If a German fan of the shape-shifting plastic robots, the Transformers, felt the need to join his fellow fans at a so-called Fan Convention, he or she better hoped that the wallet was full. Not because of the money one planned to spend at the actual convention itself (though one should put aside some money for that as well, of course), but rather for the getting-there part.
What alternatives were there for the German fan? The classic, of course, the Botcon in the United States. Of course going there usually entails spending a four-digit amount just for the flight, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to spend nine or more hours in a flying sardine can just to spend a weekend at a convention. Then there is, of course, the British Auto Assembly, but here, too, a flight needs booking, an overnight stay needs to be arranged, all of which puts a dent in the budget.
The cheapest alternative so far was to go to the Netherlands for the Dutch TF Conversions convention (called BOTS in 2008), but depending on where one lives in Germany, that, too, entails a journey of several hundred kilometers. And then there is, of course, the language barrier, because if one is not that fluent in English or Dutch, then communication becomes a bit of a problem.
So what does this mean for the German TF fan? Well, since this year it means he can stay home in good old Germany, talk to fellow fans in his own tongue, and have fun with other German and international fans. Because in 2009 we held the very first German Transformers Fan Convention, the C.O.N.S.
But let’s go back a bit into the past. For the longest time they said that Germany simply didn’t have the market for a convention. The German fans were lacking in numbers and enthusiasm, they said. Critical voices assured us that you’d need at least 500 visitors if a convention was to make sense, because anything less than that would mean guaranteed failure. Is that right? Why don’t we look across the pond and see how the giants of the convention business began:
Auto Assembly 2000: 30 visitors
Botcon 1994: 180 visitors
These numbers gave us hope. A first-time convention doesn’t need to be a mega-event with dozens of special guests, exclusive figures, and thousands of visitors. Starting small is the way to go. And so, in the year 2008, a courageous band of hardcore fans gathered in the electronic halls of the NTF-Archive.de forum, called together by our fearless leader and forum master Marc Sachs aka Lucy. Our goal: To hold the very first German Transformers Fan Convention in 2009, the Transformers’ 25th Anniversary.
The story of how everything came together is much too long to write it down here, but it was a difficult road. Personalities clashed, participants agreed to come and then changed their minds, the location was changed several times, and there were even days where even the most faithful fans felt doubts about our ability to pull this off. But with lots of enthusiasm, passion and stubbornness we went ahead and then the day finally came: Sunday, July 19, 2009, in Viersen at Saal Birgit.
But we’re not there yet, let’s go back one day. On Saturday most of the organization team arrived on location, including myself. A few others had already been there for several days at that point, hard at work to prepare our location, move the tables, put up the posters; all the many small things one needs to prepare for an event of this kind. And on Saturday we began with the final preparations.
The centerpiece of our convention, seeing as it took place in the 25th Anniversary year of the Transformers, was to be our 25-years-of-Transformers display. Members of the organization team had brought along the crown jewels of their respective collections and on a four meter long table we created a history-made-plastic, a timeline starting in 1984 and going all the way to present day. Above the figures there was the series of articles we’d begun writing at the start of the year, each detailing a separate year of Transformer history.
Right beside our display we presented the participants of our two contests. A large board held the best in Transformers fan art pictures, all of them hoping to take the win in the Fan Art Contest. And right besides the pictures was a table, where a number of custom figures posed for the eyes of the fan, each one looking to become number one in our Custom Contest.
Of course we wanted to open our first convention with a bang, so we organized a beamer, programmed a light show, and prepared music. All of which needed to be tested, of course, so nothing would go wrong come the day. And so we worked, we tested, we unpacked, we displayed. Thankfully preparations were made for our physical welfare, as the grill was fired up outside and drinks were handed out at the bar.
One small faux pas happened, though. In the very beginning of our plans we wanted the C.O.N.S. to last two days, not just one. This idea was abandoned rather quickly, seeing as we didn’t want to overdo it our first time around. Sadly this change in plans didn’t reach two fans, who arrived on Saturday and wondered why the convention wasn’t open yet. Thankfully these two chaps took it in good humor and once we organized an overnight-stay for them, they even helped with the preparation work. Fans of this kind are always welcome, naturally.
And our first dealer made an appearance on Saturday as well. 80s-Toys.de, also known in the NTF-Archive.de forum as Fohlensturm, lived close by and took the opportunity to inspect the location and his tables. We had a nice talk and together looked forward to tomorrow.
Finally it was time to hit the sack, seeing as it was going to be a long day tomorrow and we’d all need our strength. In the Sachs-Kehrbusch home a refugee camp was improvised, those living close by headed home, while still others headed for the hotel of their choice.
And then, finally, the day arrived. It was Sunday, the day of the C.O.N.S. The first courageous members of the organization team arrived at 6am, waiting impatiently and somewhat nervously for the first dealers to arrive. And arrive they did. The first truck parked out front, the Dutch license plate and blue shirts telling the tale: Gerrut Camaro, one of Europe’s biggest Transformers dealers, was in the building. Now it was time to unload, because more dealers started arriving by the minute.
In the chaos that followed tables were moved, boxes were unpacked, shelves were put up, and toys were presented, all to please the eye of the cash-carrying fan. Not just in the actual building, but also in two big tents out back. Tables upon tables filled with Transformers. What a sight.
Of course the members of the organization team took the opportunity to inspect the dealer tables before the doors were opened to the public. Because we, all of us, are first and foremost fans ourselves and couldn’t resist to look for some bargains of our own. No one wanted to head home with an empty trunk, you know?
Apart from many Transformers toy dealers, we also had a tattoo- and jewelry studio present, where fans could buy Transformers-themed jewelry and get various body parts pierced live at the convention. We also had a table presenting Transformers video games and fans were also offered comics and other Transformers merchandise.
At 10am the moment had finally come. We opened the doors on time, the light show started up, and the first visitors entered the building. Okay, most of them paid more attention to the dealer tables than the light show, but whatever. It’s not like we were any different.
The room filled up pretty quickly and at 11am it was time for the official welcome speech, done bi-lingual in German and English to accommodate those fans and dealers who’d come from the Netherlands and Britain. We received applause for the great start and pretty much immediately started into our first events, such as the Attacktix tournament, which took place across multiple rounds throughout the day.
A few short anecdotes about the C.O.N.S.:
Our 25-years-of-Transformers display was put up on the room’s stage and attracted quite a bit of attention from the fans. Including a boy of roughly 8 years of age, who dragged his mother along. He started on the table’s right side, where the modern-day figures were displayed, many of whom he already owned. Then he headed left, towards the past. Around the year 2000 or so he stopped, looked a bit confused, and then stated “No, those are too old!” and headed back right toward present-day. Kids these days...
Speaking of kids, as a Transformers fan since day one it was very nice for me personally to see a father and his son inspect the 25-year-display together, the father taking the time to tell his son a bit about almost every single figure displayed there. Here we see the next generation of Transformers fans coming into their own.
We also had three fans from Austria who had endured a 15-hour train ride, just so they could be part of this event. To these three I must say: Respect! That’s a sign of true enthusiasm and passion for your hobby.
We also had a guest of honor: Raymond T, founder and big boss of the Dutch TF Conversions convention, who arrived with his crew in tow to take a look at the German sister event. He was greeted with applause and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Raymond for all the valuable tips and help he gave us. We’ll meet again at the 2010 TF Conversions at the latest.
All in all I must say the C.O.N.S. went down very smoothly and peacefully. There were no complaints, the security guy we hired was bored throughout, everyone was in a good mood and had fun, which is the most important thing for an event like this. Now I didn’t have the chance to talk with every fan and dealer who was there, but those I did talk with all said that they enjoyed themselves and left with the firm commitment to return again next year.
At about 4pm we were nearing the end of our event and it was time for the thing quite a few fans had been waiting for: The raffle. Before we got around to that, though, we announced the winners of our Fan Art and Custom Contests. In the former our own Terrorsaur, member of the NTF organization team, took the win with a margin of just one vote. Her trophy: The book “You can draw Transformers”. The Custom Contest was swept by the Leader Brawl figure, created by LimeWire, who unfortunately hadn’t been able to appear in person, but no doubt still jumped for joy upon winning a FansProject Shadow Commander.
And then it was time for the raffle. Over the course of the day the fans had bought tickets and now looked toward our little win table, where lots and lots of prices were waiting. Thanks again to the people who sponsored items for our raffle, it was quite the turnout. During the raffle drawing the Dutch Connection scored quite a few wins, but other fans got their share as well and were happy. Including myself, by the way.
And then it was all over but the shouting. We thanked our many helpers, especially the owners of the Saal Birgit, our location, as well as those ladies and gents who had manned the bar and grill over the day, keeping up is in drinks and meats. We also gave thanks to the fans and dealers, who returned the favor with thunderous applause. More than one among us had tears in his or her eyes in the end and there was an extra round of applause for Marc aka Lucy, the initiator of this whole thing.
To the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, performed live and acapella on stage, the dealers began to pack it in. A few people stayed for one last beer or bratwurst from the grill. The members of the organization team gave a sigh of relief. We did it! And thanks to our esteemed cashier ladies we soon had the official numbers in hand:
We didn’t quite reach the first Botcon, but for a first-time event we did pretty well, I think, and we were satisfied. Final talks were held, congratulations were exchanged, dates were agreed on for the next year. Because one thing was certain for just about everyone involved: There would be a next year. The C.O.N.S. 2010 is set.
What else can I report? We packed in, we cleaned up, we hugged each other. We were tired, yes, but the good kind of tired. There were smiles on pretty much every worn-out face.
I’d like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all the members of the C.O.N.S. organization team:
- Marc Sachs (Lucy)
- Alexandra Kehrbusch (Skywarp)
- Carsten Löhn (Alpha 3)
- Friederike B. (Starfire)
- Kim C. (Xion)
- Thomas Marke (MegatronZero)
- Nico Lisges (Rumblebee)
- Patrick Gabriel (Scourge)
- Saskia Krug (To Punish and Enslave)
- Tatjana H. (SunEagle)
- Valerija A. (Terrorsaur)
- Johannes Mook (Cybertroner)
- Franziska Stark (Bumblebeegirly)
- Angela B. (Swoop)
- Reinhold Pütz (Transformer)
- Philip Schwersensky (Philister)
Thanks as well to those people who couldn’t be there in person, but helped regardless, be it by working on the website, distributing flyers, or giving us good ideas:
- Christian Kerwel (LimeWire)
- Tobias H. (Desastron)
- Daniela Schwersensky
And with that we approach the end of this little report. There are a lot of things left to be done, of course. Pictures must be developed, reports must be written, and there’ll also be a first resume, writing up what went great and what needs to be done better or differently next year. Because post-C.O.N.S. is pre-C.O.N.S., as the saying goes, and we’re heading directly into the planning stages for 2010.
To all the fans and dealers who were present at the C.O.N.S.: Thank you, thank you, thank you! For being there, for helping, for making the very first German Transformers Fan Convention a success. And if you had fun, then tell your friends and bring them along next year. Because one thing is for certain: We’re setting the bar a bit higher for the C.O.N.S. 2010.
Thanks to you all and have a good one, Yours truly, Philip
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