I wasn’t planning to post anything this weekend — it was a long Saturday at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, what with a full day of browsing and panels, plus a special night with the stars from Star Trek: The Next Generation, but this really couldn’t wait.
First the highlight.
As noted above, I had the pleasure of attending a special evening with the main cast members of ST:TNG, as seen above — Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn and Denise Crosby (who pandered to the audience by wearing a Calgary Flames tuque).
The panel, watched by a crowd of some 7,000 fans at the Stampede Corral, is the first time all nine actors portraying the main characters have gathered together, at any fan event.
The event coincides with the 25th anniversary of the first season of this storied science-fiction franchise.
It got a little bumpy at the start, what with music from a live swing band and a video of tributes from fellow sci-fi actors, followed inexplicably by a 30-minute intermission before the real show got going.
With the panel ably led by moderators Teddy Wilson, Ajay Fry and Cynthia Loyst, the audience learned in some detail about how the cast members got along and what sort of antics they were up to while doing the TV show together for seven years.
The event even had a surprise for the guests, as recurring guest star John de Lancie (Q) showed up mid evening to wow the arena. He stuck around to sign autographs, too.
By my personal feeling (and from gauging the mood of the crowd) many came away content, at the very least.
It was an awesome way to cap what could only be described as a nightmarish day for Expo organizers.
Not everyone had the pleasure of spending time with some of the best-known faces of the Trek franchise to make up for a long day waiting in line for hours — or downright turned away.
I feel bad for those who were left out. Also feel the same way for the volunteers and security personnel, who were bearing the brunt of the frustration at the doors.
My buddy Sean and I scurried back inside after learning that our transgression — leaving to Corral through the wrong door and using the washroom in the main BMO Centre hallway — had made us ineligible to return.
Reports on Twitter and remarks overheard from passersby suggest people who’d gone outside for a cigarette break were also refused re-entry.
So a word of advice to Expo organizers for a smooth Sunday: ORGANIZE and COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE.
There is nothing that good messaging can’t fix.
Make sure all your volunteers are conveying the same message to the queued-up masses.
Make sure people are lining up for the right thing: Do you already have passes? Do you need to obtain a pass? Do you need to buy a ticket?
Clearly mark exits that are points of no-return. Let smokers know where they can take a break.
If the BMO Centre is full, make sure people in line know it and tell them how much longer they’re expected to wait. None of this “just go home, there’s no point waiting” nonsense — a rumour that turned out to be false.
Speaking of rumours: Don’t depend on social media alone. Twitter was useful, yes, but also rife with misinformation at times.
And besides, 3G wireless data service was spotty to non-existent on the Expo site during much of the afternoon, regardless of carrier, making social media an unhelpful way of reaching people.
You’ve got a PA system. Use it.
News reports suggest the Expo is honouring Saturday passes on Sunday for those who gave up and went home. Refunds will also be available for those who need them. A good gesture for the short term.
But for the long term, it might be worth considering that the Calgary Expo has outgrown the BMO Centre and needs a more open, easily accessible venue. True, there might be a lot of floor space there, but the bottlenecked access between exhibition halls is not conducive to good circulation. And it’s not good for growth when the venue is so packed, you can’t admit people you thought you’d be able to.
Surely, a new venue (or taking up more space at Stampede) is worth looking into.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to one more day of Expo goodness.
I hope all pass-holders will be able to take it in Sunday.
If you can’t make it, I invite you to follow along on Twitter. I’ll try my best to share snippets of the day … should my wireless carrier not fail, as it did Saturday, of course.