Over the weekend I took my daughters and a nephew to Awesome Con, a pop-culture festival now in its third year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. If you were to ask me to describe the experience in just one word, that word would be awesome. Here are three reasons why:
1. It’s grown up so fast. When I went to the first Awesome Con two years ago, it was a scrappy little show that, while well attended, took up just a few salons and a handful of breakout rooms at Walter E. Washington. This year, it sprawled across 230,000 square feet of exhibit space and more than 10 breakout rooms, with attendance projected at more than 50,000. All those people letting their geek flags fly — I saw people dressed as superheroes and villains, Disney princesses, Star Wars and Star Trek characters, robots, ninjas, aliens, and on and on and on — made for a crazy mashup of energy, enthusiasm, and good will. It was just a fun and welcoming place to be.
2. There was a harassment policy. This is something we feel strongly about at Convene, and it was nice to see Awesome Con place its policy front and center on site, so that it literally was one of the first things I saw when I stepped into the convention center. It also appeared on posters and digital signage throughout the show. And while Awesome Con’s full policy is specific and detailed (excerpt: “Harassment includes, but is not limited to, verbal comments that reinforce social structures of domination related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention.”), kudos to organizers for keeping the messaging on all the signs direct and to the point, with “FEELING HARASSED?” doing most of the heavy lifting.
3. Kids were very welcome. Awesome Con’s Kid Zone was set up right in the middle of the show floor, with tables and tables of coloring books and crayons, free comic books, and other activities. There was a packed schedule of live events, too, including drawing contests featuring some of the comic artists at the show, competitions to create new superheroes, and more. As a dad who likes to share things with my kids, it was nice for them to feel just as welcome at Awesome Con as I did.