Are you a nerd? Then you’ve probably heard of Fan Expo Canada, the “Comic-Con of the North.”
The past weekend was probably the most exhausting three days I’ve ever experienced. In case you didn’t see my tweets, I was a volunteer at Fan Expo Canada and it was also my first year attending said convention. I attended Ad Astra back in April, but only on the last day so it was a pretty pleasant experience. FEC? Not so much, though I did get to meet some awesome authors, score ARCs and swag and yes, hang out with Tom Felton.
I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and tried to dezombie-fy my brain with my mom’s crabmeat omelette. After a quick check of all our stuff–badge, timecard, shirt, appropriately geeky accessories, camera–my brother AJ and I set off for the subway. We arrived around 9 a.m. and immediately ran into cosplayers walking down Simcoe Street.
The convention was MADNESS. Within the first twenty minutes, I saw:
My actual job was crazy. I worked security for Tom Felton’s autograph line.
I was not prepared for the onslaught of fans. We started the morning at 9:45 with four volunteers, including myself, and things were pretty quiet. By 10:30, the line had poured out of the fenced area and onto the convention floor. Tom’s booth was situated at the very end of the autograph area, right next to the food court, so not only did we have to deal with the line, but we also had to get everyone moving once Tom had arrived. He didn’t get to his booth until around 10:30 and I swear, I have never seen a small space fill up as quickly as that walkway did. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated the words “We have to keep the walkways clear!” and “Please keep moving!” and “One photo only, then you have to keep walking, thank you!” Seriously, it will be too soon if I ever have to say those sentences again. (Though I am a TIFF volunteer at the two Gala/red carpet venues next month. Oh dear.)
My team leader pulled me away from Tom’s line around 11:30 and sent me to Malcolm McDowell and Hayden Panettiere’s lines to help control their lines. I still don’t know how I’m not blind from all the camera flashes. I worked those two lines for almost the entire shift, with barely any time to look back at my friends at Tom’s booth. We had to deal with a lot of disappointed people that day, and the funny thing was, people actually took me seriously. This was a surprise because I’m so little and people often assume that I don’t know anything.
One good thing about being so authoritative was that my team leader let me sneak off to attend the Young and Fantastic panel as a thank-you for my work. It’s the only panel I wanted to attend all weekend and the next photo should tell you why:
The incomparable Lesley Livingston, Evan Munday and Alyxandra Harvey were on hand to talk about YA fiction and their love affair with fantasy. Honestly, it was one of the best hours of my life. Alyx and Lesley were hilarious and so intelligent that it was an absolute joy to listen to them. I didn’t have any of their books with me, but they signed my show programme (camera is being weird right now, so no photo).
After my shift was over, I found AJ and we wandered around the con floor.
A quick stop at Penguin Canada’s booth yielded ARCs of Crossed (I finished it last night!) and The Slayer Chronicles. Meeting the Penguin staff was amazing. They were so enthusiastic and happy to chat books that I left with a smile on my face.
Day 2/Saturday: My second day of Fan Expo was crazier than the first. I know, I know: how is that even possible? Try working Tom Felton’s line for five hours straight without a break. It felt like everyone and their families were beelining to Tom’s booth. We even had a run-in with some paparazzi, which I’d expected but fervently hoped wouldn’t happen. Let me just say that was not pleasant at all. Tom’s handler had informed us that the press was not allowed to take any photos of him. Fans/guests? Perfectly fine. Paps? They need to go. Unfortunately, all of the volunteers at the booth were small women. It was hard enough blocking cameras from attendees who were too close so that was a challenge.
Tom left around 2 p.m. for a short break before his photo-op, so we got to sit down and just hang out for a while.
This was definitely the most interesting day of Fan Expo. Most of the big crowds were gone, sleeping off the Saturday exhaustion, so the lines weren’t too much of a hindrance. I met Ray who gave me a Special Edition of Delirium!
I was placed in between Gary Kurtz (the producer of Star Wars) and Tom’s booth, and my team leader asked me to watch those two lines, plus Larry Hagman (the Major in I Dream of Jeannie) and Hayden Panettiere’s lines too. SO MUCH RUNNING.
Things got a bit hairy when I politely asked an attendee to exit on the other side of the red carpet and not in the middle of Gary Kurtz’s line. He shoved me and flipped me off, which was rude to say the least. I have a hard time understanding why it was such a problem for him to walk back just a little bit, but hey, it was clearly his problem.
Our shifts ended at 2 p.m., but I stayed on to work until Tom left for his photo-op at 3 p.m. I wasn’t expecting anything from him, but I did want to thank him for one of the craziest and most interesting experiences I’ve ever had. One of my fellow volunteers got him a card and we all signed it with our thanks and well-wishes.
I went up with Bonnie, a volunteer friend who wanted to purchase her own autograph, and was just as shell-shocked to discover that Tom wanted to give us autographed photos for free. Somehow I stammered out a “Yes, please!” and he thanked me and the other volunteers profusely for all of our hard work. As much as I value the autographed photo, that thank you is worth far more to me, because it was heartfelt. It’s nice to know that all of the stress and physical pain we endured for three days was appreciated.