Along with old friend and recent Geek of the Week, Dieter Zimmerman, I spent the weekend of February 17th, 2012 in Chattanooga, TN, attending the quirky and intense multi-fandom convention known as Con Nooga. The event organizers describe the con as such:
A Convention for Fans of Science Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Gaming, Anime, Paranormal, Costuming, Films, Artists, Celebrities, Comics, Haunting…so much more!
Con Nooga… Where all the fandoms come to play!
And play, they do. Con Nooga offers three days of gaming, panels, competitions and cosplay that cover a wide breadth of interests, as well as a vendors hall with impressive inventory.
My first and enduring impression of this con is that it is not for casual fans, so much as for the hard-core. Unlike an event such as DragonCon, there are no big celebrities at Con Nooga. Those looking for autographs and pictures and panels in which they get to interact with their favorite actors, writers and creators would be advised to skip this particular Con. What it does offer, however, is a place for people who thoroughly enjoy discussing the entertainment and activities they love with other like-minded folks a chance to do so. Be prepared to geek out. Be prepared for others to geek out, and vehemently.
Panels at Con Nooga are mostly run by fans and have a relatively laid-back vibe. I attended a Whedonverse panel headed up by two fans who were experts, to say the least. Not only were they able to field questions about all Whedon shows, they had also read the comics, watched all commentary on the DVDs, and kept up with various websites providing all the news you’d ever want to know about Joss Whedon and his projects. They were also clearly there to have fun, to state their opinions, and to lead a sometimes rousing debate. It was a good time.
There were similar fan-run panels for shows like Supernatural, Game of Thrones (also covering the books), American Horror Story and a few others. There were also panels for writers, make-up artists and those interested in anything from “religion in horror” to “getting started in webcomics.”
The “closest to a celebrity” panel I attended consisted of several zombie extras from The Walking Dead. I was pleasantly surprised by this panel, as most of the questions from the audience were about the lives of the extras themselves, rather than “what’s it like to work with Andrew Lincoln” and “can you get me on set?” As someone far more interested in behind the scenes details like “who caters” than “is so and so a nice guy” myself, I was glad to be around others of a similar mindset.
By far the most fun panel was one I only caught briefly – the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate. While not as much mad-cap fun as the infamous scene in Fan Boys, this was clearly a good-natured, but still high stakes debate. Make no mistake – both sides wanted to win, both sides had fans in the crowd, and both sides knew their stuff. Dieter and I came in toward the end, when the question on the floor was apparently something concerning which universe would be most suited for the Firefly team as headed by Captain Mal – I know this super nerdy, nerdier than I usually am even, but come on…that’s a lot of fun right there.
In addition to the panels, there were a number of events that allowed for direct, active fan participation. Perhaps my favorite was the Sci-Fi Jeopardy competition. With three rounds, each with different contestants and categories like Tolkien, Theme Songs and Game of Thrones, what’s not to love? Dieter and I had great fun speculating about how we would have totally won if we had been one of the participants…yet we never did raise our hands to try to compete.
Other events included a Star Wars wedding, a Harry Potter showdown, and a costume contest. Dieter was at the Con to lead an RPG, so he and I also spent a fair amount of time in the gaming room, playing Fluxx, RoboRally, and…more Fluxx. While hanging out, waiting for players, we met Dave (seen below) who turned out to be what I like to call a niche-celebrity. Dave designs games and was well enough known at the Con for the person in charge of the gaming room to come over and ask for his autograph at one point.
Thanks to Randy Chertkow, an old college friend who celebrates his birthday every year by inviting his friends to Chicago to play games and spread much joy all weekend, I have a place in my heart and my life for geeky-gaming, so this room was among my favorites at the Con.
If there is something on which Con Nooga can rival even the great DragonCon, it is costumes. While there were probably better made, more expensive costumes at DragonCon, there was most certainly not a higher percentage of folks wearing them or more love put into them. Con Nooga attendees come to play, remember. CosPlay is a big part of that. This might be my imagination, but my impression was that 50% of those in attendance had on some kind of costume – far higher than the percentage at DragonCon. It was neat to see. Here’s a small sample.
Other points worth mentioning:
Con Nooga is held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel and Convention Center in downtown Chattanooga. It is a nice enough hotel, with plenty of eating options and a display of actual railroad cars along the main pathway between buildings. There is also a brewery right next door that has decent food and above average ale for those so inclined. Compared to DragonCon and Supernatural Convention rates (my other two cons to date), this hotel is a steal. The Con rate on rooms was under 100$ and the buffet for breakfast was only 11$. Very reasonable.
Con Nooga is not the only fandom convention in Chattanooga. A similar con called Chattacon is also held in the city. According to word on the street, Con Nooga came about because there was a desire for a more family-friendly convention. There were a lot of kids at this con, many of whom were dressed up as super heroes and entirely adorable, and a number of activities that were kid safe (although, certainly there were adults only events as well). The con organizers found a way to work with the hotel to keep all the adult party-people in one building, leaving the rest of the hotel peaceful at night. This was
wise, as I visited the party building and was happy to go back to the nice, quiet, boring building when 2AM roiled around and I was ready for some sleep.
My primary motives for attending the con were to 1) get to hang out with Dieter and 2) research for A Con-Voluted story, the
project Bex and I are working on with our colleagues at The New Normal Productions and Word of the Nerd. There were times I felt a bit out of my element, totally out-geeked and a little intimidated by the intensity of some of the attendees, but there was no time at which I was bored. Con Nooga is an affordable way to spend a weekend geeking out with other geeks. For those close enough to drive, in particular, it is certainly worth checking out.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (136)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- They Can’t All Be Buffys-Zombieland the Pilot
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love