Tales from the front desk of Willycon XVIII


Photo by Aarhon Young

Former WSC student Brooklyn Svatos cosplays as Velma of “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” fame.

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

The registration desk for WillyCon 18 issued about 280 badges by the end of last Friday, and was sitting in the mid-400s when the convention wrapped up on Sunday.

In 2015, WillyCon drew only 310 attendees by the last day, not counting the people who preregistered and didn’t show up.

Needless to say, this year’s convention was something of a red letter weekend for the Sci-Fi Club.

Underlying the festivities was the reminder of the recent passing of the club’s longtime advisor, Ron Vick, as there was a small memorial at the front desk and a larger one set up in the convention’s snack room. It certainly didn’t seem to put a damper on things, as the con was just as vivacious as it was every year, but there was a somber undertone among many of the older guests.

“Ron was the father of Sci-Fi Club and WillyCon,” student Gabriel Flanagan said. “He will be missed but never forgotten. Despite losing Ron everyone came together–students and alumni and even people who just come here–to make sure the con kept going.”

Working at the front desk is a somewhat surreal experience, when it isn’t giving the volunteers flashbacks to part-time jobs at fast food joints. The likelihood of having a dozen people wander in all at once are about the same as having one person show up for the entire shift and talk for half an hour, but that’s actually part of the fun.

On Saturday, by and large WillyCon’s busiest day, trying to figure out the costumes people show up in is one of the most amusing pastimes for a desk worker. Speaking from personal experience, few things are as startling as looking up to find Merida’s bushy red hair about two feet from your nose.

A handful of the other cosplays spotted around the con were people dressed as Pokemon, famously insane anime characters, members of the Royal Manticoran Navy (the fan society from last year’s guest of honor, David Weber) and an over-the-hill Johnny Bravo. The Sci-Fi Club president, Landon Norquest, spent most of the convention dressed as Deadpool dressed as other characters, something the notoriously fourth wall-breaking character would probably do.

Panels, the hour-long presentations put on by club members and other interested parties, provide most of the content of the convention. The topics vary in interests from year to year, but always run the gamut from cosplay tutorials to off-the-wall theory discussions to attempts to raise interest in obscure fandoms.

New to the convention this year was a Super Smash Bros. tournament put on by the fledgling Smash Club. It ran two variants—For Fun, and For Glory. The For Fun tournament had the highest turnout and was the friendliest to casual players, allowing the use of all stages and all items. This would frequently result in bizarre and hilarious situations where people would win entirely on accident by grabbing the right thing at the right time.

The For Glory tournament pitted more ambitious/skilled players against each other using the official competitive rules for Smash 4 and, due to some campaigning by the club’s vice president Patrick Hancock, got streamed over the internet courtesy of a group of players who drove in from Norfolk.

“I personally think that WillyCon went over very smooth,” Norquest said. “At first it all seemed like chaos, but as it drew closer everything seemed to fall into place. It was still a ton of work, but overall it was one of the best turn outs we’ve had.”