DataByte and the Clear Convocation
So before I ran a Minecraft server, I almost ran my own convention. Ultimately the idea got shut down before I could even start because of an over-eager future manager and the convention drove itself into a financial hole soon after.
In a little town known as St Louis, Missouri, a small pony convention organized every year to generally celebrate all things pony. And lunch. They called themselves the Crystal Fair. I myself only decided to give pony conventions a real try in 2014, and found out about the Fair in 2015. Their webpage was BAD. Remember back in 1990 when everyone used tables to format layouts? Yeah, it was just like that, but with no background colors and with more images. And the “general” page was spelled “genera;”
At Trotcon 2015, I sought them out and offered to help them with their website. They agreed, and I unofficially became staff. “Unofficial” because I always was provided a badge, but was only listed as staff three years later, in their last full convention. My name was at the bottom of the ‘about’ page on the website, though, which was plenty for me.
At the convention, I eventually became one of the volunteer volunteers, doing all sorts of odd tasks to keep everything running. Panel room setup, sound check, sound and lights for events, bouncer, karaoke if they needed a panel to fill a slot. I even once drove to Chicago to pick up BNR and all of his sound equipment so we could have a concert. (If you’re reading this Blu, you’re awesome! Thanks for everything!). For the 2017 event, I ultimately had to design, rent, and beg and borrow from a very kindly Guitar Center employee in order to get the main stage set up. One of the musicians chipped in when I was unable to find gaff tape and a local DJ brought in his equipment so we could have stereo subs.
Crystal Fair is not the only convention I’ve staffed at over the years, nor have I just been staff. Of all of the years and all of the conventions I’ve been to (24 in the past 6 years), only two were just as an attendee. That’s counting non-pony conventions, too. 6 years, 10 conventions, 25 events. Panelist, Vendor, Vendor Helper, AV Staff, AV Head, Game Staff, Event Volunteer, Gamemaster, Gopher, Webmaster, Security, Chauffeur. I wear many hats and know many people. I also have a tendency to want to help if I am able, which tends to get me drafted for odd jobs I never asked for, even at conventions I’ve never staffed at. In the past few years I’ve gotten into a bad habit of not wearing my lanyard most of the time, as most people who would need to know me already know me.
Around 2017 and the solar eclipse that happened that year, I found out through some of my connections that the Crystal Fair was having financial trouble. I’ll not go into details, but suffice to say it was bad enough that they were not sure if they could keep doing conventions after the 2017 con was over. Just then as now with this Minecraft server project I’ve got going on now, I didn’t want to see a community lose their place. I had some cash set aside that I had been planning on using to install some house renovations, so I held off on that to make plans to make a proper proposal.
Running a real-life convention requires a considerable amount of planning, capital, resources, and dedicated workers. However, as a potential benefactor and/or investor, I was not comfortable with putting the resources I had into the same leaky bucket. I brought in a friend with a different set of connections to help with planning and future staff management, and we worked out an improved staffing hierarchy, responsibilities, and a roadmap to getting the convention back on track and profitable. The plan was that I would be assuming major financial and publicity-related decisions while keeping the name and keeping the original chairs on staff. I would offer to pay off either a portion or the entirety of the debt depending on how the books looked, and then use my remaining capital to jump start operations. I planned to meet with the current convention chair at their next mini social event, as they also ran the local brony meetup club.
That meeting didn’t quite happen.
My manager-to-be jumped the gun and confronted the chair about taking over the convention while I was not in the building.
At first, they seemed totally fine with us running a convention with their name. I don’t know what was said, but I know that it wasn’t right, as they had the wrong idea entirely regarding what I wanted to do with the convention. At the time, though, I thought perhaps they really meant running the convention for 2018 since the 2017 convention had already been planned out. I started scouting out potential locations and staff managers and ironed some of the details regarding operations. I also worked with an artist to revamp the website for a new and improved look to the con-to-be.
Cue September 2017. Day before the convention. I message Blu to see when they’re expecting to arrive in St Louis so I can try to synchronize and be there to help out. The reply I get back is simply they aren’t going this year. SLIGHT panic. Why didn’t anyone at the convention let me know the main events guy isn’t going this year!? I finish packing and am on the road within a half hour. They are in way over their heads, I just know it. I’m not wrong, either. When I show up I find that they had rented marginally better than the barest of basic equipment from Guitar Center. They didn’t have enough XLR, didn’t have any DMX, had four lights and a panel but nothing to connect them, no one on staff who knew how to run audio or light systems, only one sub, barely enough extension cables, and no snake.
That whole weekend I am basically tied to the main events room running the board and making sure everything runs smoothly, all the while having to guess sound levels from behind the sound cone. I still have a great time at the convention despite the sudden new staff and fiscal responsibilities. Played shuffleboard with Andrew Francis at a sponsor dinner, won a plushie at a charity raffle, and had front-row seats to watch Lee Tokar perform on stage for the first time. While I was distracted trying to keep the main panel and the concerts running, my manager-to-be again took the initiative to bring up my plan with the chair. I do not know what was said, but knowing the chair as I do and from what I heard from witnesses I also knew that negotiations were off the table at this point. He generally lacks tact when talking about things that he cares about, and very likely forgot that the thing he was talking about rebuilding was someone’s pride and joy. I pushed out the style updates for the website that I'd worked on and the images commissioned and let it be.
They’ve been doing single day events at a senior center that they rent out for free since then, and seem to be content with doing mini-cons while trying to pay off their debt. The artist I worked with to create the website assets no longer does pony stuff, but made me the Novel helpdesk image on the help page anyway. The con chair recently contacted me asking for the GoDaddy account info as they had apparently lost it. The next day, the website I had built was gone, replaced by a new system only partially built.
Oh well. Such is life. If I had taken over the Crystal Fair, BronyTales would have never existed. Life takes us for interesting twists and turns, and it’s up to you to make the best of them.