Although I’ve been an attendee of Connecticon for many years, Connecticon XVII marked the first time I attended the convention as a member of the press. The past few years, I’ve only been able to attend for a day or maybe two, so this also marked the first time in a while I really got the whole three-day experience.

So, of course I wanted to make the most of it and made it a point to explore places I usually didn’t spend much time in, like the board/card game area and take in more of the panels, which are just hard to juggle if you’re only at an event for five or six hours. Obviously, I’m glad I did have an opportunity to do so much this year or, well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post right now.

I’ve mentioned in a few of the panel recap articles that although this convention started its life as an anime convention, over the years I’ve seen it evolve and incorporate general animation, general science fiction, board games, and more. This is one of the major strengths of the con–the availability of anime and manga (especially the obscure stuff) along with the availability of really anything “nerdy” you’re interested in (especially the obscure stuff). This includes the guest roster, which ran from known voice actors like a good chunk of the Devil May Cry cast and Pokémon cast members to nineties sitcom stars like Michael C. Maronna and Danny Tamberelli (The Adventures of Pete and Pete) this year. The con has the opportunity to live up to your basic expectations, and really surprise you with lucky finds.

For example, my lucky find this year was the author Claudia Gray, whose books I had just discovered at the beginning of the summer. She’s a New York Times bestselling author that has her own sci-fi series and writes Star Wars books. The year before, I had found a lot of items related to some obscure nineties anime I enjoy. It’s the only place I’ve ever found Samurai Deeper Kyo merchandise. I like to think that everyone who attends has at least one moment like this simply because of the wide variety in the dealers’ room, artists’ alley, panel lineup, and even in the cosplayers that attend.

The space, overall has been used very well: The game rooms, both board games and videogames, have expanded to take better advantage of the venue. Both rooms now rival the dealers’ and artists’ room sizes. The videogame room includes both console games and competitions and tons of Japanese arcade games, primarily fighting and rhythm games. The board game room was actually moved to the attached Marriott Hotel to give everyone more room and had, as always, tables set up for board games and tabletop games. Games can be checked out of a library and used freely within the game room.

Panels are also given their own space in rooms on the upper floor of the convention center. There was a little fiasco with printed schedules for the rooms on the first day, but it was fixed quickly and the panels seemed to run smoothly. And again, these panels had that same great variety that gives the rest of the convention its character.

The convention has also done a lot in the past few years to work with the city to expand the experience. Many restaurants in the area offer special deals for congoers and hotels have special rates, which benefits both congoers and the city of Hartford. There are also 18+ and 21+ events, such as the rave, for congoers who want the experience to continue. Although that’s not an area of interest for me, those events are obviously popular, as they’ve been going on since the early days of the con, moving to bigger venues over the years to accommodate more people and more activities. As I understand it, this year had some safety concerns (drug-related) that forced the after hours events to shut down prematurely, but there’s been no word on how this will effect future events.

The convention has also started giving parking discounts in the garage. One of the factors that affected my attendance in prior years were the parking prices–now there are weekend-long deals. You still have to pay, but the cost has deflated considerably thanks to these new deals. The convention also now pays attendees that host more than one panel. That’s totally new for this year. The pass prices of some days and packages went up by $5-$10 this year, but if those are the benefits, that is absolutely fine by me.

The only downside this con really has for me is that there’s always a chaotic element. Although it seems like things were much better this year–no complaints about unexpected schedule changes or registration lines that I saw or heard–there’s always a sense that anything can and will happen. Some people said they hadn’t been informed as to whether their panel submissions had been rejected or not and the website and app had different schedules, so they had to check in on Friday morning with actual con staff, for example. Some guests showed up late Friday morning and apparently just didn’t give Connecticon staff the heads up, which obviously is out of staff’s control and not their fault (it didn’t affect events open to the general public, so far as I know). And like many other examples of con chaos, it ended up working out in the end. This con just invariably starts on a strange note. A friend described the beginning of Connecticon XVII as “a six-year-old’s lucid dream.

All in all, though, Connecticon XVII turned out to be a fun, medium-sized con. There are plenty of options to fill your day, and it’s easy to get to from other parts of the state. There’s enough space to move about comfortably and the staff and most attendees are very friendly. It’s a great con to cut your teeth on and keep up with later, and with the new things that are getting added to the picture, like paid panels and parking passes, it’s only looking better and better.

Connecticon XVII was held on July 12 through 14, 2019 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Connecticon XVIII will be held from July 9 through 12 in 2020. Preregistration for tickets has already opened.

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