October 31, 2022

Kummacon 2022 – Luck in misfortune

 Hello nerds!

I was away at my first convention for the year this past weekend and well, what started as simple plans to go as visitors to Kummacon with a group of friends ended up being a lot more chaotic than that. :D So I'm gonna tell you all about my Kummacon experience but first some base info about the con itself – Kummacon is a free entrance, small-ish convention held in Oulu that is dedicated to literature and popular culture. This year it was held in Tuira's school (Tuiran koulu) during 29-30.10.2022.

Let's go~

Kummacon main entrance (school's courtyard).

So as I said I had originally planned to go with some friends and we had sleeping accommodations planned over at another friend's place, who had newly moved to Oulu to study. Everything was looking normal but less than a week before the con one of my friends ended up getting covid and had to cancel the trip. Well, I figured I could still go together with the Oulu friend (at this point it was also unsure if Sallukka and her bf would make it) so I kept my plans intact, after all I already had bus tickets that couldn't be refunded...
Well, like a couple days before departure I get the news that said friend in Oulu was down with a case of covid as well and I had to find another place to sleep. Aw shit, here we go again with me old fine luck. So yeah, I ask my aunt (who lives in Oulu) if she could take me over and initially she said yes, although she warned that she had some very slight symptoms of an approaching cold. I tried to stay hopeful although I had a bad feeling about it. Friday morning came, the day of departure, and she sends me a message saying that she's sick and can't take visitors. So there I was with no place to sleep and my bus leaving in 8 hours and I literally knew no one else in Oulu who could help. The panic was real. I was so desperate I figured I'd try the only thing I could think of in that very moment – contact Kummacon itself through their social media channels. Yes I was that desperate and had exhausted all my other options and no, I wasn't willing to sleep in the station or some other spurgu 101 thing like that. 
So I reached out to Kummacon and by the time they saw my message and answered I had 45 minutes left before I would have to leave for the bus station at the latest. I was told I was welcome to sleep in their 'lattiamajoitus' as we say in Finnish (floor accommodation literally, or 'sovsal' as the Swedes say) if I could help with building the con on Friday, said sleeping accommodation was reserved for workers only. I of course agreed to this pseudo worker role, it saved my ass and my con trip. But then I had the horrible realization that I need to bring my own shit to sleep on! And I don't own a sleeping bag or even any kind of yoga mat or the like! And I had less than 15 minutes to come up with something, pack it and leave my humble abode. 

This was my panic solution: a tiny bean bag chair and two wool blankets.

The trip down to Oulu went somewhat okay, I got some motion sickness in the bus (and a shiny Halloween Pumpkaboo fled on Pokemon Go because the bus was moving too fast to catch it) but other than that it was bearable.
Once I arrived in Oulu the clock was 18:00 and I had no idea where to go. I looked up the school on Google Maps but it was very weird cuz it would change the name into something else starting with 'L' when you entered it, making me very unsure of if it was the right location. But Kummacon didn't answer my messages so I just had to trust Google to not be a jerk. I walked for roughly 30 minutes before I got to what Maps told me was the right place – it looked pretty dead. I walked around the building in the dark until I found a glass door type area where I could see people inside, people who clearly looked like con workers. I stood there for at least 10 minutes waiting for someone to notice me (door was locked) but even if someone did then everyone actively ignored me. This was quite anxiety-inducing and somewhat frustrating as I expected someone to at least have the courtesy to finger point me in the right direction as I'm not a local (evident by my big suitcase lol) and the school's layout was quite confusing to me. After a while I gave up and continued wandering around the building; I was quite exhausted by the time I found where you could slink in. I made sure to find one of the organizers and explain my situation and that I'm here now and I was told I could just drop my stuff somewhere and get to work.
I don't really remember much what I did on that Friday night once I arrived, I know I helped unpack stuff in the secondhand shop at least and that I moved some chairs around and texted on the doors to the Holmes and Poirot lecture rooms.

Yes, this is my handwriting. :>

Oh and at the end of Friday I upgraded myself from a pseudo unofficial con worker to an official con worker, especially as I was informed that Kummacon had in fact had several cancellations due to people getting sick and that they were a bit understaffed. I figured why not as I have plenty previous con worker experience anyway and now that I was alone and had nowhere else to go (except the con building) that I might as well do my part and be useful while getting green room benefits heheh.
I remember I had massive issues falling asleep on the Friday-Saturday night as my panic bedding solution was quite uncomfortable and made my lower back pains worse. I know I slept less than 4 hours that night and I constantly woke up because I was trying to find a position I could sleep in.

Saturday morning came and while I was still morning groggy I was tasked with going outside in the rain and putting up Kummacon posters nearby with painter's tape. Well at least that woke me up. xD 
Back inside I had breakfast in the green room and then I was assigned to 'yleisvänkäri' duty (general con worker, so I did a lot of random stuff) and just patrolled the con area, emptying trash etc and just offering a helping hand wherever needed.

Kummacon info desk. Notice the reindeer plush.

Kummacon mystery game. Solve the disappearance of their mascot.

This year Kummacon had a 'Noir' theme if you wondered about the mystery and detective approach, including the names of the lecture rooms mentioned earlier. 
Near the entrance was this black paper roll on the wall that visitors could draw on, I love it when cons do this as it's such a simple thing to add but it creates a lot of engagement and personality over the course of the weekend and it's fun to go back to it over time and check what has been added. I forgot to draw Buttman on it though, I'm so sorry I've stained the very legacy I promised to upkeep. ;_;

Notice the sunbathing seal at the very corner. xD

I've always liked Kummacon in general, it's a very low-threshold event for first-timers as there's never been an entrance fee to date and it has this comfy, tiny community feeling. It doesn't have all the 'oohs' and 'aahs' that bigger cons do in terms of content and spectacles but Kummacon has the classic con repertoire to keep you at least entertained through most of its duration: anime karaoke, board games room, Artist's Alley, merchandise and Asian sweets to buy, cosplay competition, panels, escape room etc. There wasn't a video games room (which usually is a staple at cons) but other than that I don't really felt like it was missing anything crucial. And I'm low maintentance.

Part of the main area where sponsored shops were.

If you wanted plushies Urumi had you covered...

... and if you wanted sweets there was Manga Cafe.

Sponsor area viewed from opposite direction. Notice Pelimies in the corner.

Opposite side of sponsor area was for chillaxing.

Artist's Alley was located in the corridors and back area.

Tuira's school as a host building wasn't optimal but decent enough to function. The layout of the building is kinda awkward, even for a school. It's very narrow and feels like it's 75% corridors lol. So needless to say there were a lot of situations when certain passages would get really crammed because people would pile up there and block the hallways due to walking into the area from two different directions simultaneously etc – the Artist's Alley was particularly notorious for creating bottlenecks like this as half of the tables were placed along a narrow reverse U-shaped corridor while some were lucky enough to be put in the tiny open area (as seen on my photo above) at the end of the building. At some point the issue was somewhat lessened by putting up signs showing the walking direction, although I lowkey feel like this should have been predicted and prevented already before the con started by putting up big arrow floor signs or markers etc. The papers were very easy to miss, to be honest.

I found someone sus.

There's one thing that really caught me by surprise though and that was the popularity of the second-hand shop, aka 'conikirppis'. For those not aware of how this works it's basically that con attendants can sign up prior to the event to leave items that they want to sell (price marked etc) and those will then be sold in the second-hand shop by some workers who have that as their responsibility. Unsold items will then be returned to the owners along with money gained. But yeah, what I was about to say was that already before it opened its doors on Saturday there was a clear line of people queueing in front of the door. And it kept getting bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And by the time it was time to open I saw that the line of people had grown so big that it ran across almost the whole length of the corridor, all the way to the Artist's Alley. It was crazy. People had to line up and patiently wait for their turn to have a chance of entering the second-hand due to it being located in a small classroom. I kept walking by the area many times due to being a worker and I noticed that the line was there and it felt like it didn't get any smaller for the longest time. There were even some con workers outside the door regulating the entrance to keep it from escalating into overcrowded chaos.

Found this funny. xD In the second-hand shop.

I realized I forgot to take photos of the merchandise hall as it was located in another interconnected building (you had to go outside and enter another building directly to the right and then left, if exiting from the school's courtyard) but yeah, this was where you could find the non-sponsor shops and booths. Some other conventions like Matsucon and Kazecon also had their information stalls here along with some book publishers and the local LGBTQ+ organizations. 

Oh and yeah, to fit with the mystery theme one could find these funny little "missing person" posters scattered around the con. These gave me a chuckle or two, there were more of them and I'm not sure I even spotted them all as I didn't venture into all the available classrooms to check.

I gotta say I'm happy things turned out the way they did in the end. Sure that the panic mode before departure was absolutely horrible, in every imaginable way, but I had some serious luck in misfortune and I ended up being a valuable asset for the Kummacon crew too – so it worked both ways!
And I gotta admit that I had a lot of fun and that the co-workers were all really pleasant and fun personalities to deal with although I'm in awkward potato mode quite often lulz. 
The Green Room had some really wild discussions going on at times, like I remember walking into some deep talk about condom-flavored ramune that escalated into playful lobbying for a 18+ version of Kummacon that should naturally be called Kuumacon (literally Hotcon). I had to excuse myself at that moment and leave the room before I died. It was hilarious.

The secrets that lie inside the Green Room...

Oh and I gotta say that I slept the Saturday-Sunday night so much better and guess why? I got to upgrade my bedding! There was this other con worker who also slept in-location and after I happened to spill the beans about my uncomfortable last night's sleeping ventures I was told that I could borrow the megasized bean bag chairs that had been in use for visitors to sit on during the day. Well, needless to say I went to the chill corridor and grabbed one and dragged it into my lair!

Panic bedding 2.0

It's not that visible on the photo but the blue one is easily twice the size of my emaciated black one and had so much more stuffing. Obviously I slept like a rejuvenated king considering the original situation, almost. :D

I couldn't stay the full day on Sunday. As I had prebooked my bus tickets already before I had any idea that my original plans would fail it of course meant that I was limited by those times. So on Sunday I left the con building around the 15:00 mark after doing some last minute Artist's Alley gift shopping for friends and relatives. 

My treasure haul for myself. The shirt was a worker bonus.
(gifts for others not pictured)

All in all I had a great time at the con and left with a warm and fuzzy feeling in the chest. I will definitely keep on attending Kummacon as it feels like a safe place to be, it's relaxing, moves at its own pace and the people behind it work hard to keep it free and inviting for everyone. It's not perfect but you can tell that the organizers do it with their hearts; it's a passion project that has endured over the years and for that it deserves a round of applause. I would definitely be interested to go as a worker in the future too.

That's it for this time, thanks for reading!

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