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The question “How many of you are at your first con” is regularly asked by much of the cast. Sometimes many hands shoot up---but at others not many. The question then becomes---largely unspoken---why do you keep going to these Supernatural conventions? Once you've gotten your autographs and photo ops and seen the panels, why do it again (and possibly multiple times in a convention season no less)? 

I find myself asking that question after this year's Minneapolis convention---and the answer is a positive one.

This year's Minneapolis convention surpassed last year's on so many levels. As a convention that doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of Vancouver, it has its own flavor and magic that makes it a worthy trip nonetheless. This year had more guest stars, less drama, and an all around welcoming feeling that made me glad I went yet again.

The cast recognized where they were brilliantly---making some good-natured jokes at Minnesota's weather (the shaker snow shovel dance and Zamboni drew some of the biggest laughs) and nodding through music to our native son, Prince---and they celebrated the uniqueness of our particular convention with the large stage and theater unlike any other convention stop. One of the joys had to be seeing each guest wander onto the massive stage and glance around in awe.

CpwD020VMAQOJAvPhoto Credited to tw1nsm0m

With more guests in our lineup, it allowed for some unique pairings and panels to emerge. Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Osric Chau, and Ruth Connell all worked well together on stage. The grouping led to some funny moments---such as the joke that when one was asked a question, two of them would mock make out. It led to some deep moments as they each answered why they are so involved in charity. The answer pointed so much towards the Supernatural Family at large, but it also allowed them to explore the connections they've built together by becoming friends. Not all of them had shared a scene on screen together---and yet they were close friends to support one another in their endeavors and build something because of this show and fandom.

The intimacy of these conventions is another reason I keep attending---albeit in a less expense package than the full on Gold.

Several of the guests actually expressed such personal moments and stories and touched on things that allowed us into their world for that moment. Kim did this when talking about her struggle with autism and the perceptions of her daughter and the fear that no one else will love her the way she does. Her quote, “If you know one autistic person---it means that you know one autistic person” truly hit home for how real that struggle is and how we as a culture need to embrace the diversity (and inclusion) required to improve things for her as a mother and for her daughter as a person. It is also a truth that we must embrace for all types of disabilities---seen and unseen. It showed us a human side to someone we normally would only see on TV as a character and in scripted scenes.

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Some of the comments made by guests touched on the nature of our fandom, too. Mark Sheppard has echoed much of the same statements in a handful of the conventions I've attended, but it never gets old hearing how special he finds our Family and how he is so proud to be part of it. That we inspire them as much as the show or cast inspires us says so much about the growing reciprocity that has emerged through the years. He acknowledges that we have the power to bring so much good into our world, that we can make change, and that we are more alike than we are unalike in all of our various walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences. Whenever Mark Sheppard expresses these insightful thoughts, I am almost always left cheering through some tears as I feel deeply the power of those words and the recognition that the love we feel for this show is so much more than just loving a television show. We've built relationships with these cast members and we've managed to build relationships with one another that have evolved far beyond loving a show and bonding over it as a collective.

I continue to attend these conventions because I like to grow those relationships with new cast members I've yet had the chance to meet, renew them with those I'd like to meet again, and to take that weekend to recharge myself and realize that my love for this show in isolation mostly has not been folly. It is a Supernatural Family reunion that allows me to renew my faith that my fangirl self is so much more than simply loving a genre television show. It reminds me that when we join forces as a whole that we can be the force for positive change and that when we recognize one another at these events---either in old friends we look forward to meeting again or new friends yet made---that we are all together in this and that those who aren't a part of this do not understand the power it has. Anyone who should doubt this need look no further than any of the countless charitable causes championed by us.

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I had that reaffirming experience with Jeffery Dean Morgan at this convention. His appearance in Minneapolis was a rare one considering his filming schedule. The opportunity to see him appear at a panel again may not happen for me. So, having the good fortune to see him there and hear him speak and tell some of the stories I hadn't heard was a real treat. He was human and funny and very much at ease on stage giving thoughtful answers to questions and telling some really good stories---the kind that seem so appropriate for a large family reunion. He was funny telling us about pretending to be Sasquatch and how that angered his wife. And he also explained just how unreal it is for him to be in this position. He'd been working in the industry for many years prior to landing Supernatural (and Grey's Anatomy). In fact, he expressed just how close he was to quitting before this and that he was so glad that he hadn't. His story of struggle resonated with me deeply, I think, because I am working towards a transition in my life and hearing that someone who had become so successful as he has in the last few years had at one point struggled to pay bills, make ends meet, and figure out his next step may have been the very thing I needed to hear at this convention.

That experience with JDM continued with the autograph. Of all the autographs (excluding Rob Benedict and sharing a key and somewhat private moment), Jeffery Dean Morgan's reaction to the Devil's Trap may have been the best one of the whole convention. Getting that chance to unfold it carefully, explaining just what it was and seeing his face light up with delight upon seeing my hours of hard work made it all worth it. The icing on the cake came when he said in that deep voice of his, “I love seeing things that people make.” I'll carry that reaction with me forever and it solidified why this cast and this fanbase sees so much of itself as a Family.

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I also attend these conventions to witness the unexpected and the once in a lifetime. Minneapolis had not just one convention taking place that weekend. Across the way, another one was underway: Star Trek's 50th-anniversary convention. With that, a remote possibility of William Shatner dropping by became possible. There was no guarantee by any means, of course, but that chance hung over it. The window seemed to close when Shatner hadn't crashed Misha's panel. It opened wide again at the beginning of the Saturday Night Special. Misha came out and said that he had someone he'd like to introduce to us. The crowd hushed with anticipation, expecting perhaps Jensen Ackles would emerge to sing. Instead, he stated, “You could say that he's the father of us all,” which made us collectively wrinkle our noses in confusion. William Shatner himself stepped out and the crowd sat silent for two heartbeats before rising to their collective feet to cheer. Instantly, I started to cry---mostly because this was a moment I wanted to desperately share with my mother. Growing up, she had introduced me to Original Star Trek and many times we've watched the series and movies together. I may not be the fangirl I am without her influence. (She's also the reason I attended this year's DePaul Star Trek conference). The fact that he had arrived and visited the Supernatural Family while busy with his own convention left an impression on me. It's a moment that only comes once in so many ways---and it's one that I'll treasure forever.

Often, the Saturday Night Special is seen as the cornerstone of the whole convention. In many ways, they're right. The concert has evolved to bring us something rather remarkable and special, allowing our cast to branch out beyond the simple question and answer and to revel in music with us. Talents that either remain hidden or latent emerge. Kim Rhodes belted out a memorable Blondie hit. Ruth Connell sang a stirring rendition of “These Boots Were Made For Walking.” Osric Chau and Brianna Buckmaster proved that they should sing together more often---one singing such stunning notes that they left the crowd breathless and the other proving the merits of spoken word/hip-hop. The intimacy of some of the songs chosen resonated throughout the audience (and their ability to recognize a localized grief about Prince can be seen here in this article) as we hear stories about abandonment in Rob Benedict's case and the song “She Waits,” for instance. Trust has been built over time, and that was evident in Rob's pride in announcing that his mother was in attendance in the audience. It shows that they truly do see us as family and want to embrace us as much as we embrace them.

Cpy13UpUMAEJq85Photo Credited to Fangasm

One of the most powerful performances put a hush over the crowd, too. Rob picked up his acoustic guitar, asked for quiet, and played a beautiful rendition of “Fare Thee Well,” the song Chuck sings in “Don't Call Me Shurley.” Hearing it live made the song all the more powerful and moving---a memory that will live forever.

This bonding and specialness continued in the Jared and Jensen panel. The last question has become quite the production. That person is led up on stage and sat down in a chair while Jared and Jensen eagerly wait to answer. I watched the interaction between the young woman and Jared closely, touched by his attentive gentleness to her. Truthfully, this type of attention and being brought up on stage may evoke some anxiety in someone already stressed out by stepping forward to ask a question in front of their favorite stars and a thousand people. This young woman appeared jubilant but nervous at being that lucky fan. Somehow, without ever having really met this young woman before, Jared picked up on that and gently grasped her hand. He helped her up the steps at the side of the stage and slid his arm around her shoulders as he guided her to that chair. Both Jared and Jensen made her feel welcome once up there and allowed her to thank them both for the Always Keep Fighting and You're Not Alone campaigns before asking a classic question: reenact the cat scream from “Yellow Fever.”

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The playful boyishness of them doing just that brought laughter to the hall. In the aftermath, I watched Jared lead her back down the stairs, once again gently holding her hand and making certain that she was steady. The whole interaction seemed far beyond his duty as a star appearing at a con---a real intimacy that proved that he didn't just see us as “fans” but as family. This type of attention wasn't really required---and yet Jared went above and beyond to make her feel special and valued. That's the kind of treatment we'd all hope to have not just from our favorite television star but really anyone we encounter---the acknowledgment that we matter.

That aside, it is the other fans that make me continue attending, really. I have made so many friendships, grown so much as a person by nearly every encounter I've had in person with other fans, and I've found that this convention built on that in ways I hadn't expected. These conventions are also the only times I get to see some of these people. I don't get a chance to see Lynn (Fangasm) anywhere else really besides a Supernatural convention. I made a friend at last year's con and we reconnected again this year and plan to travel together for next year. I managed to meet so many new people yet again that made me eager and happy to be a part of this fandom in a way that sometimes the Internet makes so clinical and cold. The distance that so often seems so wide at times in electronic communication melts away and allows us to renew the reason why we bonded as friends in the first place.

I attend these conventions because they explore our growing geek culture in a way that allows it to evolve and become more than simple geeking out. It gives me a chance to make so many human connections and enjoy a weekend where I am with my people. The cast being there and willing to sign our items or answer our questions or perform amazing music for us are all icing on the cake. It is in the moments we get to actually hang out and see that we are all okay in our love for a little show that could that inspires us to do so much more that makes these conventions worth the trip.

I don't see that changing anytime soon.