Monday, January 6, 2014

Review for Artists: AnimeZAP 2014

Right now I’m sitting in a warm Super 8 writing this as I wait out the bad weather so I can make the 6 hour trip home. It’s -15F outside and covered in snow so we’re actually staying in East Peoria twice as long as anticipated. I caught a cold Sunday morning and don’t have a voice anymore. I was outside pushing cars, crawling in snow to unhook tow chains, and overall just freezing myself stupid.

 So this weekend I attended AnimeZap in East Peoria, IL. This show is run by the same group that runs Anime Midwest, AniMinneapolis, AnimeZing, and a few others in the Midwest. Despite the weather, I had a fantastic weekend.

The convention was held at the gorgeous Embassy Suites convention center. I think this hotel and venue were the most beautiful locations even compared to larger cons. I’m talking lush red carpets, beautiful chandelier lights, and amazing employees. The hotel was a expensive but worth it.

East Peoria is a decently sized city with plenty of restaurants and shopping to offer. The Embassy had Walmart, Target, Buffalo Wild Wings, and an assortment of restaurants and other stores within a 5 mile radius. It wasn’t in some janky part of the city either. I’m talking nice, better part of the suburbs and commercial zone. If the weather hadn’t gone Jack Frost on us, I would’ve wanted to go shop around.

Artist/Dealer Space
Artists and dealers were in the same room, with dealers lining the wall and artists in the center. It worked out pretty well though because there was plenty of space for walking in front of and behind the tables. I think there were about 16 artists and maybe 10 dealers so it wasn’t a monstrous area.

The room was locked at night, which was nice. I’ll spare repeating my tips and procedures on handling locked vendor’s rooms. We had 2 chairs and 6’ tables and the venue provided trash cans that were very fancy.

We did have some quirks, mostly related to the insane cold weather outside. The room was always cold. Not like we’re shivering and can see our breath, but the temperature was an uncomfortable type of chilly. We couldn’t figure out if it was gusts of cold air when the doors out in the hall opened or if the vents were blowing cold air down randomly. Everyone was in hats and scarves and jackets all weekend. The convention center was also experiencing some light issues in the dealer’s room specifically which they fixed but we were without lights for about 20 minutes.

Zap had a good selection of artists although I’ll say craft items dominated prints. Not that there weren’t many print artists, but only a couple print artists had a decent sized portfolio. Most had maybe a dozen prints to choose from and were offering commissions.

On the crafty side, there was a great selection of Lolita, hats, jewelry, bead sprites, and even leatherwork and chain mail. With the exception of having 2 primarily bead sprite artists, the rest of us didn’t have much competition with each other. That’s a good thing.

Same goes for dealers. Since there were only a handful of dealers, they did pretty well standing out from each other. Only one dealer really sold plushies, one for DVDs, one for tabletop gaming, one for tshirts, etc.

Sales & Attendees
This is a great show to attend. I’ll address the audience first. So I want to point out that AnimeZap had a very young crowd. I’m not talking 10 year olds but I’m talking a ton of middle and high school students. I didn’t see more than a half dozen adults (over 21) and all those were parents out chaperoning their kids. I’ve stated before that the median age for a show affects if and how well certain items will sell. The little things always sell better, which might be why crafters blew it away, while high dollar items were less likely to move.

I also saw some fantastic cosplays at this show. Handmade or purchased, it was pretty fantastic.

This show was a great one despite being smaller (~1000 people). We sold more here at Zap than at some of my larger shows with 3x the attendees.  Most of the artists I spoke too had a very profitable weekend. The few who didn’t simply weren’t marketing to the right audience or didn’t have enough to choose from. For example, there was a studio selling tons of handbound journals and sketchbooks. They were AMAZING. I’ve done bookbinding and I appreciate the effort involved, but most people don’t really understand the process or why it might be worth their dollar.

The alley never got slow for more than a couple minutes, even when the super anticipated main panels were going on. Friday and Saturday were both steady in traffic and sales, which was pretty nice. The storm hit Saturday evening and a lot of people didn’t come back on Sunday. Those of us that traveled decided to stay Sunday night and a lot of the guests did too. A ton of people showed up Sunday and I still sold a decent amount of merchandise but as the afternoon rolled on, vendors and artists began packing up early and leaving. By closing time, only a handful of us were left with the staff.

I spoke to the staff at registration and in the alley and all were very professional. I mean downright professional to the T. All questions were answered, any help requested was provided, and they were just friendly as all heck. The end.


Despite the treacherous weather and having to stay two extra nights in Peoria, this show was a grand success. I think that without bad weather, we would’ve been running ragged until the end of Sunday. I definitely plan on coming back next year and encourage other artists and dealers to do the same. It was an immensely enjoyable weekend and sales were definitely worth it. Hopefully no natural disasters will fall on us.

I’m attending Anime Midwest this summer, run by the same group, and cannot wait. If they could do this much with a small con, I bet their big con is just stunning.