This past weekend, Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) featured the biggest celebrity lineup in one of the smallest states: Rhode Island. RICC has been known in the past couple of years for featuring big guest name stars and of course, this year was no exception! Their biggest guests were: Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead), Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things), and Stan Lee (Marvel Comics) who was making his last appearance at Rhode Island Comic Con
The guest list from this con was very promising for fans who were traveling from afar to Rhode Island. However, while the con may have featured a huge guest list as their biggest attraction, the event itself had some major flaws that would make any attendee’s experience a nightmare.
An interesting note about RICC is that they put a barcode on the badge; it seems that this barcode works similarly to an RFID badge system, such as those used by San Diego or New York Comic Con. Whenever an attendee was checking in/out of the convention, they were required to have their badge scanned — as well as a bag check. The system seemed to work effectively; this could be done more frequently at other conventions, in order to prevent anyone from sneaking into the show.
Perhaps one of the most notable things for a lot of attendees was the fact that the VIP badges were oversold. The con seems to use the same method as Wizard World: selling celebrity VIP packages, along with selling general VIP badges for early access on Saturday and Sunday. Because nearly everyone was a VIP, gaining early access to the con didn’t make much of a difference — it felt the same as having a normal attendee badge.
There wasn’t a con-specific map, so attendees had to rely on the volunteers for information. Additionally, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is not conducive to lines. The center has both an arena and a main building, with only one hallway connecting the two areas. That hallway could only accommodate traffic in one direction. The traffic went from the arena, which had the celebrity signings and photo ops, to the vendor room/artist alley. To get from the vendor room/artist alley, a person had to completely exit the building and join the huge entrance queue to get back into the building. There wasn’t a separate walkway to get back into the convention center; attendees had to completely exit the compound and re-enter via the main entrance line. Because everyone was required to have their badge scanned in/out, along with a bag-check on the way in, it was an unnecessarily time-consuming process.
The biggest downfall at Rhode Island Comic Con, would have to be the autograph/ photo op session with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, which was held on Saturday only. The signing and photo op were delayed because RICC offered fans the opportunity to get their baseball bats signed during the Con. That signing was in a private room with no fans. Attendees dropped their items off, and they were signed and returned later on in the day. Unfortunately, RICC also oversold that signing and overbooked Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s time, which led to a delay in the photo op and regular signing start times. Because Jeffrey Dean Morgan was late to his regular signing session, there were many disappointed fans who waited the entire day just to meet him, yet were unsuccessful. Rumor had it that the signings didn’t get finished until 11 pm. It was even reported that some attendees who weren’t able to stay didn’t receive refunds from RICC. In short, many attendees weren’t able to do much but wait in line all day and didn’t get to enjoy the convention, with some not even able to receive what they had wanted.
The next day, RICC seemed to have learned from the Saturday experience and took measures to ensure a smoother lineup process on Sunday for Gal Gadot. This time around it seemed as though they were making it their priority to ensure that no mistake happened. While Gal Gadot may have been late to her signing session in the morning, the process went well and no one left disappointed from her signing table. The Photo Op process, however, was a disaster when the photo crew lined up attendees super early. There were 4 tiers of photo ops available: Gold VIP, Silver VIP, Bronze VIP and regular attendees. Rather than honoring those attendees who had Gal Gadot’s VIP packages in a systematic fashion, the photo op staff told everyone to form one huge, unorganized line. The line then needed to be moved. Instead of working out an organized way to move people, the photo op crew told everyone to rush to the outside line. As a consequence, there was a mob of people moving from one line to join the major line outside. This caused a big hazard, because everyone had to go through a door to the outside line. Not only did photo op crew not honor the different tiers of the Gal Gadot’s VIP packages, the crew was aggressively turning away attendees when they asked for assistance.
Overall, my experience at Rhode Island Comic Con, as someone who was primarily interested in the autographs and photo ops, was that this was one of the most unorganized conventions I’d ever attended not only was the show disappointing, but it was an exhausting experiences as well. The majority of the volunteers and security people proved to be incompetent, and rather than being helpful they seemed to work against the attendees. The only way to actually get the best experiences from this con was to do your own research and hope that you could stay on top of the news updates — in the event the programs changed. In the end, Rhode Island Comic Con has the potential to become a great con, as long as they’re willing to change things for the better and listen to the attendees’ criticism.
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