Tampa Bay Comic Con

Tampa Bay Comic Con is a large comics and popular culture convention held over the weekend of August 1-3, 2014 in the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida. Because of the distance involved, we started early, leaving Indianapolis Tuesday morning. We went via Cincinnati because of the road construction snarls in Louisville, but it still meant we had to deal with a fair amount of road construction on the way through Kentucky and Tennessee.

We got to Chattanooga about suppertime and checked into our transit quarters for the night. The area brought back memories of a family trip back in 1982, when we'd visited an aunt in Alabama. On our way back from that trip we stopped in Chattanooga and went partway up Lookout Mountain. However, this time there would be no time for such sightseeing.

After a decent night's sleep, we hit the road for Tampa. Since this was our first time to visit Florida, we were caught quite by surprise by the agricultural inspection station just past the weight station. Fortunately their ramp was full and the bypass lights were flashing, because we would've been required to stop based on the body type of our van, in spite of being plated as a passenger vehicle.

As we entered Florida, we noticed how much hotter the air had become. In Chattanooga it had been downright chilly, but now it was quite hot. I kept a very close eye on the van's temperature gauge, especially when we were in construction zones and had to go more slowly.

We got to Tampa in time for a late supper. Because the hotel by the convention center is so expensive, we stayed the night in a cheaper place on the outskirts. It was a little tricky to find it, but once we were in, we got checked in without trouble and were able to have some downtime and decompress after the drive.

On Thursday we were able to take things easy because load-in didn't begin until 2PM and we wouldn't be able to check into the downtown hotel right away. We carried our stuff to the van, then sat in the lobby and relaxed for a while before heading downtown.

That drive proved a little tricky, mostly because of poor signage. But we did get checked into our hotel before time to load in, so we were able to get our personal belongings into the room and under air conditioning.

Getting to the convention center proved a little more difficult, mostly because there wasn't good signage on the loading dock. As a result, we weren't able to get there right at the moment they opened, and had to sit on the ramp for a while until a space opened for us.

Unloading the van in the ferocious Florida sun provided its own challenges. By the time I got everything out of the van, I was feeling a definite sunburn coming on, and I still had to get stuff carried in and set up.

Once we got everything carried in, I had to take the van back to the hotel parking lot. Then I walked back to the convention center, although if I'd been thinking, I probably should've taken the hotel shuttle bus and saved myself some time.

We spent the rest of the evening hurrying to get set up as well as we could. However, we finally ran out of time and had to head back to our hotel with about half the t-shirts still needing to be put up. Even at night the air was still hot and thick, and it felt a lot longer to walk than when we drove.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast. Then we caught the shuttle bus to the convention center, where we finished setting up. We then had some time to go around the exhibition hall and look at the other dealer booths. While I was making the rounds, I found an artist who lent me a pair of needle-nose pliers so I could fix the chain on one of my watches.

Because so many people were lining up in the hot Florida sun, they decided to go ahead and start bringing people in early. However, it seemed to take an awful long time for them to trickle upstairs to the exhibition hall, because we really didn't see much of an increase in sales.

Sales were slow but steady all day long on Friday. We were busy but never truly overwhelmed by the level of business. When they closed for the night, we headed back to the hotel to have supper and see where we stood financially. I was happy to see that we seemed to be doing fairly well, so I pulled out my computer and started looking at restocking possibilities.

On Saturday they'd decided to open at 8AM because of the huge number of single-day pre-registrations they needed to process. Because programming wasn't supposed to start until 10AM, we were led to believe we'd have a huge surge of shoppers. However, I found things a little slow compared to what I'd been expecting, although things did pick up later in the day. But there was never a time when we were so busy that I literally couldn't get a bathroom break when I needed it, although I might have to hurry through the crowds so my husband didn't fall too far behind.

Once the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to the hotel to get supper and some sleep. A big storm had come through during the last hour of sales, and it was still raining a little as we waited for the shuttle bus. The police had closed off some of the roads, so we had to wait in a different place than we'd been picked up.

Still, the ride back was quick enough that we could get some relaxation time in after supper. I continued to look at my restocking possibilities, although sales weren't quite as huge as I'd hoped and I knew I wouldn't be able to buy everything I'd hoped to get.

On Sunday we had to get our stuff out of our room and down to the van in order to check out. The hotel was really cool about stuff and even let us ride the shuttle bus down to the convention center after we'd checked out.

Sunday sales were fairly decent, although not as overwhelming as at Indiana Comic Con. We started packing early so we'd be ready to load out when the loading dock opened. However, as it turned out, I wasn't able to get the van as quickly as we'd hoped, so we got a late start. As we hurried to make up for lost time, things weren't going in as efficiently as they'd come out. We'd emptied several boxes, but still couldn't get stuff to fit back in properly. I finally had to abandon one empty box because it just wouldn't fit.

Then we headed out to the Sleep Inn on the outskirts of town. We missed a turn, which meant we ended up being a bunch later than we'd planned. By that point we were both exhausted and wanted to sleep. But we had to shower because we were just so sweaty from all the heavy labor we'd just finished.

The next day came way too early, since we needed to get all the way to Knoxville for the night. We had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then checked out and hit the road. We wanted to stop in Gainesville and make a big deposit at the branch of our bank there, but by that point I was so exhausted I couldn't keep driving.

My husband took over the next part of the journey while I tried to get some rest. Even so, I was still tired when I resumed driving. By the time we finally got to Knoxville, I was ready to collapse into bed.

At least we didn't have so far to go on Tuesday to get home, so we could take things a little easier in getting up and moving. Still, I was tired and miserable a good bit of the way, and not in a great frame of mind to deal with picking up at home.

Copyright 2014 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated August 9, 2014.