Editor's Note: Supernatural conventions are very special weekend events when fans can meet and mingle with each other and the cast of Supernatural. Chrisha and Kim attended their first Supernatural convention in June. They are very excited to share their experience with all of you. Start at Part 1 of the report, then continue here. -Bettina Bier

 

J2M Day...
Creation Entertainment’s SPNDallas convention June 21-23, 2019 in Plano, Texas
~Chrisha~

Because neither Carin nor I were gold pass holders (and therefore not attending the gold J2 panel), Day 3 started a bit later for us. As women with young children who were on vacation, we attempted to sleep in, but it didn’t work because the universe mocks us (THANKS, CHUCK). In addition, I woke up with a migraine, which was simply UNACCEPTABLE for J2M day, and so between the pain and the nerves, I was a bit of a mess. Carin was able to eat an actual meal for breakfast, but I wasn’t so lucky. At least the leisurely morning allowed me to medicate, caffeinate, and get to the con with enough time to fully peruse the vendors and become a mostly functioning human being before panels began.

In the vendor room, I noticed Jared’s sister, Megan, had a table and was selling her books. I wanted to buy something for my kids to show them I was thinking about them, so what better than two beautiful children’s books, written and illustrated by Megan Padalecki? When I got up to buy the books from her, I realized that Mom and Dad Padalecki were also there, which was all kinds of adorable, as they were clearly so supportive of her (Dad gave her a quick shoulder rub at one point while she was signing for me!), and were also happy to chat with those of us visiting the table. Megan asked about my kids, their ages, and what they love to do and read, and we had a lovely chat about all kinds of random and fun things while she wrote beautiful inscriptions in each of their books and signed them. Funnily enough, as I was chatting about finishing school, and mentioned my research and how it reflected how many lives Jared had positively impacted (because whose parents don’t want to hear about their kid doing that?), Mama Padalecki made a comment to me about my work that was exactly and uniquely what I needed to hear during this tough transitional time post-PhD. Those Padaleckis seriously are an amazing group of people. <3 Oh, and side note? My 2 year old is completelyobsessed with Big Mo now, and we read it multiple times a day... so if you haven’t checked out Megan’s books, you should!

Next up was panel time, with me making a concerted effort to not think about the fact that I would both be seeing my very first J2 panel and actually meeting Misha (and Castiel!!) this very day. The first panel of the day was Rob [Benedict], which was super fun, since we’d already spent so much time with him over the weekend. Getting to see him really talk (rather than sing) was like hanging out with an old friend by this point!

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Alexander Calvert
Credit: Kim Prior

After Rob came Alex [Calvert], who completely adorable. He shared terrifying vacation stories, his thoughts about Dean’s parenting (don’t lock your children in boxes!), and of course the obligatory stories of all the hijinks from set. Tons of fun, and lots of laughing! And then…

J2 time! As a newbie, I have to say that seeing J2 on stage in this format was a bit of cognitive distortion, as I’d been watching them like this in videos for so many years. Being able to take in the entire scene (rather than just whatever angle the incredibly generous person taking video gave us) was honestly pretty trippy. It was like suddenly being inside your favorite TV show. The boys got right to business, though, and it is so incredibly obvious that they have been doing these cons together (and acting together) forever, because their ability to play off each other was a marvel. They did take some questions, but so much of their time on stage was just joking and being silly, and it was so much fun to watch! As with the other actors, they seemed completely at ease, both with us and with each other, and it was just thrilling to be a part of it.

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Jared Padalecki
Credit:
Kim Prior


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Jensen Ackles
Credit:
Kim Prior

I’m sure the entire panel is on YouTube somewhere, but there were some major highlights for me, for several reasons:

  • The boys shared that they’ve met with the writers and know how the show ends. Hearing this information directly from them in this kind of environment was… emotional. That emotion turned to laughter with a dash of panic as Jared kept trying to tell us all something about it, and the crowd (scared he might spoil it!) drowned him out so he couldn’t talk! 
  • Jensen talking about his parents (also there at the con!) giving him the gift of laughter, and how he wants to pass that on to his kids... I definitely lost a few minutes here, reflecting on my own parenting;
  • Jared telling us about when he met and fanboyed over Eddie Vedder, and made a heel of himself trying (and failing) to be cool. Really and truly, this is the kind of relatable content that can definitely help put a newbie con-goer at ease! He gets us!; 
  • Jensen’s timing. He knew when to help Jared “pull up” when he got a bit too tangential, and he knew exactly when to make a joke to ease the tension or lighten the mood. In my line of work, reading people, their moods, and the room as a whole is a critical skill. Boy, does Jensen have it;
  • The woman with the last question was nervous, and brought her phone up to read her question. Jared stole her phone, and read down past her question to yet another about their “sexiest moves.” When he started reading her phone I had some serious secondary panic (can you IMAGINE your fav reading your phone? *faints*)! But the question really was perfect, and was a hilarious ending to a fantastically entertaining panel! 
  • Honorable mention: Jensen’s. Fluffy. Hair. *guh*

After the J2 panel was over, and the buzz of that high had worn off, it was time for another break and some food, which I was now actually able to eat thanks to the adrenaline and painkillers. Unfortunately, in my migraine haze, I didn’t read the schedule correctly and we got back late for Rich’s [Speight, Jr.] panel. By this point, the con was running so behind that the entire schedule was pushed back 20 minutes, which meant we only missed a bit of Rich’s panel, but it was still a bummer. He had so many fun and positive stories about fellow actors on several projects, plus singing the praises of Supernatural fandom artists and authors. It was an amazing panel to end things with, and even knowing I had more con to look forward to, hearing the band play “It’s the End of the Con as we Know It” was an emotional moment. I wanted to stay here with these people on stage forever. I hated that it was almost over.

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Richard Speight Jr.
Credit: Kim Prior

As the stage portion of the show ended, the room became a hotbed of excited energy as everyone prepared for J2 to enter the panel room for autographs (plus all the other photo ops/autographs happening that evening). My schedule had my Castiel photo op first, and then Misha autograph directly afterward, but these were some of the very last things on the con schedule, and since they were running WAY behind, there was a lot of waiting (not the best thing when you’re anxious!). A lot of people brought card games, or were just chatting or playing on their phones. I wasn’t wildly nervous at this point, but I also have no real memory of how I passed the time (other than getting glimpses of J2, Alex, Matt, and others as they came into the room to sign). By the time my photo op for Castiel was called, I was a bit frazzled (they were running over an hour behind), a bit jittery, but mostly just excited.

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Courtney Ford
Credit: Kim Prior

The website said that for the Castiel photo ops, Misha would be wearing his Castiel costume, and would also stay in character the entire time (*swoon*). Being that I’ve met plenty of actors and still get nervous, I had no idea how I would react to meeting a fictional character that has meant so much to me. Would I cry? Be unable to talk? Be painfully awkward? Did I mention cry? Turns out, I would just be really stupidly happy. <3

The photo ops for a Supernatural con are very different than other cons I’ve been to. There was music playing, and the atmosphere was fun, not stressful (as I have so very often experienced). Everything moved fast, but it felt more like being part of a dance than being on a conveyor belt. I got a little bit of time to watch Misha/Cas do ops with some other folks (which involved standing with his back to the camera and pretending to flash them -- LOL), which actually helped my nerves instead of heightening them, like usual. I didn’t have a big pose in mind (I knew I’d never get it out), but I did want to ask for a specific hug, which was big for me, as I’ve never done anything but a basic hug pose before in any photo op. Because things were moving so quickly, there was no talking with Cas, which I’ll admit was a disappointment, just because I’d so much love to have the experience of truly interacting with a fictional character (and specifically that fictional character). But, I said hello, I asked him to hug me from behind (I wanted a guardian angel type pose), he did (SQUEE!), and then when I turned to say thank you, he winked at me, and that was it. Now, I am well aware that he winks at everyone, but you know what? I don’t care. Because that one was all mine. <3 I left the room with a very, very big smile on my face!

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 Chrisha & Misha Collins

After my op was done, the real chaos began. Photo ops are not immediately spat out of printers the way I’m used to, because they are looked at by actual humans first to make sure they’re okay. While that is absolutely amazing, it also means that, between the people waiting to take their ops and the people waiting to pick up their ops, the hallway was a congested mess. Because I wasn’t sure how long the printing was supposed to take, I ended up waiting in the hallway while Carin went back to the panel room to call for me when my Misha autograph was called. They were already fitting me in Sunday instead of Saturday, so the very last thing I wanted to be was late. Ultimately, my op wasn’t ready before my autograph, and I had to book it down the hall to get in line because they went from only gold/silver for Misha to EVERYONE really quickly. I made it, but only had about sixty seconds in line to compose myself before I was at the table with Misha.

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I think it’s important to note at this point that, while I may be a mental health professional, I still struggle with my own wicked anxiety with a hefty side of unhealthy perfectionism. Talking to my favs in the high-stress, move-quickly con environment is hell on my nerves. Talking about my work in public is also a harrowing experience. Talking to my fav about my work, in that environment? Oof. I was very much convinced I would get up there and either A. chicken out entirely, or B. forget to say a critical word, leaving him with no idea what the hell I was talking about. The weirdest thing happened when I got to the table, though: I wasn’t nervous. Now, it’s not like I recorded the conversation, so I suppose it’s possible that I didn’t explain myself the way I think I did, but.. I actually think it went okay. I told him that I was a mental health therapist and recently completed my PhD, and that my research was on fandom and mental health, and that Supernatural basically took over my results. I told him that I got to scientifically document how “all this” (gesturing to the con), along with his work with Random Acts and Jared’s work with Always Keep Fighting positively impacted people in the fandom. It took a few seconds for the penny to drop (seriously, that environment is pure chaos), but once it did, his eyes got wide, and he said “WOW.” I showed him the copy of it that I had with me (with the relevant SPN bits flagged) so that he could see it, but told him he certainly didn’t need to take it (the thing is not small). But he immediately took the copy from my hands, read the front, and then started paging through it. And then asked me if I could part with it. Um, YEP! Anything for you, sir!

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And that was it! I said thank you, he said thank you, he set my dissertation next to him on the table, and I left. Technically he signed my copper badge insert somewhere in there, but as I was mostly there for the conversation, that was just a bonus. As of that moment, the con was officially over for me. I went back to photo ops, picked up my picture, chatted with and hugged a few more fandom friends who were also waiting in the hallway gaggle of people, and then we were off to the hotel. There wasn’t much sleeping for me that night, but the roadtrip home felt a whole lot like floating.

Thank goodness for David and Adam...
Starfury’s Cross Roads convention June 21-23, 2019 in Birmingham, England, UK.
~Kimm~

Going into the third and final day, I felt more at ease. I knew how things were going to run at photo sessions; I understood my steward role much better. I could navigate my way through the anxiety and stress with my con buddy and deal with some of the weird feelings of insecurity, outsider syndrome and isolation I was having over the last two days. My con buddy kept saying that isolation is common in a convention and so is anxiety, as everyone's feelings are high and the air is filled with them all (good, bad, indifferent). It was reassuring that I was not alone in this and convention stress/emotional exhaustion was normal.

Photo sessions and stewarding for these were pretty much the same as the day before. This time I had Kim Rhodes, Ruth Connell, Erica Cera and Mark Sheppard  on my side.
The room was packed with Kim and Ruth photos and it finally hit us just how popular these two were. Ruth was lovely and came out to talk to the fans in line and I got to chat with her a little, which was not as weird as I had expected. Again, the fans were great in the lines, having fun, joking, and generally enjoying themselves. I really enjoyed being a steward in these sessions as the best part was seeing all the fans and chatting briefly with them, seeing their cosplay and their excitement on seeing their favourite cast members.

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Ruth Connell
Credit: Claire

The day was followed again by two panels, lunch, two panels then autographs. The first two panels were Leah Cairns, Teryl Rothery, and Magda Apanowicz/ Mark Sheppard and Erica then David Haydn-Jones and Adam Fergus/ Kim, Ruth, and Elizabeth Blackmore.  Erica Cera was amazing in her pair up with Mark Sheppard and our favourite takeaway was: ‘I am answering for Mark so please direct all your questions to me’. She was hilarious, charming and a real gem. Mark was again being supportive of fans with anxiety and advocating for kindness and understanding in the world, and I could not keep myself from tearing up….AGAIN.

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Adam Fergus & David Haydn-Jones
Credit: Claire

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Adam Fergus & David Haydn-Jones
Credit: Claire

Thank goodness for David and Adam who will make you laugh until you pee, forgetting all the crazy messed up emotions you've been having for days. The ladies, as usual, were great, and I really appreciated having so many women cast members here at the convention. Looking back, it is really difficult to express just how charismatic, down to earth and amazing all these women were and just how much it meant to us to see so many women as guests. It was truly something spectacular and we need this again at other conventions!

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Adam Fergus
Credit: Claire

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David Haydn-Jones
Credit: Claire

Waiting for autographs, we spoke to a couple of newbies at the convention who also conveyed their feelings of isolation, even though they had come with each other to the convention. I talked to them in the bar and they were extremely smart, clued-up young ladies who were really inspired by film and TV, not just Supernatural.  We waited for nearly 2 hours for autographs today...it took ages to get to our numbers. For today I had Kim, Mark, Leah, Teryl, and Ruth. I had not thought to get an autograph of Leah from the start (as it cost extra) but by the time it came round, I really wanted one. My con buddy gifted me one. This small act of generosity got me really emotional. My con buddy and I have known each other for nearly 20 years, but in a different context (academic, Phd related) and this blew me away (and was gifted right before my Mark autograph, too). I had to pull myself together as my first autograph was Mark. I had contained myself with my other autograph sessions but somehow the last two days (and this gift from my pal) hit me like a brick and all the emotions hit me at once when I met Mark. I wanted to say thank you for his words about anxiety and how they struck a chord in me and I started to emotional cry…..HARD! He was so kind and understanding. I had not expected Mark to be so warm -- he is all about the snark (which we love!!) and was just floored by his interaction. I had to walk away, embarrassed, and go to another line where I knew I could compose myself. I was kicking myself for being so emotional and acting so weird - I felt that Mark must have thought I was a weirdo because I certainly felt like one. I moved on to Teryl, who had been a real highlight of my weekend and she complimented my hair (again) and I told her she made my day for a second time. Such a lovely lady and have a renewed fangirl love for her and Stargate- SG1.

Ruthie was next....gosh. Ruth. What can we say ...simply awestruck. I asked her to sign in red (for Rowena) and she did, and thanked her for interacting with our fan account as she is our fav Scottish lass. She was just as delightful and down to earth as we expected. I saw Leah next and I’m still floored by her sheer liveliness and openness about everything. She really was pumped the whole weekend and I left with another one of those renewed fangirl loves for her and Battlestar Galactica

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Credit: Kim Rhodes

I saved Kim for last. I was so determined not to get flubbed up and did not want to fall apart on her. I didn't flub it up and did not get emotional! Yay me! She was as kick ass in person as I had expected. I got to chat to her about being a newbie; the person next to her (handler?) asked how it was and if I was having a good time. I mentioned the gatekeeping - as this tainted our experience - and Kim was just awesome. She talked about fear and other fans' fear and this response to fandom was not about me. She made me feel so much better. I felt a wave of goodness and love radiating from her. I just loved seeing her and interacting with someone I see as inspirational (in the Autism community). Gosh. My heart was full.

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On a side note: my con buddy was after me for Mark autographs. She was amazing and told him what happened with my experience with gatekeeping earlier, and that I was in charge of the fan account SPN_Alba.  He actually told her to tell me that he sees my tweets, and thanked me and said that gatekeeping is a load of bollocks. It meant a lot for my con buddy to actually do this, seeing how emotional I was and how this affected my whole weekend. For Mark to respond in such a way...wow! So thank you, Mark.

For tonight’s dinner we decided on the hotel bar as it was so close to the time of the closing ceremony. As I was getting items for dinner, it was nice to see the cast in having dinner and no one bothering them at their tables. Our fandom is something else! I mistakenly got up to get items for dinner and ran into Adam and David - not meaning to! They actually started talking to me and I was floored. This doesn't happen at other conventions that I have been to. I blundered my way through this but was honest and said I was having a great time, but had a meltdown in front of Mark, experienced gatekeeping and was just embarrassed by the whole meltdown. Adam just hugged me and I just blurted out - people are arseholes.

I felt like an idiot but the cast did not make me feel that way! What struck me about this whole interaction was that the cast was comfortable talking to fans, and myself as a fan, felt okay to chat to them. The whole cast/fan divide that I had experienced in other fandoms does not seem to be the same for Supernatural. The fans, from what I saw, respect the cast and these boundaries and vice versa. There is a shared comradery between everyone – cast can joke around with fans, enjoy this shared love of Supernatural - and be themselves. It was refreshing.

The closing ceremony was very short and thanks were given to every member of the staff and the stewards. Each guest came on stage to say goodbye to the audience but I have to say the most emotional moment was Kim Rhodes. She got a standing ovation and I literally could not stop the tears from flowing. She was really touched by it and all she said was: ‘I see you. I love you. I thank you’. At this point, there was probably not a dry eye in the house. So many of us really connected with Kim and it was such a fitting and touching response to her kindness and badassery. After this emotional ending, my con buddy and I decided to go for one more drink and then head back to the hotel to relax, pack and get some sleep! Monday was our travel day back home. I was coming back north with my con buddy and once on the train, I thought I would have a lot of time to write and think about the convention but I was so exhausted. I didn't manage to do anything but nap, snack and check social media for the last remaining hours until home. 

Lessons learned

  1. Keep a variety of basic over the counter medication with you for any illness or pain that may arise. Cons are hard on the body;
  2. The pineapple on pizza debate is real and expect long discussions with the BMoL on this subject;
  3. Triple check your schedule, and use whatever works for you (phone calendar, highlights, etc) to keep yourself on track;
  4. Be prepared to fangirl and love another show all over again because of the actors;
  5. Expect long delays, and a late Sunday night if you are meeting J2M;
  6. Never, under any circumstance, allow your unlocked phone near Jared Padalecki.

Post Con Reflections

~Chrisha & Kimm~

Kim Rhodes said in a recent podcast 'Community comes from a sense of safety and sense of something shared'. We firmly believe this, and that the SPNFamily is a community. However, there was a speech about inclusiveness and how conventions are a place where everyone is welcome both at the beginning of SPNDallas and at the end of Cross Roads that both of us reflected on. It got us thinking about the wider fandom spaces we have both encountered and how this ‘community’ at conventions was not what we had expected.

Typically, Chrisha and Kimm have both felt that the actors and creators from shows they love would be the “intimidating” ones to interact with, while the other fans were the safe and happy place to connect. On two continents, at two simultaneous cons, the SPNFamily turned this notion on its ear. The actors were so incredibly easy to talk to and connect with, from Kimm’s bar chat and hug with Adam and David, to her conversation with Kim, to Chrisha’s nerve-less chat with Misha to soooo many of her social media interactions with the actors through the weekend (#GandyRises!), seeing these people in person that spend so much time in our living rooms on our television screens truly was like seeing old friends (though in a high-pressure, fast-moving environment).

Shocking to both of us, however, was that connecting with other fans was a lot trickier. We both got the feeling that, while people were friendly and incredibly kind at both conventions, most already had their established “crews” and so newbies were a bit on their own. There is the #SPNFamily that exists within online spaces that does not always equate to physical/”irl” spaces. Finding people online to connect with over fandom has been fairly easy for us to do. Finding people to connect with at a convention was decidedly less so. Whether that is because people at cons are truly disinterested in connecting with new folks, or because they have their own social anxieties or busy schedules or exhaustion is impossible to say. Regardless of why things were how they were, however, we felt isolated and a bit like outsiders within our own fandom, which was very much unexpected and -- if we're honest -- caused some sadness.

We think there may be an assumption that newbies can easily introduce ourselves, and make new friends… but this is just not always true. Many people attending conventions suffer from severe anxiety and just getting to the con can be a monumental task. Talking to folks can be really hard! For example, Kimm has chronic depression and severe anxiety and is recovering from a nervous breakdown 18 months ago, and for her, coming to Cross Roads was a HUGE deal. Interactions with other fans were much easier within the stewarding environment for her but after that, there was no continued interaction and most went their separate ways. Chrisha has her own flavor of social anxiety, but even being generally at ease in a fandom environment she had a challenging time finding and maintaining connections. Over the course of the weekend, Kimm and Chrisha each assumed the other would be having an easy time making friends, and each time we checked in we were shocked to hear the other was having the same difficulties. Knowing it was happening for both of us in the same fandom at the same time at different cons made us each feel a bit better, but also made it harder to see either of our experiences as just a fluke.

Ultimately, we didn’t necessarily expect a huge welcome party (!) in such a huge group of people, but we do recognise the difference between what we had expected vs. reality. And if the Supernatural fandom truly is the inclusive, caring fandom we absolutely know that it is, maybe we should all put our heads together to find ways to make the con experience easier and more welcoming for its (probably overwhelmed) newbies. Because we all know that just because the show may not go on forever doesn't mean the fandom won't. I think we can all agree that the SPNFamily is here to stay. <3

Oh, and despite the ups and downs of the weekend, would Kimm and Chrisha go to another Supernatural con if given the chance?
Mark us both down for a resounding
YES!!!
Kimm has already booked her place for Jus in Bello 11 in May 2020, Rome, and Chrisha is headed to SPNNash in April, 2020, Nashville!
We hope we see some of you there!

Top Tips for convention organisers

  1. Please - for the love of all that is holy- conventions need to be more accessible and understanding of neurodiverse folks. Especially loud venues and parties/lights, etc.
  2. Have quiet spaces set aside for these folks who may not be at the convention hotel;
  3. Have newbie meetups when everyone can attend - e.g. the Friday night before dinner and make them public and well-advertised!
  4. Use all forms of social media - Facebook and Twitter, as well as the apps - to communicate with attendees;
  5. Make schedules and scheduling apps easier to read and more user-friendly;
  6. Find a more efficient system for picking up photo ops to ease congested areas and ensure accessibility for everyone.

 Top tips for convention newbies

  1. Wear comfortable shoes, you’re going to be on your feet a lot!
  2. Pack good snacks- nuts, protein bars, fruit;
  3. Bring a refillable water bottle and coffee cup. (We have foldable ones so they don’t take up much space in your bag);
  4. Bring a con buddy if you are a newbie or plan in advance to meet with people you might know online; 
  5. Take some multivitamins each day, or pack some effervescent ones to put in your water to keep energy levels and immune levels up! You'll need them and neither one of us got con crud!
  6. Hand sanitizer, deodorant wipes for those moments where you know you might need them;
  7. Find a good convention schedule that is user friendly (app or social media). For StarFury this was invaluable;
  8. Scope out the surrounding areas for quiet places, or a place to take a walk;
  9. Be okay with finding spaces away from the crowd, being alone to gather thoughts; 
  10. Don't feel like you have to go to everything (parties) if these are not for you.

Inspiring people! How badass the SPN Family is…

The day after the convention, one of the young ladies that Kimm met started a twitter account called @YouAreYourOwnRoleModel.
This was inspired by her interaction with Kim Rhodes - which she witnessed - and is quoted here on YAYWRM Twitter account.
As a mom, Kimm felt immensely proud of this young lady (and her friend who also asked a question).
Seeing them both and talking with them has made her think more about the younger generation of fans of Supernatural
and this sense of responsibility to lift these ladies up, support them, find more space and time
for advocacy (even more than she does now) and spread kindness everywhere.


Thanks for reading!
Please share your comments, questions and reactions below! 


You can read other fans' experiences at Supernatural conventions all around the world at WFB Convention Reports! Compare reactions from other newbies and veterans, and get more tips about going to all the different activities offered at conventions!