Monday, March 13, 2017

Botlanta 2017

So much thanks to my friend Duron Land for the image we used on the standee.
This past weekend held the first ever Botlanta event at Toylanta (formerly known as Joelanta). Toylanta is a wonderful local toy convention that I have the honor of helping out with. Initially it was a GI JOE centered convention that ran for quite some time before broadening it's focus to also cater to other interests. At that point it was renamed Joelanta and the Great Atlanta Toy Convention, and is where I came onboard. They had invited me to operate a Transformers panel that I have had fun doing for years with my friends Dusty Griffin and Brian Kilby (and on occasion Diecast and Crazy Steve).

The panels popularity had grown to the point where it grew into it's become a programming track at the show. Which we have dubbed Botlanta, as the con has a great naming convention going on. Going into this year, the head honchos of Joelanta decided to rebrand the convention into Toylanta to avoid any confusion. Joelanta, Botlanta, and assorted other panels with a massive (and I mean massive) dealer space (there's dealer halls every nook and cranny) make up Toylanta. Which is becoming even more popular (and bigger) as each year goes by.

So this year, I got to organize a Transformers show. While I've organized fan meet ups and ran panels at conventions before, it was a new experience for me. I reached out to various fans within the Transformers fan community to help Dusty, Brian, and I make a panel track. One thing that was important to me was to make this show distinct. I thought each panel should be informative as well as entertaining to those in attendance. I wanted the track to be an experience to remember and a destination to not miss.

Crazy Steve ran a panel with his awesome collection of vintage toy ads from newspapers and catalogs. Not only is it neat to see those old ads, but as he explained, there was some interesting history displayed in them. Various variations on figures would be in the pictures and artwork that would reference various stages of the Transformers toy line in planning. Dusty, who is a Toy Hacks designer, showed his creative process for making a Repro Labels set and even gave out free sets to attendees! Thanks to my pals at RFC, we were able to produce several panels covering several topics and even put on a live episode of RFC. I was also very pleased to meet two gentlemen (whom I became fast friends with) that had approached me to run a panel on toy displays and even set up an impressive display.

While planning the show, I contacted Derek Yanniger, whom was a key artist on the Transformer Generation 2 comic book. His work was an integral part of the overall look and feel of the comic, which just happens to be my favorite TF comic to date. Derek agreed to come Saturday, and was an absolute treat to have. We set him up with a table to sell his artwork and signatures. In the afternoon, he did a panel with my friend Gabe, on his time with the comic. Derek was such a gracious and outright cool person, it was an all around great experience.

I had spent so much energy into the show that by show time I was a nervous wreck. I just wanted it to be everything somebody coming would want it to be. Fortunately, I had the support of my crew and especially my wife (who made sure I always had a cold soda, or a back rub when I'd take a moment to sit down). Together we all put on a show that I'm very proud of. It was my first time, in a hobby where I don't have many first times anymore. Sunday as the convention was wrapping up and I spent a lot of time with various people at the show talking. Which is my favorite part of these conventions. I get to meet new friends, see old friends again, sometimes meet friends in person for the first time, and generally get to hang out with my friends having fun with something we all love.

I learned a lot this year, which will help going forward in the years to come. Learned what works, what didn't work as much, and what to work on for next year. Seemingly and thankfully everyone that came had a great time. As the show wrapped up and everyone said their goodbyes, I felt like a moment in time was passing. There was a mojo in the air of togetherness that I felt strongly. I can only hope others felt it too and it wasn't just the results my pulse racing all weekend. Shortly before leaving the con, I went into our panel room to say goodbye for the year. As silly as it seems, it felt like leaving home. As an adult, a year doesn't seem so far away anymore. But waiting for next year feels like an eternity.

Check out the Botlanta FB page for pictures and hey, while you're there, please like and share!

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