My first convention, a journey to the land
of Catherine and Vincent

by Odile

 My warm thanks to Claire for the English version of this report.

to the original version in French

 

Attending a convention : when a dream comes true
On November 8, 2012, I randomly purchased all three seasons of the Beauty and the Beast series, a show I didn’t know at all.
It was the beginning of a great passion that deeply moved my heart and has never abated since.
I can say that I devoured every episode in record time.
But it still wasn’t enough. Such a dream couldn’t stop there. I needed more. That was why I began to search the Internet.
I had never been a fan of anything, I even ignored the existence of fandoms and fan fiction.
The first site I found was Annik’s French one, “La Belle et la Bête“, hosted by batbland.com. The site mentioned a French Yahoo discussion group, “Dans Les Tunnels” (In the Tunnels). I became a member on February 10, 2013. That was when and how I really set foot in BatB fandom, and discovered a very important, reassuring thing: I was not alone! There were people like me, who felt the same way, who would understand me.
I became acquainted with Claire, a Frenchwoman like me, and with her help I began to explore the various websites about the show.
I felt a bit lost in the beginning, but I found a veritable goldmine, from batbland.com to BBTV, via CABB, the facebook pages (I had joined FB in December 2012), and many other sites, each as interesting as the next. Hours and hours of happiness…
I knew no one else in fandom. With Claire’s help I made my first BatB friends on Facebook. They knew little about me, and yet they opened their arms wide to me. Let me thank all of you for accepting me among you with such kindness. In this I recognize the spirit of the Tunnels.

Conventions? I didn’t know they existed either. I found out about them along with everything else in the Beauty and the Beast fandom.
As soon as last year, I envied the fans who had been able to register for the Cleveland convention. I followed that convention’s facebook page with much interest. I wished I could have gone, but there was no escaping work at that time of year.
Each year, July is our busiest month. Only in 2014 did different circumstances enable me to take an early summer break. So, I made that leap of faith.
Going to the USA was a big adventure for me! It was going to be my first time.

I was a “Newbie“: a word both magical and troubling. I was stressed out at the thought of embarking on this adventure, as I was unable to picture how things were going to unfold. Worse, my English hardly seemed sufficient, and I feared I would not be able to communicate well enough with others. Isn’t dialogue and the sharing of emotions the most important thing?
I knew a few people via the Internet: those who had been kind enough to add me as a Facebook friend, and a few others (such as Linda S. and Kari) with whom I take part in the Tuesday European chat (which is an afternoon chat for Americans, an evening chat for us Europeans). I was looking forward to meeting them “in the flesh”.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
I landed on Wednesday afternoon at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. I wasn’t sure yet whether it all was real or only a dream!
Upon my arrival at our hotel in Bloomington, I met the first few fans who were setting up the Dealers’ Room and Art Room. I was happily reunited with Claire; I had a warm welcome from her, JoAnn, Carole, SandyX, Michelle, Linda S, Rosemarie, and others. I immediately felt at ease and much reassured.
I put my luggage away in the room I was about to share with my kind roomies: our Con Chair J’Ecris, Winter (Winterose), and Claire. I had begun to feel badly jetlagged, so I took a nap. Ah! To sleep!
In the evening, we all had dinner together at the Italian restaurant within the hotel building.
I went to sleep early.

Thursday, July 10, 2014
We had the morning “off”. I took this opportunity to join the Con organizers and other Con goers who had resumed setting up the convention activities. Brenda, Jackie and several others were there.
As I came in, I noticed a clothes rack containing costumes from the show, some of which were for sale.
I immediately noticed Vincent’s cloak. Linda S attested to me that it was genuine! I was absolutely mesmerized and I came nearer to have a better look. I was allowed to touch it and even... to try it on! Linda S took pictures of me. What an extraordinary memory! I won’t forget it any time soon! My only regret is that I didn’t have the presence of mind to pull the hood up, as Bridget O’ Donnell did in Masques. I was too overwhelmed to think clearly! I was intensely living in the present moment.
I was also able to admire one of Vincent's vests (the short, gray, padded one), as well as a broad belt, and a sweater that Rose later won at the auction. I was glad for her; she wanted it so dearly!
I also saw, close up, the magnificent dress that Catherine wore in Temptation; I had always believed it white, whereas it is in fact a very pale pink.

Later in the morning, J'Ecris's Mom, Ann, was kind enough to drive a few of us to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. A second car joined us. Thus we had our first overview of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. In our small group, I became acquainted with Rose, Teresa, Mini, Skippy, and Kari. Claire was also present. Rose was a newbie like me -- a young and adorable one! I wonder if she wasn't the youngest person attending the convention. Teresa, Mini, Skippy, Kari, and Claire also are lovable fans. In fact, each and every person I have met during this convention week is lovable. No wonder! All of them are Helpers.
We started our Zoo and Park tour with a carousel ride on a very well-preserved carousel that turns a century old this year. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to the zoo, and for some of us, the various gardens.
We returned to the hotel for the official registration that signaled the proper beginning of the Convention.

The Con Virgins, Carol S., Rose and myself, were officially welcome.
JoAnn gave everyone a convention tote bag. It is a duffel bag bearing the convention logo. It contains a Conzine (a big fat printed collection of stories, poems, and beautiful drawings included those of Sandy Tew, a well-known artist in fandom). Nice little gifts completed the contents of the tote bag.
JoAnn gave me two badges: one bearing my name and the word Newbie, meant to be worn on a lanyard, and a second one with a pin, bearing the words “Haze of Happiness 2014”.
I was also given my convention T-shirt and an adorable stuffed animal, a little pink and white lion.
As a Con Virgin, I also received a lovely garland of pink flowers and a third badge (“Hug me, I’m a Con Virgin”) that I wore with pride.
Additionally, we Con Virgins earned an extra tote bag. What a nice surprise! I was so pleased! It is another duffel bag, adorned on the front with a beautiful rose. I hastened to find out its contents: two roses (one red and one white), a card with Catherine and Vincent, stickers and other items.
Among all those gifts, I discovered a particularly precious one: a numbered card with scraps from the very fabric that served to create Vincent's cloak (or cloaks). Better still, my card bears the number 3 out of 150, my lucky number! I am thankful to Peggy for creating these marvellous cards.
Peggy G. is very talented. She created a replica of Vincent's cloak with extra, unused fabric from the show's costume department. She is a very nice person with whom I had several conversations. She was kind enough to autograph one of her zines to me, Parallel Worlds WithinThe City, after buying it from the Dealers’ Room! I was so proud and happy. Yet another precious gift that I would bring back to France!

I went to put this treasure away in my room and came back to the convention room to participate in activities and games.
The Dealers’ and Art Room and the silent auction were opened.
This Dealers’ and Art Room was a part of the convention room with large tables displaying a variety of second-hand and new items for sale. There you could find fanzines, books, calendars, T-shirts, stickers, mugs, jigwas puzzles, keyring holders, videotapes, art prints, posters, scrapbooks, miniature figures and other crafts; also conzines, badges, bookmarks and tote bags from previous conventions.
I particularly admired a magnificent Vincent bust, sculpted by Peggy G’s daughter and intended for the art auction.

As a conclusion to the evening, we all happily watched an episode of the show.

Friday, July 11, 2014
The convention officially began at 8 a.m. with an opening ceremony. Pat L and Winter gave a speech.
Rosemarie led an "icebreaker activity". It was a good idea to allow participants to know each other better. Especiallyfor the newbies.

Followed various activities: BatB Pyramid (led by Pat L) Fanfic writing panel (moderated by Teri, JoAnn, Carole), Tunnel Family Feud (Je, Winter).

The round tables were beautifully decorated at the center with various legendary “creatures that never existed” according to the theme of the 2014 convention.
On a large screen a drawing of Vincent next to a unicorn was projected on a blue background.

At noon, Michelle announced that the next convention would take place in Calgary, Canada. She also handed out folders containing a registration form and information leaflets on Calgary.

At 12:30, we ate tasty sandwiches.

After that, the "Charity convention" was presented. Each year, the profits made during the convention are donated to a charity. This year it was the association "Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless." Our donation amounted to $ 14,250.

Then there was the "Beast Bingo" (Judy, Karen). It is similar to the French lotto but instead of numbers, the Beast Bingo has character, episode, or place names from the series. At first I did not dare to play. But Peggy explained it to me and then I took part. It was not so complicated in English after all!

At 6:00 we had dinner which was a delicious Northern dinner buffet.

At 7:00, I happily joined the "costume and talent show."
Kathleen was disguised as a fairy, Rosemarie as Ariel (from Disney’s Little Mermaid). Lisa as Vincent. It's amazing how much Lisa can make herself look like Vincent. Her makeup is really successful. And clothes are perfect. I had seen photos of her on the Internet (batbland). But in flesh and blood, it was impressive.
And I was dressed as a unicorn.
We went on stage to have pictures taken.
The "Talent Show" began with songs from "Les Miserables" and the Disney movie “Frozen” (or as we know it in French La Reine des Neiges, literally The Snow Queen).
A pirateskits with Skippy, Michelle, Suzi, Kari, JoAnn and Teresa followed.
Then "a tribute to an American Classic Complete with fireworks display" with Helene, Lisa / Vincent, Jackie, Brenda, Renee…
We laughed a lot. It was fun.

The evening ended with the showing of a French film, "Beauty and the Beast" recently released in theaters. Claire then answered questions from the audience since the film was in French without subtitles.

Saturday, July 12, 2014
The morning began with an "icebreaker" led by Rosemarie.

We then drew a portrait of Vincent under the guidance of Winter.
Followed "BatB Jeopardy" (Laura), "George RR Martin archive panel" (JoAnn), making a Christmas ball (Laura) and "BatB Password" (Pat L).

A 1: 00, we ate a "Mexican lunch".

Then there was a "Beast Bingo" (Judy, Karen).

I did not participate in all the activities that took place during these three days of the convention because I do not understand English very well and I confess that I wasn’t able to follow much, especially when stories were read. It will be for next time ... when I have progressed in English.
But I took advantage of manual activities like drawing Vincent, creating a Christmas ball filled with paper in Winterfest candle colors or sticking an image of the series on a tile.

Through Skype, some of us were able to talk with David Greenlee. I talked to him, too! I was pretty intimidated, but he was very nice and even said a few words in French. He is charming and fun.

We signed cards for people who could not attend the convention. The same fans may have been watching us when the roaming webcam filmed our activities. This was how my husband and my daughter could see me live. They even took screenshots, as a souvenir!

A 4: 00, we went to "primp" for the banquet.

At 5: 30, there was a photo opportunity. It was the right time because we were all "Sunday best." I had seen pictures of Bubba taken at previous conventions. I was able to see and touch him for real and to take pictures with him and friends!

The highlight of the day was the traditional "Summerfest banquet" that began around 6:00.
The tables were exquisitely decorated: folded towels in form of roses; little hearts in red and pink fabric were scattered here and there. I kept both as a souvenir. In front of each plate there was a pretty white, yellow, and orange Winterfest candle.
We solemnly lit each other’s candle in turn while someone was reading a modified version of Father’s speech from Winterfest in the episode "Dead of Winter". It was a moment of intense emotion. I was close to tears. I looked at Rose, my lovely fellow Con Virgin. Like all of us, she was very moved. You could see it on her face. With the last words, we all lifted our candles. It was a time of sharing with the spirit of the tunnels bathing us. At that moment, I really had the feeling of belonging to a family, a community.

After the banquet, I did not dare join the folk dances with the others, because I do not know the American dances. But I took the opportunity to take photos.
I loved the music and the orchestra.

This was followed by an auction of various items all very tempting, like the bust of Vincent carved by Peggy’s daughter or one of Vincent’s sweatshirts. I would have liked to win everything !!
I was lucky enough to win a commemorative collector coin of the series. I was very happy.

Sunday, July 13, 2014
The last day of the convention, alas.
From 9:00 to 10: 00 there was a workshop about the third series by Linda S.

From 10:00 to 12:30 there were various activities: "Creature trivia" (Rosemarie), "BATB trivia" (Pat), "Art Auction”," "Dirty Minds game" (Brenda).

At 12:30, the meal (Afternoon tea).

At 1:30, the third "Beast Bingo" (Judy, Karen).

At 2:30, "What Attracts People to BATB". Rose and others spoke up. I would have liked to, but I do not speak enough English.

Then came the closing ceremony and everyone held hands to form a large circle. A very emotional moment. It felt like a dream. We, the Newbies, were in the center of the circle. Then we joined the others, as Catherine had done in the "Dead of Winter" episode. I really almost cried. This is something I will never forget. This was followed by a round of warm hugs. Yes, I'm really part of the family, the BatB community now. And I'm very proud.
The flame was passed to Michelle, who will organize the next convention in Calgary.

At 7:00 we were at the Guthrie Theatre to attend a performance of the musical "My Fair Lady". I really liked it.

Monday, July 14, 2014
We left at 12:45. The visit began with the "Gangster Tour”, an interesting journey through the criminal history of St. Paul. Our guide was dressed as a gangster, Baby Face Nelson! This tour bus allowed us to admire the most beautiful houses in Minneapolis / Saint Paul and see the "Minnehaha Falls" in the Minnehaha Park.
The visit ended with a walk on the Mississippi River on a beautiful, very typical boat (Padelford riverboat). I shared a table with Carol S, Peggy, Anna and her lovely niece Elizabeth. We admired the scenery while chatting and munching Mexican specialties.

We returned about 8: 00 pm. I was starving.
I decided to eat at the "Mall of America", the second largest US mall. The stores there close late.
It is huge, with an amusement park (Nickelodeon Universe) and exhibits inside.
I bought souvenirs of Minnesota for my family and friends and sent postcards.
I went to see the first "Rain Forest Café" opened in the "Mall of America" at Bloomington. It is a very special restaurant with a beautiful and original interior: a tropical forest with animals that move and "talk". There is a similar one at Disneyland Paris.
I saw a giant Lego store with huge figures above, made of Lego. Inside, a whole wall filled with Lego pieces of different shapes and colors. In front of the store, there is a play area where children can have fun at making objects in Lego.
There are many shops and restaurants in the mall. The little Frenchwoman that I am explored everything that could be typically American, different. I literate myself!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
We visited grottoes and cellars that day.
First, Crystal Cave Spring Valley, Wisconsin.
I could have watched the old French film "Beauty and the Beast" by Jean Cocteau as it was screened in the bus. But I chose to admire the landscapes of Wisconsin instead. Great! This visit allowed me to discover another American state. Actually these caves are not far from Minneapolis.
Once there, we formed three groups to visit, each identified by its color (we wore a colorful bracelet).
There was a small shop at the entrance of the caves, where we could buy beautiful things. Some fans bought warm sweaters because it was cold and visiting the caves promised to be "refreshing" or “invigorating”! Beautiful semi-precious stones were offered for sale in raw form or as jewelry. We also could purchase plush creatures, keychains, pens and others ... I took the opportunity to buy souvenirs for my family.
Then came the visit itself. We went down to explore the caves. I thought of Father, Vincent and others. And I'm sure I was not the only one!
The luncheon was held outdoors in a tent, not far from the entrance caves. It was fun and friendly.
Then we returned to Minneapolis / Saint Paul to visit the Wabasha Street Caves , which are troglodyte caves that used to host a mushroom farm and later a speakeasy during the prohibition era. It was an equally interesting visit.

Left early, returned early (around 4:00 pm). I turned to walk around "Mall of America" until the meal. We met in a restaurant of the "Mall of America" for dinner. It was very friendly and we had a good time.
When we returned, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Lisa was wearing her Vincent costume again, and waiting at the entrance of the hotel. We had the opportunity to take photos.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Some participants had already left, but I had the joy of meeting for breakfast, some people of the Convention. It warmed my heart to share a meal with them. I had the impression that the Convention was prolonged a little.
Claire did not leave until the afternoon. So we went to visit the Star Trek exhibition in the "Mall of America" and to eat there with J’E and Kari.
In the late afternoon, I returned to the "Mall of America" to see the movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" in a large multiplex. I then strolled throughout the mall and I took many photos.
The following night, I slept alone at the hotel. The room was very empty without my roomies. There was nobody from the convention at the hotel. I was the last one.

Thursday, July 17,2014
I left Minneapolis with a mind full of unforgettable memories.
I spent four more days in New York City prior to flying back to France; I visited Central Park, and went to find our special bench.


I have lived to the fullest each of these wonderful days of sharing, and met many lovable, warm people with whom I was able to talk a little despite my basic English. I cannot list all of your names, since there are too many of you, and I apologize for it. Many thanks for your patience, your kindness, and the efforts you made to listen to me and in turn speak slowly so that I might understand you. Thank you for making me feel comfortable and at home among you.

I knew I was going to meet many writers whose names I kept seeing on fan fiction websites. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read many stories yet, because my English is inadequate; it takes me a lot of time to attempt to translate a story into French.
I had the pleasure of conversing with Teri, a delightful person, known and appreciated in fandom for her many stories; and also - as mentioned before - with Peggy G, a longtime fan who is also the author of many stories and poems.

I discovered the existence of, and became acquainted with, the group of fans that call themselves the “Chesapeake Helpers’ Society for Beauty and the Beast”; I will carefully keep their lovely calling card, which is adorned with the picture of a rose and crystal.

I brought home a priceless gift from Winter, a small piece of fandom: a tiny green bench created by Chan. Even though I wasn’t lucky enough to meet Chan, I harbour a vast admiration for her talent and creative genius. Thank you, Winter, for putting your trust in me when you gave me this little bench. I will take great care of it.

I bought BatB keepsakes, which will complete my collection, my "little treasures chamber." Sure, my suitcase was much heavier when I went back!

Our hotel was very well chosen: comfortable and pleasant, well situated right across from the giant “Mall of America”. The rooms were large enough, breakfast was delicious, and the hotel contained a large and beautiful swimming pool area.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to organizing and hosting this convention, enabling me to live my dream, which was to meet my BatB family and immerse myself into the magical universe of the show.

This convention was a true success. Thank you, J’Ecris !
 

 

 

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