In case you haven't noticed yet, we try to go to as many conventions as we can. Steel City Con has been a staple in our routine for several years and takes place every four months. It's predominantly a toys and collectibles show, but they also bring in celebrities. When we began going it was pretty small and kind of flea market-ish. This all changed in December of 2013 when they began getting more popular celebrities to attend the show. With the selling out of Pittsburgh Comic Con to Wizard World, and their first lack-luster event, fans in PA are looking for events that will give them more bang for their buck, so I can understand how this show got picked up on their radar. Unfortunately, Steel City Con just seems to be going to all lengths to show how poorly mismanaged this convention is. I spoke some about this in my previous post regarding this show, so I won't reiterate those points here, but detail our experience this time. I apologize for the lack of photos. I did dress up, but I was quite upset and didn't get any pictures taken. I think you'll understand once you read about our experience.
My family lives approximately two hours from Pittsburgh, so it is no small decision to choose to drive four hours round trip when we choose to attend an event. We also usually bring our toddler with us because he really truly loves going to Con and seeing everything (and he's generally pretty well behaved). My husband works a second job which doesn't allow us to leave super early on Saturdays, so I have time to check my email and do our normal morning routine before we leave. Nowhere did I see signs of the impending disaster that was awaiting us. My brother-in-law and his wife (who you can expect an even more scathing review from on her own blog, detailing her interactions with the manager of this event on Facebook. Check her out at The Mom Next Door.) arrived at least an hour ahead of us and said that they were waiting in line for tickets. We've been there before when they had a long line to get in, so this wasn't particularly alarming or anything. What is alarming is that they were still in line when we go there. Upon arrival we learned that the show was apparently sold out. Steel City Con, itself, had made no attempts to tell people this at all. The only mention of it I could find today was renowned artist Ed Beard Jr. making a note of it on his post to Steel City's own page on Friday night! The staff had known for quite a while that Saturday's tickets were already completely gone and made zero effort to tell anyone.
Unfortunately, no, it doesn't seem like they did sell more tickets or that anyone was even keeping track of how many people were leaving the convention to let those waiting get in. We waited for probably two hours outside in the sun with a toddler and no one came to give the queue any updates. There were some folks desperate enough to get in that they were buying wristbands from people who were leaving and gluing them back onto themselves to get in for what they came for. No attempts to disperse the line or turn people away were made. Steel City Con was happy to leave people standing outside for hours with vain hopes of getting in after long travels.
Ultimately, I'm glad we didn't get in because it was apparently so packed that it was difficult to move. Having a toddler in a stroller, that's a big hazard. Steel City had apparently anticipated the crowds because they had at least six policemen patrolling inside and out (who weren't doing anything, really, when they noticed the wristband scalping folks were doing). It has been well known to this event's staff and attendees that they need a larger venue, but allegedly the manager has a special deal with the Monroeville Convention Center, so he won't move on to bigger and better things, despite the obvious detriment to his event and how much more money he could make if he did. If you try to explain these things or voice your disappointment to the manager over on his Facebook page, you'll be met with rudeness, threats, and the almighty ban hammer (no, really, just wait until you see my sister-in-law's post).
My family had a shopping day in town and then went home, having dispersed our Con funds at local businesses instead. Sorry, artists and vendors who we really wanted to support-- Steel City Con made that an impossibility for many. Sorry to friends we were looking forward to seeing. This event has been removed from our priority list. I doubt that I will go back to it at all unless there is a big celebrity (like Christian Bale or Harrison Ford level) who I cannot miss meeting. My husband will likely only return if there is a celebrity signature he needs for a poster, and then, he will carpool with someone and not be spending much time or money there either. So long, Steel City, and thanks for all the missed fish. I am now looking forward to Three Rivers Comic Con's debut next month and SciFi Valley Con in June.