FanimeCon co-chair Gary de Guzman and I had a chance to meet this gorgeous gal by the name of Nicole Lu when we spent the day roaming at DAiCon this year. While chatting we with her, I come to find out that’s she’s one of the DAiCon staff members. We had a great conversation and it was very interesting to hear all the struggles and triumphs to bring to life a convention. Rather than do a normal convention coverage, I figured this would be a good opportunity to let our readers hear from a perspective that we rarely hear from: the convention organizers! So here it is, in Nicole Lu’s own words:
Davis Anime Convention (DAiCon) is a small convention located on the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) campus. Founded just last year in 2012, DAiCon is a small one-day convention that shows great promise. This year, DAiCon boasted many new attractions including voice actors Wendee Lee and J. S. Gilbert, cosplay extraordinaire Vampy-Bit-Me (Linda Le), and artist Yuumei. There’s also the addition of an AMV contest, a bigger Dealer’s Hall and Artist’s Alley, and a League of Legends (LoL) room where attendees can try playing LoL for the first time and obtain cool prizes!
In the course of 17 weeks, I and 30 other UC Davis students from the Davis Anime Club (DAC) created DAiCon while studying for classes, midterms, and finals. Not only did we have to plan out the convention, but also had to fundraise enough money to pay for the convention. DAiCon essentially came out of our pockets and let me tell you, these expenses were not small! School policies also did not make things easier for us. There were many hurdles to overcome in order to make DAiCon possible, but we confronted each and every one of those obstacles in order to make DAiCon a complete success.
I am surprised at how well we organized DAiCon. Most of us staff were new to the convention creating process. Not to mention, we hardly got any input from last year’s DAiCon staff so we really did build DAiCon from the ground up. Everyone worked really hard, especially Miles Thomas, the founder, chair, and hero of DAiCon.
Since our convention was located on the university’s campus, there were a lot of policies we had to follow and a lot of negotiations that took place. Regarding the venue of DAiCon, we knew we wanted the Memorial Union (MU), the main building that DAiCon was in last year. However, prices for renting the MU increased by about $1000. Miles, though, managed to get the same prices as last year.
We also really wanted to rent out Freeborn Hall, the building next to the MU, so we could keep the convention in the same area. Last year, DAiCon was more spread out, causing attendees to get easily lost. Freeborn Hall would not only make the convention more spacious, but also establish a sense of professionalism for our convention. Unfortunately, there was difficulty in renting out Freeborn. We almost didn’t get it and it was actually about 3 weeks before DAiCon that we got our reservation finalized. This meant a rush changing of the layout, schedule, and map of DAiCon, an increase in the campus security we had to hire, and other additional expenses. We decided to take Freeborn despite the extra cost. It was time and money well spent.
DAiCon cost us approximately $7,500. To pay for it, we fundraised throughout the year. One of our biggest fundraisers was at Picnic Day, a festival at UC Davis showcasing what our campus had to offer. Through a lottery, DAC got the opportunity to set up a food booth and sold yakisoba (fried noodles) and milk tea. This was our first time getting a food booth. We attended a lot of food safety meetings and learned that we had to prepare all the food under supervision. We were given a 4 hour time slot, from 8:00 pm to midnight, to prepare over 300 servings of food at school the day before Picnic Day.
Preparing the food was a nightmare. We chopped up 15 heads of cabbage, grated 20 lbs of carrots, cooked 100 lbs of noodles, and prepared 4 jugs of tea within 4 hours. For the first 2 hours, we were chopping and grating by hand and cooking noodles in small pots. It was tiring and we knew that we were not going to finish preparing in time. As we entered our third hour of cooking, we were about to give up, but then the school’s kitchen staff saved us! They let us use their giant cooking devices to cook all of the noodles in one batch and grate all the carrots in minutes!
After preparing, everyone got 6 hours of sleep before we had to get up again to set up the food booth. Then, we worked from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, cooking and serving yakisoba and milk tea with help from our club’s members. Thanks to everyone’s hard work and the school’s kitchen staff, Picnic Day was a success and we fundraised approximately $2000 for DAiCon.
The rest of the cost was actually covered by our attendees. In order to break even, we had to have 450 people register at DAiCon. In order to achieve that number, we advertised online, to our friends, and at other conventions. During DAiCon, I actually worked at Registration and when we reached our 450th registration, it was like, “Hallelujah! Nothing could go wrong now!” Famous last words, I know, but nothing did go bad afterwards.
DAiCon was definitely a great achievement. We had approximately 800 people attend. (To those that attended, thank you for coming!) The staff was great. Weekly meetings were fun as well as productive. Though it was difficult to manage DAiCon, I am proud to have been part of the staff. The experience is definitely one I’ll never forget!