Last year, I experienced my first real convention. I went to Leaky Con 2014 in Orlando, FL. And let me tell you, it was the happiest week of my life. I flew down by myself, shared a room with four friends, three of whom I’d only spoken to online, and made so many new friends I can’t even begin to count. But what really matters at Leaky (now Geeky) Con is the atmosphere.
Geeky Con is a place for fans of any fandom, any form, to feel comfortable and welcome. You can cosplay anything you want, make it as obscure as possible and someone there will know it. You can forgo cosplaying (like I sadly did) and still find cosplayers and friends to hang out with and take pictures of and with. And the celebrity guests? Sometimes they’re just walking around being a fan like you or I. Especially at the Open at the Close event.
Open at the Close is a special event where goers of Geeky can buy an extra pass to be able to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios and stay until 2am. The day I went, it was hot. So hot. But none of us cared. We were in line, we had our passes, and we were going to Hogwarts. So I’m with a few friends and we walk through the park and we find King’s Cross and the Knight Bus and 12 Grimmauld Place. We take some pictures…and then we see two doorways. We walk through one, not knowing what to expect, and when we came out, we were in Diagon Alley. And we cried.
Diagon Alley is beautiful. Everything is just how you would picture it, from the crooked Gringotts to the shambling shelves of Olivanders to the most perfect Weasley shop right down to the Leaky Cauldron’s food and butterbeer. It was gorgeous. We stood in line with basically every other OatC attendee for the Gringotts ride, we went and bought wands from the one true wand maker, we even saw a dragon breathe fire.
And then we went to Kings Cross and on to Hogwarts. There was more crying, more rides, more love than ever. We stayed til the last possible moment and went back to our hotels for sleep. But what struck me the most was seeing these people I considered celebrities and special guests standing in lines, crying and screaming, and having as much fun as possible just like the rest of us. It was beautiful, and you really see that throughout the con.
The rest of the week was heaven. When you go, you get a list of panels and events and Q&As and you pick everything you want. Nothing costs extra; the only things that require special wristbands are autographs and photobooths, which you can lottery for early in the morning every day (I am the champion lottery autograph picker, got my first choices on the first tries). Every single celebrity was kind, sweet, fun, and was clearly having a great time. I spent too much money on merch, I woke up early and stayed up late, hell I even partied – something I never do – at the Esther Earl Charity Ball, which was truly one of the best nights I’ve ever had. If you don’t know, Esther Earl is the young girl who helped inspire John Green to write The Fault in our Stars and after she passed Leaky named the ball after her, August 3rd is Esther Day where you tell as many people as possible that you love them, and her family set up a charity (This Star Won’t Go Out). To see us all come together and celebrate life this way is perfect.
At the closing ceremonies, Leaky Con announced that it would become Geeky Con, because they had expanded past simply Harry Potter fandom, into all fandoms. Many felt betrayed, but I found it fitting. And they seem to have found a home in Orlando, as the first Geeky Con was held there this year. And guess which fangirl didn’t get to go? Me.
Having watched it from the outside looking in before going was painful enough. But now I’ve experienced it. Now I’ve felt belonging again, something that has been hard to find since leaving my college and the SciFi Fantasy Club there. And to not have it this year, to once again be sitting back and watching people I’d met, people I love as friends go again was heartbreaking. Some other friends and I have a chat going for the many of us who couldn’t go, and those of us in the chat who went last year and met and didn’t go this year spent much of the week sharing sadness and plotting a reunion hopefully for next year.
Geeky Con was the best experience of my life in America (getting to study abroad was the ultimate best experience). I have so many memories and so many stories I could share. And I am determined to have that experience again. If you’re able to, save up money and go one year. I promise you won’t regret it. If you’re curious about what it’s all about, they have a YouTube page with previous opening ceremony skits (I’m eagerly awaiting this year’s) and other guests have put up videos from the con that you can look up.
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.