ConGlomeration 2015

ConGlomeration is a small science fiction convention held every year in Louisville, Kentucky. This year it was held over the weekend of April 3-5, 2015 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and the Triple Crown Convention Center. This is a small convention center on the east side of town.

Because we were selling and wanted to be able to start loading in as soon as the doors opened Friday morning, we went down to Louisville on Thursday. There was so much road work on I-65 that we were hearing about it taking four hours to go forty miles, so we decided to make the trip via Cincinnati and avoid the mess. Even with the additional distance, we didn't add all that much time, which was a very good thing with a storm coming in.

When we got to the hotel, they didn't have our room ready for us. Because they told us it would only be a few minutes and I'd already put our personal possessions on a cart to bring in, we decided to wait there in the lobby until we could actually get in. It may have been a mistake, since it gave the storms that much more time to arrive.

By the time we got our stuff into the room and headed up to the mall and Vitamin World, the western sky was already getting dark. We found our vitamins without too much trouble, but then had computer trouble when it came time to check out. By the time those were straightened out and we got back out to the van, it was already spitting rain. We wanted to get gas at Sam's Club before returning to the hotel, but that may have been a big mistake. While I was pumping the gas, the storm cut loose and started pouring, with the wind driving the rain in sheets across the parking lot. I jumped back into the van as soon as I was finished, and we headed back to the hotel. Even that mile or so was frightening because the wind was so strong it made the van rock.

We figured we'd just pull under the hotel's entrance canopy to get our last few personal belongings out. However, it was no shelter from the extreme blowing rain, so we just grabbed what we could and dropped it inside the door, then parked the van. I had to run to the door and got rather wet in the process.

After that there was nothing to do but settle in and wait for the storm to spend its fury so I could retrieve the last few things i hadn't been able to retrieve. When we went to make supper, I discovered that the wind had blown rain right through the heater/AC unit and soaked the carpet under our food bags. So I had to move everything to a dry location -- thankfully I hadn't put my backpack there and gotten my notebooks all soaked.

By that point it was time for supper. At least at this hotel we had a microwave oven, which made it much simpler to heat up our food. In the evening we took it easy. I worked on a novel while my husband gamed on his computer.

On Friday morning we got going super early because we were hearing reports of flooded roads and didn't know whether we might encounter problems. We had the hotel breakfast and then headed over to the convention center, where we waited until the dealers' room co-ordinator arrived. He was running late because of the storm, but he was still able to get the doors opened a little early and let us back the van into the loading dock. That enabled us to unload without having to carry merchandise through the rapidly increasing rain or worry about tarps. He also got us some good helpers who sped up the process of carrying everything in.

Once we got everything inside and the van moved to a regular parking spot, we had to get our sales structures built and everything into place. It didn't take quite as long as usual because we were bringing books where we might otherwise have brought t-shirts, but it still took a lot of time. We were still putting the final touches on things when they opened the doors to the general membership.

I guess I'm just spoiled after the huge comic and anime cons, but it felt almost empty as people trickled in. It probably didn't help that, when I finally was able to check my e-mail, I discovered that Amazon had suspended my Marketplace seller account. Apparently the guy who'd complained about a book right around the time of Indiana Comic Con had decided that it just wasn't worth his trouble to return the book for a refund, and he'd slam me with a negative instead. That, combined with two other negatives by people who'd bought books described as reading copies and then complained about the condition (perhaps in hope that I'd refund the money without requiring the book be returned, thus netting them a free book?), put my metrics over the limit and they automatically shut me down. Worse, because I wasn't where I could check my e-mail while I was loading in and setting up, I got a "policy violation" for not reading the message right away. I was rather surprised on that one, since they usually allow a 24-hour grace period on responding to messages. After all, many people sell books as a sideline to a day job, and some day jobs don't let you check personal e-mail while at work.

I didn't see a lot of my friends, but I told myself that the severe weather may have created difficulties for them. If they had storm damage, they might be far too busy dealing with contractors and insurance adjustors to get to a con. It also didn't help that one of the buildings at the nearby GE industrial park had caught fire and was spewing chemical-laden smoke into the heavy, dampish air.

When the dealers' room closed for the evening, we made a brief visit to the con suite and talked to a few friends. Then we headed back to the hotel for supper. I also did some more work on my novel before we turned in for the night.

On Saturday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast before heading back over to the convention. We got a little more breakfast food at the con suite, then headed over to the dealers' room to get our tables open for business. It also gave us a little time to walk around and visit the other dealers.

Business continued to be slow, but we finally did get to see some of our friends. We got bad news about some other friends, one on the medical front and the other on the financial. However, we also were able to get a lead on a really big comic con in June, and worked on making the necessary contacts to get into it.

After the dealers' room closed, we hung out in the con suite until the parties started. I was going to do some work on my novel, but instead I ended up talking with some friends.

The Ghostbusters had a party again this year, with their usual bar for those who drink. The MELO party had food as well as a bar, including some truly wonderful chocolate chip cookies, baked right there on site. After we'd visited both parties, we headed back to our hotel to crash for the night.

On Sunday we had to hurry because we needed to get our personal belongings out of the hotel and check out before we headed over to the con. However, we still had enough time to make a brief visit to the con suite before going to the dealers' room to open our tables for business.

Business continued to be slow, and several of the people I talked with expressed concern about the future of the convention. It had only about half the attendance it usually gets, which could create a real financial bind. If it can't make its room block and has to pay additional money to the hotel, it won't have the seed money it needs for next year' s convention, and could have to close. It doesn't help that a lot of younger fen are moving away from the traditional literary science fiction cons to anime and comic cons with big-name guests.

As a result of the slow sales, we started packing early. However, we now have so much stuff that we were still packing when the dealers' room closed and we needed to start carrying out. We were able to get some good helpers and I could start carrying out some merchandise while they were still packing the rest. As a result, we were able to briefly visit the con suite before we hit the road, and we still got back home before it was too late.

Copyright 2015 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated May 1, 2015.