Two first-time Supernatural con-goers. Two different conventions. Two different continents. Here are their stories!
Chrisha Anderson, PhD is a clinical counselor, an academic fandom researcher, and a full-time fangirl.
She attended Creation Entertainment’s SPNDallas convention June 21-23, 2019 in Plano, Texas, USA. That was her first Supernatural convention.
Kimm Curran, PhD is an independent researcher, mental health and Autism advocate, fangirl, SuperWiki contributor,
and is writing her first Supernatural academic book on place identity and place making in Supernatural.
She attended Starfury’s Cross Roads convention June 21-23, 2019 in Birmingham, England, UK. It was her first Supernatural convention.
My trip to SPNDallas came about in the most Winchester-y of ways: A last minute, seat-of-my-pants decision, a very long middle-of-the-night road trip, and my ride-or-die bestie riding shotgun. While I was an SPNCon virgin going into this weekend, I am currently writing this while wearing an AKF silicone bracelet (among others), looking at my framed Castiel photo op, exchanging text messages with said ride-or-die about what con we can financially manage next, and listening to a Louden Swain playlist. So that gives you an idea of how things went. 😉
Though I have been a fan of Supernatural since 2012, a variety of circumstances had kept me away from Supernatural conventions (and the SPNFamily) all these years. I had tried to get involved a few times, but was completely intimidated by the enormity, longevity, and tight knitted-ness of the fandom. So I kept to the periphery, following J2M and their shenanigans on social media, and contenting myself with talking to my sister and a few friends from other fandoms about Supernatural when the need really arose. (*coughS12finalecough*).
Seven years after I found Supernatural and it changed the entire foundation and course of my life, all of that changed.
In early 2019, I finished writing and submitted for publication my doctoral dissertation, which was written on online science fiction fandom and its impact on psychological well-being in women. In the course of completing this research, I talked to Supernatural fangirl after Supernatural fangirl, and realized exactly what I was missing by staying on the periphery. Once my dissertation was completed, and I no longer needed to worry about bias, I dove into the fandom with both feet. After The Announcement (from Jared, Jensen & Misha that Season 15 will be the final one ) in March, I knew the time to go to a con was now before regret over time lost choked me even more than it already had. So, when I got word that I had officially graduated, I bought a Copper ticket, a Castiel photo op, and a Misha autograph for SPNDallas – four days before the con began. When my BFF Carin, who I had very recently dragged down the Supernatural rabbit hole with me, heard that I was going and was planning to drive? Well, she suddenly had her hands on a shiny new General Admission ticket of her own. And away we went!
On my way!
Who would have thought six months ago that I would be going to my first Supernatural convention? I had never been to a Supernatural convention (been to a few other fandom ones nearly 20 years ago) and was excited to see what this was all about. I came to the SPNFamily much in the same way as my pal, Chrisha. I watched Supernatural when it first started in the UK in 2006, but was made to feel like I was not a dedicated fan if I didn’t spend oodles of money on going to a convention, so I left the fandom. After a mental health breakdown last year, I serendipitously came back to it and, wow (!) what a wild ride these last months have been. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
As a fandom account [for Scotland] on Twitter, I spend a lot of time watching the convention videos from the US and sharing convention tweets. To be honest, the idea of going to a convention really was a dream. I chose to go to Cross Roads (run by Starfury) as it was a relatively low cost convention and the only con in the UK dedicated to Supernatural. I wanted to be part of all the excitement before ‘the end’ of the show, to meet the cast, see other fans and experience what it was like to be part of this SPNFamily, as it was something I had only watched from afar. It never really hit me that I was going to this convention (eek) until about two days before when people were starting to pack and freaking out on social media. I began to ask myself if I was missing something like a special checklist or insider knowledge about conventions when it came to packing (clearly this was a big deal). This was probably the first time I had felt awkward about going! But I pushed through this as I was excited to meet the cast, catch up with a very old friend of mine -- my con buddy -- who I had not seen in years, and meet some of the Twitter SPNFamily members that I had been interacting with for months.
From the time I set off from Glasgow Central train station in Scotland until I arrived in Birmingham International train station, I was a bundle of anxious nerves and overwhelming excitement. As I was travelling, I re-read parts of FDEWB and the chapter by Matt Cohen really hit me. Matt reflected how he found the SPNFamily at one of the Birmingham conventions and I started to tear up a little knowing that Birmingham was a special place, even for the cast. I was also feeling a bit of trepidation. I had signed up to be a steward (volunteer) but had not been given any guidance about what this entailed, responsibilities, and what to expect. This made my emotions even more heightened than normal as I like to be prepared in advance. It was a bit strange to come to a large event and not know what was expected of me as a volunteer (having done a lot of events myself). I also felt a level of 'responsibility', as I run a fandom SPN Twitter account. I have run Twitter accounts for organisations and know that there is a distancing between the personal and the professional and didn't want to blur those boundaries - or was it even okay to blur those boundaries in the fandom? One thing I was sure to do was to keep in touch with Chrisha throughout the weekend -- where possible!
- Planning your con experience far in advance is probably more rational, but isn’t absolutely necessary!
- Ask questions of your online social media friends if you are not sure what is going on – they are likely to know and can help alleviate con-related anxiety.
- Keeping in touch, even on social media, with your convention pal in another country is hard but worth it!
- If there’s a fandom you want in on, do it NOW. If Supernatural of all shows isn’t going to stay on TV forever, then probably no show will. Carpe Diem, y’all.
Meeting the #SPNFamily!
Day 1 of our con experience started at about 8pm EST Thursday night, preparing to drive from Cincinnati, Ohio to Dallas, Texas, which is about a 13.5 hour drive without stops. We decided to take my husband’s little tiny Prius (hey, it may not be as sexy as Baby, but the gas mileage sure is!), and the plan was to drive as far as we could overnight before collapsing, and hoping we could somehow defy the laws of physics and biology and get to Dallas in time to see Rachel Miner´s and Gabriel Tigerman’s panels Friday morning/afternoon. We gave it a valiant effort, which included Carin entertaining herself by literally finishing her first watch through of Supernatural in the car (and expelling a LOT of profanity during the S14 finale LOL), but somewhere around Arkansas we had to tap out and get a few hours’ sleep in a roadside motel that, frankly, didn’t have décor nearly as cool as Supernatural has led me to expect. We ended up rolling into Plano/Dallas sometime in the early afternoon Friday, and after checking into the hotel, caffeinating, and freshening up, we headed straight to the convention center, and managed to find our seats the literal second before Briana Buckmaster herself arrived on the stage.
Chrisha and her Friend Carin Davis
Because of the breakneck pace to get to our seats for back-to-back panels (Briana and Samantha Smith, plus seeing Richard Speight, Jr. and Rob Benedict and our first experiences hearing Louden Swain), it was hard to take everything... in. I’ve been to a lot of cons. I’ve worked a lot of cons. I’ve seen a lot of panels.
I’ve met a lot of actors. I’ve met a hell of a lot of fans. And yet.. nothing had ever felt like this, and it’s challenging to even put a finger on what exactly made it so much more intense than anything else I’ve experienced, but... it was. The anti-possession symbol, which in and of itself evokes an emotional response was beamed up, the size of a literal wall.
There was no “civilian” moderator, being the buffer between the fans and the talent. The actors weren’t sitting in the middle of the stage, far away from the crowd. The fans were able to ask questions directly, and actors made a point to be physically near them when they did, and often came down from the stage to talk to them face to face or give a hug. The actors joked with each other, certainly, but... they also joked with us. Briana, Sam, Richard, Rob, and even Michael, Billy, and Stephen with the band all seemed completely at ease, both with each other and with all of us. More than once, Rich referenced the family in such a way that I assumed he was talking either about the actors or the fans, but... he was talking about all of us, together. As a family. Every time. As a lifelong fangirl who has always been made to feel that she needed to stay on her side of the fan/creator “line,” I just can’t explain how emotional that made me. He also gave a long speech about how the SPNFamily loves us all for who we are, and doesn’t care about what we look like, who we love, where we’re from, and I’m sure a long list of other things. The kinds of things that someone who has been coming to these cons forever might zone out through because they already know it in their heart, but the kind of thing a con newbie will feel deep in their soul, easing fears they didn’t even know they had. Bringing a sense of closeness they didn’t even know they hoped for. It was... beautiful, and intense, but in all the very best ways.
Richard Speight Jr.
Credit: Kim Prior
The panels themselves were fantastic, and immensely entertaining. Briana absolutely owned the stage, and talked about all kinds of things: from how much of a bad ass Donna is (YEAH) to how she’d be okay if Donna died in a blaze of glory in S15 (BOOOO), to what women inspire her. She also sang for us (which was WOW!). Sam was also a delight, talking about her emotional exit in S14, filming the 300th episode, and telling us all about her adorable doggos! Seeing Rich and Rob and the rest of Louden Swain also joking around between panels was tons of fun, as was hearing the specific songs the band played to introduce each actor (e.g. “Mother” by Danzig for Sam). The family atmosphere between actors and fans was certainly clear by the end of this day of panels, and even with the sleep deprivation and (frankly dangerous) amounts of caffeine in our systems, we were still ready for karaoke!
Credit: Kim Prior
After a quick stop for dinner, we headed back to the convention center and lined up. Having never been to this event this before, I had no idea what to expect. To this point, I was having an incredible time watching the actors interact with each other and with us, and was put completely at ease being around them, but I was having a surprisingly difficult time connecting with any of the other fans. No one around my seat wanted to chat, and no one in line seemed to want to either, which was a much different con experience than what I’m used to. But I chalked it up to exhaustion and con intensity (especially realizing that Kimm was having the exact same experience across the pond!), and prepared for the evening ahead, which ended up being monumentally entertaining!
There are no assigned seats for karaoke, so we were able to get fairly close to the stage, and the performers picked some completely epic songs to sing ("Bohemian Rhapsody" was especially incredible with all the harmonies!). Gabriel Tigerman and Matt Cohen hosted the event, and Sam Smith also came and hung out for awhile. Having never seen Gabriel or Matt off-screen before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but... they were hilarious.
Gabriel Tigerman & Matt Cohan
They joked with each other, with the crowd, with the performers, and did I mention with each other? I did not come to karaoke expecting to laugh the whole time, but that’s what happened! At one point, Sam also brought a fan up onstage to help her learn how to line dance, which I loved because not only was Sam open to learning new things in front of us all, but bringing a fan up onstage to teach a dance was no big deal, either to the actor or the to the fan.
These little moments of closeness, again, really told the story of how these actors feel about us, and how we really are all just there... together. Every singer got a hug from the actors, fans in the front took phones for the singers to record their performances, and Matt recorded a group of fans he was joking with in the front row, and even posted the video on Twitter and tagged them all in it (per their request)! Overall, the night was incredible, fun was had by all, and I’m totally going to put my name in to sing at the next con I make it to. 😉
Gabriel Tigerman & Matt Cohan
Once I arrived I checked into the hotel. I booked a shared room with my con buddy at an off-site hotel to save us money, as neither of us were too concerned with being at the convention hotel and the place we stayed was a short 20 minute walk. I made my way to the registration at the Hilton Hotel where the con was taking place and this went so fast! Picked up my stewarding badge -- still no clue what I was doing! -- but hoping for the best. I was so nervous! I decided to buy extra autographs of David Hayden-Jones and Mark Sheppard, as these were not included on my ticket, and joked around with the staff about Scottish money. It released a bit of tension but I was still left feeling really awkward as if I was not part of the crowd somehow. There was so much buzz in the room, long lines going out the door, and I was unsure what it was all about. If you had not been to a Cross Roads (or a StarFury event) in the past, it was really disconcerting and disorientating. I wanted to find other convention first timers, as I thought it would help, but I had no idea how to find them! Did they have a meetup and I didn't know about it? Was that even a thing? And everyone in the room seemed so young! I started to feel out of place in this fandom, which my brain was telling me was weird, as on social media (Twitter) I feel so at home. Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to go for a short walk to clear my busy brain and check in with the family.
Up ‘til now, I had managed my anxiety and nerves pretty well! What happened next was something that I did not expect to experience in this fandom, EVER AGAIN. As I was minding my own business and leaving the hotel, a person* came up to me and asked me if I was okay. I thought it was a nice gesture so I was friendly back and then just said thank you for asking. I did not expect the person to begin to quiz me on every role a particular cast member had played (was having a moment of wondering if this was the norm??), and when I said I had forgotten xyz played this role, I was told I was not a 'real fan' of said cast member and they walked off. I had experienced gatekeeping before in the SPN fandom and naively hoped it would not happen again. I picked my jaw off the floor and fled outside. This left me reeling and I could feel a panic attack coming on, tears in my eyes. I phoned home and ranted for a good solid five minutes to my husband. Being a musician in the punk scene, he has witnessed this many times and was able to talk me down off the wall, so to speak. I said goodbye and went for a walk for 20 minutes, back to the NEC, but I was feeling the sensation to literally flee the situation. I was now really angry and feeling even more isolated as a newbie con goer and starting to question my place at the convention. I talked myself out of fleeing and got back on Twitter to find some online friends, tried to ignore these negative feelings the best I could and just go back to the convention for the opening ceremony to enjoy myself.
I was so thrilled to get back on Twitter and find that some of our online Twitter pals were in the bar with other con goers, and most especially Pieater! She took me under her wing and introduced me to the group, which was incredibly kind. I am really nervous around new people so I didn't talk much and probably looked like a big ol' numpty sitting there perched on a chair! I was grateful to have been with other people for the company and just to talk to some really amazing ladies. Lady S with the pink hair was amazing and shared some of her past con experiences, and made me feel at home. (If I could remember ALL their names I would list them here). I even met a #JIB11 attendee so I felt like I bonded with someone and we made plans to hook up for JIB and possibly share a room. Finally one of our favourite Jared fans, and all time fab Twitter pal, SlusanSusan, arrived and I was so excited that I nearly gave her a heart attack when I said hello! I immediately thought I flubbed meeting a new family member from the very beginning. (Suffice to say we laughed about this later)! This small interaction made a huge difference to me and I cannot thank Pieater and SlusanSusan enough for literally being there when I was feeling awful, uncomfortable, lonely and really out of context with the whole convention thing. What con goers don't tell you is the first time can be very isolating and nerve wracking. I felt like an outsider from the very beginning.
It was time for the opening ceremony and I made my way with this lovely group to the main hall; I was not sure what to expect. I have to say, it is hard to describe the feeling of finally seeing cast members in the same room after watching them on screen for so long. The room was buzzing! It was short and sweet and after watching other conventions, I had expected more somehow but was happy to see the cast arrive as it finally made the convention 'real' in a way.
There was a party that night, and I stayed for a while chatting to another steward but wasn’t sure what the party was all about. Was it just for fun, do cast turn up, was it like the karaoke from CE cons? Suffice to say, it was very loud and distracting (neurodiverse folks take note) and after a few hours I decided to call it a night, head back to the hotel and meet my con buddy who was arriving at 11.30pm!
Adam Fergus, David Haydn-Jones & Elizabeth Blackmore
Heading back to the hotel, my head was pounding from the noise of the party and my brain was working overtime digesting the whole day. Being new on the first day of the convention wasn't scary, just very overwhelming especially if you have never experienced something like it. I have been to large events, such as conferences, surrounded by hundreds of people, but nothing prepared me for this. Nothing. The air was heavy with the energy from the fans and this was only the first day! My con buddy finally made it to the hotel and we both talked until the early hours about conventions, the show and expectations vs. reality. I finally felt a bit less worried about my own feelings of isolation and anxiety hearing that this is common. I highly recommended a buddy for your first con!
- Contact /DM Social media pals in advance to make arrangements to meet up from the beginning;
- Ensure you have enough data on your phone when Wi-Fi fails at the convention location;
- Plan to get to the con in plenty of time to attend all activities, because missing panels causes sadness;
- No need for a bag at CE karaoke, so leave it in the car;
- Stay in touch with your convention pal in the other country and make sure they are okay!
Click "Next" for Day 2!
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