Wizard World is one of the largest pop culture conventions with many shows across the nation.
Wiiard World Madison 2018 was recently held from November 30th through December 2nd at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. This is one of their smaller shows, and to attract attendees, a few months ago the convention had a large promotion. They were giving away FREE weekend passes and extremely discounted VIP passes to everybody. This was a big draw for the show, and it seem to work. Not only did many local Wisconsinites attend, but many from the Illinois and Indiana area visited the show as well.
Like most large conventions nowadays, attendees have to go through a security check. There was a lot of mixed feelings about it. In the beginning of the day if you came in early, the security check went through each pocket of your bag, opened wallets and makeup cases, and even threw away anything deemed unsafe (including small scissors). This left a negative feeling for some attendees because it seemed to be to much for a small con. Later or at the end of the day, for those that came in they were barely checked. Security would take a quick look at your open backpack and that was it. It was very inconsistent and that was probably the reason why many were upset.
The discounted passes was a big driver for attendance, and though the show was free to attend for many, Wizard World didn't cheap out on the quality and quantity of celebrity guests. Some of the names that attended included William Shatner (Star Trek), Nichelle Nicoles (Star Trek), and Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter). Many more celebrities came to have photos taken, sign autographs, and panels.
For a smaller convention, it was surprising to see many great cosplays. The show had a costume contest with around 50 contestants participating. This was a bit different from other cosplay competitions, where contestants wait in another room or behind the curtain to add a little bit of mystique for the audience. Here, the contestants on the side of a normally-lit room where the audience can see them. There was plenty of room behind the curtain behind the stage, and it would have been nice to keep the cosplayers hidden before their big debut. Overall, the contest was a success, however. The judges were amazing and included well-known cosplayers such as Christopher English (Papa Bear Cosplay) and judge each picked out winners that really deserved to win in their categories.
The convention was fun because many of my friends from outside of Wisconsin attended, but it seem that most people went on Saturday only as Friday and Sunday seemed to have much lower attendance. Madison is about a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago and 4+ hours from any major city in Indiana. If Wizard World Madison wants to continue hosting their show at the Alliant Center, they'll have to keep giving away their passes or give it at a huge discount to pull in attendees.