The first ever, and hopefully annual, Walker Stalker Convention was held this weekend (Nov. 1-3, 2013) at the Atlanta Convention Center at Americasmart in Atlanta, Georgia. The convention was the brain child of Walker Stalker podcast hosts, Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier. The WSC brought in around 10,000 visitors. Not too shabby for their first at-bat.
I would like to give a big round of applause to everyone who had a hand in this event. There were a few minor hiccups, as can be expected at any convention. I heard a few grumblings about the lack of limitations at autograph tables (apparently, a guest at Andrew Lincoln’s table had an obscene amount of items to be signed. A limit was later enforced as a result), and also some comments about the celebrity panels being conducted in a different building. Celebrity schedule conflicts are unpredictable and not the fault of any convention personnel. It’s all in how they handle such surprises. Guests like Emma Bell and Lauren Cohan, unfortunately had to cancel. Norman Reedus had to cut his Sunday appearance in half. And Andrew Lincoln could only appear for one day. However, Lincoln and Reedus stayed long after they were supposed to on Saturday evening, and didn’t leave until all fans in their queue had received and autograph. Class acts! Personal con experience and all things considered, those were indeed minor hiccups.
From the creators to the volunteers, you did a fantastic job this weekend, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it. On behalf of Convention Scene and Walker Bait Productions, job very well done! Thank you!
The WSC featured more than 40 celebrity guests, including almost every member of The Walking Dead cast, as well as nearly 100 vendor booths. The vendors ranged from comic and toy collectibles to an on-site tattoo shop. A special VIP Meet & Greet and Zombie Bash were held on Saturday evening, along with a private concert featuring Emily Kinney, “Beth” on The Walking Dead. The WSC even provided a “Virtual Queue” for those who did not want to spend all day standing in line for autographs. You simply checked in at the Virtual Queue booth and when it was time for you to actually get into a celebrity line, a member of the volunteer staff would send you a text message. The concept reminded me of the “Fast Pass” access at Walt Disney World. Still, I chose to get the full experience, replete with eavesdropping and people watching, by standing in every line I could. Even with the wait time, the volunteers kept everything moving smoothly and efficiently. No complaints here.
Each celebrity guest that I spoke to had very positive things to say about WSC. “This Con is unique because of the focus on The Walking Dead and zombie culture,” said actor Daniel Thomas May ["Allen" on The Walking Dead]. “There are just so many cast members and spectacular fans. You know, we use the hashtag on Twitter #TWDFamily for the The Walking Dead Family, and that’s what this whole weekend has felt like. We’re all just a bunch of family and it’s so great.”
Andrew “Drone” Cossan, who has done illustrations for LUCASFILM and TOPPS, was on hand at Marc Draven’s Ink-Fusion Tattoo booth creating custom designs for guests looking for a permanent WSC souvenir. “I can crank out some pieces very quickly,” he said. “It’s easy to make con fans happy because you are giving them a character that they like and want.” When asked about his WSC experience, Drone said, “It’s been quite a trip. Compared to other cons, I am very impressed with the overall organization. They’ve been very accommodating and good about checking in on vendors and talent to make sure that everything is going smoothly and our needs are being met. And that’s a good sign.”
While I did have an opportunity to meet Greg Nicotero, one of my personal highlights was speaking with a different member of zombie culture royalty, the lovely Judith O’Dea. For the uninitiated, O’Dea portrayed the iconic “Barbara” in the film that started it all, George Romero’s 1968 classic The Night of the Living Dead. “I have had an absolute ball,” she gushed. “At the time, none of us who were a part of the film had any idea the effect it would have [on pop culture] and I am just in awe that we really were, and are a part of what has become The Walking Dead. And I would like to say how grateful I am to the fans for their long time support. It’s hard to believe, but it is all so exciting.”
Crissy Thomas, founder of fan site BitchinDixons.com met up with other Bitchin Dixon members who had traveled from near and far to meet Norman Reedus, “Daryl” on The Walking Dead. And for those members who couldn’t make the journey, Crissy collected gifts, cards, and letters that they had shipped to her and presented them to Reedus on their behalf. Thomas hopes to have even more Bitchin Dixons attend next year.
Did you hear that, Walker Stalkers? The fans and guests have spoken. It’s time to start preparing for next fall! Congratulations.