelry, accessories, shirts, and prints for sale. Many of the artists were also open to commissions. I tried not to shop, but I could not resist purchasing some buttons and posters. I also tried Ramune soda for the first time at Conbust. (Luckily, one of my friends helped me open the bottle!)
On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Homestuck photoshoot, an informal gathering for Homestuck fans at Conbust. I was surprised by how many Homestuckers were present! The photoshoot was easy to organize, and it went smoothly. You can view the photos in my Conbust 2014 album.
At 6pm, I ran the Lolita Fashion 101 panel with fellow Smithie Gina Cho. I wore an over-the-top Sweet Lolita coordinate, complete with a pastel lavender wig, and Gina wore an elegant Gothic Lolita coordinate featuring a lovely Lady Sloth dress. This is the second year that I have been involved with this panel, and we made a whole new presentation (using Prezi) to introduce people to what lolita fashion is all about. At the end of the panel, we had a fashion show featuring lolitas from the local community. I am very grateful for the Western MA lolitas; they are some of the most wonderful people that I know! Everyone looked so beautiful in their coordinates. The Gothic Lolita, Classic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, and Old School Lolita substyles were all featured in the fashion show. Following the fashion show, panelists and attendees who were free decided to eat out in Northampton for dinner at a cute little restaurant called Haymarket.
After dinner, I returned to my room to get changed into something more comfortable. I was excited to attend One Dance to Rule Them All, the informal dance at ConBust. As much as I would love to wear lolita to the dance, I did not want to get my groove on with my poofy monster of a petticoat. I changed into a casual closet cosplay, using my real hair, of one of my original characters (inspired by a ball-jointed doll). This year, One Dance to Rule Them All was held in the Campus Center Carroll Room. I thought this was a great choice because the Campus Center is close to Seelye Hall and it was easy for attendees to find. Last year, the dance was held in Davis Ballroom, which required attendees to cross the street with Conbust staff members as guides. There were a great variety of songs at the dance this year: upbeat anime theme songs, catchy K-Pop songs (2NE1 and Big Bang!), geeky songs (I was happy to hear that awesome My Little Pony song, Discord), and of course, pop songs like Call Me Maybe. Toward the end of the dance, there was a cosplay contest. Lots of cosplayers at the dance entered, and the winners were chosen by process of elimination through the audience's applause (only clapping allowed, no yelling or shouting).
I did not spend too much time at the con on Sunday because I had a lot of work to do, so I cosplayed as Jane Crocker again. I did make sure to attend Conbust's closing ceremonies though! During Conbust's closing ceremonies, milk and cookies are served to con attendees, and then people give feedback to the con staff. People shared fond memories, gave advice for next year, and also voiced concerns and complaints. I love the unique set-up of the closing ceremonies, and the delicious variety of cookies was a plus! There were also many types of milk - both dairy and non-dairy. Speaking of food, one of the the best things about Conbust, in my opinion, is the Consuite! On the third floor of Seelye Hall, there were tables full of free food, drinks, snacks, candy, and even ramen and a hot water machine. Con attendees were free to come to the third floor to eat and hydrate themselves. The food and drinks were replenished throughout each day.
Overall, I had a really fun time at Conbust even though I had to do homework and study in between events and at night. The con had a really chill vibe; lots of people came with friends and families, and attendees were able to make new friends too. The variety of interests, fandoms, and people represented at this small con was really impressive! I will not be able to attend Conbust next year, but I hope to attend Conbust 2016!
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