Another June, another Wizard World Sacramento in the books. This past weekend Wizard World made its rounds back to the Sacramento Convention Center for their 3rd appearance in the heart of California, bringing with it hoards from fandoms near and far. Having been to many Wizard World events, I would have to say that they are finally listening to the crowds and making positive changes. This was by far the best WW Comic Con I have been to yet and after my reluctance from last year’s WW Reno they have truly outdone themselves. In the weeks leading up to the event I noticed that their media/PR team was working double time at trying to promote the event around the Sacramento region with radio spots, heavy online advertising, and offering half price promo codes like they were going out of style. However, Wizard World may have lost the momentum they once had in the area due to their poor performance last year; they knew they had much to prove this time around.
Luckily this year I was able to attend all three days of the Con and from the beginning noticed a drastic difference from previous Wizard Worlds. Due to recent public events the Sacramento Convention Center and Wizard World teams focused highly on the safety of attendees and patrons. Staff Representatives announced that there will be multiple entry points to maximize entrance and exit efficiency and each point will be equipped with safety checks from Police and Security teams. Upon entrance, attendees were scanned with a metal detecting wand, all bags/purses/backpacks were thoroughly checked and rummaged through and then you were directed straight into lines to pick up any wristbands for entrance into the main hall. Cosplayer’s weapons, regardless of how cartoonish or fake looking, were also carefully checked and tagged with an orange zip-tie to identify their safety. Masked costumes were allowed entrance only after individuals were asked to remove their masks upon entrance and exit of the venue. Although it took just a little longer to enter the event because of the initial disorganization of last minute procedures, the safety precautions were much appreciated and met with limited if any resistance by attendees.
Friday’s turnout was surprisingly full and thriving as attendees streamed in through multiple entry points and filled the main hall to nearly capacity. The layout of had changed significantly from the last time Wizard World was in Sacramento and offered larger aisles, less vendor booths, newly added video gaming and artist areas, in addition to a highly focused Artist Alley. It was refreshing to see that the issue from previous events with redundant vendors and overly crowded smaller aisles was readjusted to create a more enjoyable shopping experience. Artist Alley was also improved with larger booths/table spaces that truly turned the area into a much needed focal point. Artists were finally able to showcase their talents, products, and art by being the center of attention in the large Main Hall. Compared to last year where the aisles were cramped and artists were nearly stacked on top of each other, attendees almost stayed away just out of uncomfortable access to the artists. But, this year you could mingle and speak with artists up close and personal without having to wiggle in and out of cramped tables.
Saturday had a solid turnout however was nowhere near as packed as previous years. Attendees came out in droves to cosplay and socialize amongst each other, which was probably the main reason they attended in the first place as the celebrity appearances were lackluster. Granted, three up and coming actors – Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier [Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier]; Captain America: The First Avenger), Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger; Agent Carter; Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and Evan Peters (American Horror Story; X-Men: Days of Future Past; X-Men: Apocalypse) appeared over the course of the weekend. They were the heavy hitting names on the roster for celebrity meet and greet but didn’t bring in the number of patrons as larger heavy hitting names could have like Chris Hemsworth in the past for example. Also, it was very apparent that Saturday’s turnout was not as anticipated due to the disinteresting programming that was offered in the rooms outside of the main hall. Many panel discussions, Q&A’s, and podcasting recordings were maybe half to three-quarters full during the peak event time. The largest programming event during the three day Con, like usual, was the Cosplay Costume Contest. Dozens of individuals graced the stage with their amazing cosplay costumes and the overall winner of the entire weekend and the contest was a family of World of Warcraft Orcs that blew the crowd away.
Sunday was the lightest day of attendance with drastically empty aisles early on and understandably so as it was Father’s Day. The morning started slowly but the venue filled slowly as the afternoon progressed. More and more fathers began arriving with their families in toe as they got to enjoy the selection of games, comic books, and toys. In addition to the dads, I noticed more cosplayers of all ages were arriving and that was probably a result of the Children’s Cosplay Costume Contest that took place in the late afternoon. The video gaming stage and artist public drawing area was pretty dead and didn’t capture the audience’s attention as it did in the prior days. This was interesting as the two stages were new additions to the offerings from Wizard World Sacramento but still need some kinks to be worked out. They were interesting additions but seemed to be poorly executed because every time we passed they were not being utilized and instead were empty a majority of the time. The show announcer would periodically announce a new group or artist being featured on stage but rarely would we see anyone.
Wizard World is making positive changes and finally listening to the masses as they continue their tours across the nation. It was a great time had by all and could use a little more finessing but overall much better than the last few I have attended. I left last year questioning my return to another Wizard World but with all the additions and corrections made from past mistakes, I am honestly excited to see what they have to offer. Hopefully, they will be able to offer more celebrities, slightly better programming, and even more artists. Keep up the good work, Wizard World.