August 28, 2023

Mericon 2023 – Your friendly neighborhood pirate

Ahoy me mateys!
I'm sorry this summary is a bit late but I've honestly been extremely busy and exhausted with like a million hospital visits and other errands draining all my energy to even function so yeah, better a late summary than none at all, right? So the first ever Mericon was held earlier this month on 5th August in Rauma's main library. Rauma is an old harbor town located in southern Finland with quite a lot of maritime history – and that's also what the con was naturally themed around, name included!
I happened to be roped in early into Mericon's planning stages to assist the main organizer with ideas, brainstorming etc. One might wonder how come someone like me, who lives roughly 700 kilometers away from Rauma, ends up being one of the backstage devils? Well, I was offered a 1-week job contract by the library to paint marine theme signs for the event (thanks to personal connections) and it kinda spiraled from there with me acting as a co-organizer and doing various odd jobs to prepare for the event the days leading up to it. It was a really different experience to see how a con is built and being there and making it come true!

Mericon banner outside.

Because of my job obligations I left for Rauma on 29th July, taking the train from Kemi. The rain was pouring down while waiting for the train and I didn't have the bestest of times, despite it being a Saturday. Luckily the trip itself went pretty well, aside from my motion sickness acting up. Of course I was a dumb and forgot any preventive measures at home so I just had to endure it. :)) Oh well, at some point the train got delayed but managed to catch up again and I arrived at Kokemäki during the late night hours where Firith picked me up. He had recently moved to his own apartment in a small town outside Rauma and that's where I bunked for the duration of my stay.
I had Sunday to settle down and learn to know my surroundings before it was time to work and make Mericon happen. Yes, I'm actually still on sick leave, although unemployed, but my doctor gave me permission to take this job as he thought it would be a good opportunity to see if my functioning has improved to the point I can do some lighter, short-duration work within my interests and talents.

Monday came and me and Firith started our daily grind of fixing Mericon's last minute preparations and additions. Firith was one of the organizers too – he works at Rauma's library for the time being so it's pretty obvious that he had a lot to do with the con happening in the first place. And a lot to do with me ending up there too. But as I said my main job was to paint those art signs for the event and that's what I did during the week. It was a bit of a crunch but I managed to finish all six signs on time and during Friday evening, the day before Mericon, I did some odd jobs like picking out the games for the Playstation 4 and making sure everything's updated and downloaded etc. I would also help with random errands like picking up and carrying the items we got to borrow from Rauma's Maritime Museum for decoration purposes – which included old sea charts, a model ship and a wheel from a boat simulator!

Pre-Mericon preparations...

I painted the signs with acrylics and black marker for the lineart on A2 colored cardboard sheets. Upon completion I realized we would need some kind of protective cover and hence began the last-minute panic to find a local store that sold big enough plastic covers. Somehow we had just enough of that magical luck on our side and the problem was solved. For security measures I did tape the lower edge closed with painter's tape too to prevent the artwork from falling out of the plastic sheet as it was only closed on the shorter sides. We used good ol' blu-tack to stick the signs to various surfaces on the morning of Mericon. Oh the smell of blu-tack takes me back to early school years!

Oh and to avoid any confusion I should maybe clarify that yes, I am the painter of these signs although the eagle-eyed observer might notice that they are not signed Shiro Samurai anywhere – they're instead signed with my other handle KaamosWolf, which is my more personal identity that is focused on gaming, art and my other non-cosplay hobbies. This is also the handle I do my art commissions under [link will be added here later].

Rauma main library.

We had to wake up quite early on Saturday morning to do the final preparations for the con and the morning was... groggy and hectic. Thank god for energy drinks. xD But everything worked out well and Mericon opened its doors on time! I was positively surprised to notice that almost immediately after the doors opened congoers and curious visitors started streaming in!

Early view of the main entrance.

On the photo above you can see two of the handful of library workers who wanted to work on the event day to help out and yes, Rauma's library is extra cool because some of the workers totally dressed up for the occasion whether it be as the sea itself or a well-known Ghibli movie character. :D
We were roughly ten people working at Mericon that day, myself included. I know that the main organizer was incredibly busy at all times but despite that everything flowed quite well during the day and it looked like the visitors were enjoying themselves.

Mericon guest book!

Mericon actually had a guest book. I've never seen a con use one before but I know it was there to help us have a gist of how many unique visitors we had during the day and also of course for people to write their greetings and stuff! There were other counting measures in place too but the guest book was a fun little addition to make it seem a bit more personal. :)
What comes to the location itself I feel like the library worked decently for a first-time event of this scale. The building has mainly good light conditions, especially at the entrance and where the Artist's Alley was held (aka 'lukusali') along with good air circulation. I never noticed that the indoor air quality was bad at any place, despite the occasional crowding. In fact the air quality was probably one of the best I've ever had at an Artist's Alley! And what comes to the minor crowding I feel like when the location is a library you have to expect a certain layout with risk of there being a lack of open spaces because, well, organized book shelves you can't just move around on a whim. The library still has to be able to fulfill its role as a library because yes, despite it being Mericon day the library was also open to the general public. Hence why you would occasionally come across grandmas and grandpas smiling at all the colorfully dressed people because they had no idea that this out-of-the-norm opening day (library is normally closed on weekends) was because of a cosplay event. :) I know I kept running into some normies who were amused and having a great time seeing the library being so lively and full with the younger generations.

Bathrooms near the entrance.

Cafe Käpälä had treats specifically made for Mericon!

Pentti Peura's art exhibiton at the entrance.
Mericon had a bit of a fluke as Pentti Peura, a local artist, happened to have his art exhibition at the library over the summer and it fit Mericon's theme perfectly! I actually by chance met Pentti a few days before the con, he's a tiny man in his 80s with a sharp mind and an undying passion for the sea and his craft – I wish him many more healthy years and all the best as a fellow artist.

Con activities!

Mericon had a modest amount of activities and panels – there was the obligatory cosplay competition, a couple dance programs and some few other miscellaneous activities, including a book recommendation. I know even big cons have had a hard time with getting people to sign up to host panels and lectures so yeah, Mericon was no avoider of this current strugglebus trend.
There was also a gaming corner with a PS4 constantly in service along with a room open for anyone who wanted to draw and paint. There was also a drawing competition which interested quite many visitors because yeah, a few times when I checked in the room was completely full of eager artists!

All the games you could play on the PS4.

PlayStation room was found near the youth and child books.

Throughout the day there were some gamers. :)

'Piirustuspaja', the drawing room.
The drawing room was always supervised by a worker.
Miss Quackfaster could help you with any questions!

As soon as I had a moment to spare I took my liberties to check out the Artist's Alley. My work for the Mericon day was to be the general con photographer and also take the photos of the cosplay contestants, effectively making me one of the three cosplay judges as the photography aspect was factored into the judging process. So yeah, if you saw a pirate bumbling along with a camera in hand that was probably me. :D I need to learn to do the drunken sailor walk for better immersion lol.

Official Mericon poster and Artist's Alley directional sign.

Entrance to Artist's Alley, located in the reading hall.

aroaava's booth.

While I was walking around taking the general con photos I hit a leisurely chat with a few of the artists and what I could gather was that there seemed to be an almost uniform experience of the artists having sold more than they expected from a small, first-time convention – which was great to hear!
I personally bought a few magnets and some other small stuff too, will post a photo at the end of this blog post. :) Artist's Alley is one of the main attractions to me in any con I go to, I enjoy supporting art creators and decorating my home with things and trinkets that make me happy.

The library had put forward a lot of Japan themed literature.

General photo from near the stage.

Upstairs there wasn't a lot going on...

... save for the very yolo-style photography booth.

I'm gonna admit that the photography booth was a very last minute rush job and I'm not too proud of it lol. It fell on me and Firith to fix the fabric and sew the thing and of course the sewing machine broke like the day before the con (Murphy's law!). The original plan was to strap the fabric to two coat racks but when I saw those in person, on the morning of the con, I realized they would be way too low-hanging in case any of the cosplay contestants happened to be even slightly tall. We didn't want the fabric to drag too much on the floor either in case someone would trip on it and securing it between two bookshelves didn't give the desired height either. And yeah, running out of options me and my colleague thought to attach it to the elevator sign and then somehow just drape it over an art installation on the wall with a coat rack securing the other end. I don't know how the fuck it held in place the whole day but it did. xD It wasn't pretty nor professional by any means but it got the job done and yeah, next time we'll have to rethink the whole placement issue because this was clearly something that would have needed more planning prior lol. Luck in misfortune was that because we misjudged the needed width of the fabric it was able to stay put in place – if it had been wider it would likely just have slid off the art installation (cuz of its drooping sides) because the fabric was heavy and slippery and the extra width would have pulled it down...

Most of my Mericon day actually went by while taking photos, running from place A to place B to check that things were working as they should and helping visitors by explaining what kind of event Mericon is to grannies and moms coming over with their shy children for the first time to an anime convention. It's quite important to give a good first impression to those for whom this kind of event is a wholly new and unknown experience because you never know where this hobby might take them!

Themed display area with stuff borrowed from the Maritime Museum.

A pirate's life for me. My OotD was arrr!

Because of my work profile to snap photos of Mericon's happenings I found myself a little all over the place, including watching the dance shows and the cosplay competition. At least one can't say that I had a boring moment! The cosplay judge stuff also went smoothly and we all agreed on who the finalists were. I want to send out my best regards for all the contestants and hope we'll see you all on stage in the future too~

Andromed@ Duo: Special Live.

Cosplay competition in full swing.

But my day wasn't all work either. After landlegging around a fair bit I ran into some familiar faces, namely Auriraitsu and Gure, the former whom I hadn't seen for quite some time! They cosplayed Allan from the new and immensely popular Barbie movie (for good reason, it's a blast) and it was fun to see that those two friends of mine, whom had never seen one another before, ended up bonding quick too. We had our share of weird conversations but I mean, that's part of the fun with whacky friendships right? Regardless it was such a treat to see some long-time friends again!
Auriraitsu and Gure being silly. Please never change.

The two last activities for the day were a k-pop random dance and Firith's panel about his cosplaying endeavors throughout the years. I attended the latter. After that the first Mericon ever was coming to a close and it was time to help a bit with taking down decorations and stuff. It felt somewhat surreal when it hit me that it was over.

'Luentosali', the panelist room.
Firith's cheeky cosplay panel.

As I'm not an official library worker I wasn't needed for the "aftertalks" and took this chance to spend some more time with Auriraitsu while I waited for Firith to be free for the day. Me and Auriraitsu took a drive over to McDonald's for a quick snack and then we chatted and caught up with life in general. It was a nice way to wind down after a long and productive day. Thanks for the company!

My feelings about Mericon are overwhelmingly positive. I was prepared for either outcome but luckily it wasn't a case of walk the plank or a sinking ship and the feedback has been positive from the visitors too. I even overheard some visitors talking in ways that strongly implied that they were already expecting Mericon to return next year and planning their cosplays for it etc, although no official confirmation nor statement of continuation has been given out at this writing moment. 
Of course there's always room for improvements to be made and some things were admittedly very rushed *coughphotoboothcough* but yeah, all things considered Mericon swam proudly into shore especially when you factor in the reality that it was basically a one-person passion project with no previous con organizer experience and I'm definitely onboard for a continuation if it gets green light from the higher-ups! It is quite likely that Mericon 2.0 will happen because based on what I've heard, as someone with access to behind-the-scenes intel, Mericon was deemed a success by the library staff and it exceeded the expected amount of visitors by quite a good margin. So I think we can all cross our fingers and cautiously raise our hooks in cheer that Rauma has got its own annual con... ;) And then we can rival Pori's Nippori eiku.

Oh and here's my con loot:

Magnets to the left by aroaava and everything else by riishue.

I was lucky with the Käärijä merch because riishue sold out everything! I grabbed the very last print and I'm sooo happy I got it. ;__; All the stickers and the kitty pin under the Cha Cha Cha sticker were freebies, which was very nice of the seller!

Thanks for reading and thanks to all the visitors who happen to read this too!
~ Shiro Samurai (aka KaamosWolf) out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Consider dropping me a comment if you enjoyed this post. (´∀`○)
Maybe you got inspired, learned something new or you have some other things you want to tell me? Don't hesitate if you have something to say – I'd love to hear from you!