|The Orlando Con was the first one I attended. For a whole year
preceding the Con I was occupied with it. I fantasized about it and
counted the days backward to the start of the Con.
Since I was a newbie, a Con virgin, I didn't have a notion of what to expect when arriving at the hotel. Of course I had my own ideas about what to expect and I also had read the stories on the mailinglists from people who had attended a Con before. They were so enthusiastic about it. They generally wrote that it was a family reunion and that one would feel at home the moment of arrival. So I was feeling pretty confident as well as excited during my trip.
I left the airport 'Schiphol' in Amsterdam at 12.30 AM on time. The flight to the USA, to Washington took me about 8 hours. I arrived in Washington almost one hour too late, but fortunately I didn't miss the plane to Orlando. This plane didn't leave on time, due to heavy weather in Florida. The flight was already one hour late when the pilot told us the weather had calmed down a bit, so he would try to take off momentarily. Finally I arrived at Orlando International Airport, at 8.30 AM local time. The whole trip, from my home in Holland to Orlando, had taken 19 hours.
I had to go the hotel with the shuttle bus of Mears company, but because it was already late in the evening no shuttle bus went into the direction of the hotel anymore. I had to wait for a long time when a kind Mears employee decided to arrange a taxi for me.
When I arrived in the hotel it was very late, 22.00 PM. I checked in and went to my room. There I had to decide what I wanted to do. First I didn't know, but I desperately wanted to meet everybody. After all I've waited such a long time for this to happen. So I went back to the hotel lobby, and unfortunately I saw nobody I knew at first. Then suddenly I heard some people talking about Beauty and the Beast. Now that's what I was looking for. So I went to them and asked if they came for the Convention. They said 'Yes' and one of them asked 'Are you Angelique from Holland?' 'Yes, that's me' I replied. 'I'm Judy, Judy Adams', she said. 'You're Judy?' I asked excitedly, 'How wonderful! I'm so glad to finally meet you!' And she gave me a big hug. The first of the many wonderful hugs I would get during the Con. Then I asked the name of the other person who was standing there. She was Laura Hardy! 'Hi Laura! It's so great to meet you at last', I said and I got another big hug.
After a while I asked them if they already met any other people. People, whom I only knew from the Internet, especially the BBTV mailinglist. Laura told me that many of them were gathered in one of the hotel rooms. She was just on her way back to this room. She asked me if I would accompany her and of course I agreed. When we arrived and I entered the room I just stood there. I didn't know what to do or say. So many of them were there! So many faces I only knew from pics of the Internet, suddenly became real.
Finally I said 'Hello' and went to greet them. I met Sandy2, Lori H, Cherokee, KarenQ, PatK, CathyM, Brooke and Teri. I hugged them all, one of the other and it felt great!
When I came in the room they were watching a movie. When it was finished, they started talking to each other and also to me. I tried to understand everything they were talking about. But it was difficult sometimes, because at my first evening in the USA I wasn't used to English conversation. Fortunately later that week my understanding of and talking in English became much better, because I became more accustomed to it.
I asked them if they had already met Sigma, who should have arrived this evening as well. At least that was what Sigma had told me earlier. They told me they hadn't seen her yet. So we decided to call Sigma and ask her if she would want to come over to the hotel room. She agreed and I waited anxiously for her. After a while the door opened and there she was at last! It was another exciting moment during that evening. Finally I got a chance to meet my friend Sigma and talk to her in person. I had waited so long for this to happen. We had written to each other by e-mail for such a long time and I had the feeling I knew her already quite well. But to be able to meet her in person was an out of the ordinary experience. It was exhilarating!
Sigma said 'Hi!' to everybody in the room. She told us she was so excited to be able to meet us at last! And we were all excited too! After she introduced herself, I had the chance to talk to her for a short time. She told me she had been waiting for me at the Orlando airport. But since my plane was too late, she finally had to make the decision to go to the hotel on her own. She arrived at 9.00 PM, one hour before me.
Then suddenly I heard somebody saying that they would start reading stories aloud. 'This event is one of the famous unofficial Con events', people of the mailinglist had already told me. 'It's a custom to stay up late during nights, gather in the lobby of the hotel or in someone's room. There we talk a lot, read zines aloud and have a great time'. And now for me the moment was there to become part of one of those special events, events I had been looking forward to for such a long time.
They decided to read stories from the new zine Cyberdreams 2, Tappings from the main Pipe, the zine that was filled with stories, poetry and art made by our members of the BBTV mailinglist. Everybody in the room was supposed to read a page aloud and then pass the zine to the next person. When it was my turn I told them I would rather pass the honor of reading a page. I felt that my English skills weren't yet good enough to be able to read a page without making many mistakes. So the zine passed by and I was really relieved nobody commented on my refusal.
Many short stories were read that evening. Then, when it was passed midnight I said I wanted to go to sleep. I felt so tired. After all in Holland it was already 6 hours later than in Florida. I hadn't slept for nearly 24 hours and I feared next morning I would suffer from terrible jetlag. So I said goodnight to everybody in the room and went to bed.
When I woke up this morning it was about 9.00 AM. I was still very sleepy and felt a bit lightheaded. No doubt it was because of my jetlag. I decided however to get up, because this morning I had made an appointment with Sigma to go shopping. At 10.00 AM I went up to her room and together we walked to the lobby. We were passing the part of the hotel where the Con would take place. There was already some activity going on and somebody had placed a tall figure in the hall. It was standing near the future registration table and turned out to be a life-sized Vincent model! Later we learned that it was Chandler's creation. Of course Sigma and I both wanted to be in a photo together with Vincent. So we took pictures of each other standing next to Vincent.
Although it was still early in the morning when we walked outside the hotel, it was already hot and very humid. I wasn't used to this kind of heat, so it felt like I was suddenly covered with a hot blanket. Sigma told me she wasn't very fond of the heat either.
At the other side of the road, almost in front of the hotel, we saw a small shopping center. I was relieved we didn't have to walk too far. Slowly we crossed the road and visited some shops. We bought gifts and postcards to take home to our family and friends. We couldn't buy too much because it wouldn't fit in our suitcases. The precious spare room in the suitcases was needed for the B&B Con stuff we were expecting to buy later that week.
After walking in the heat for an hour, we were both very tired. We went back to the hotel and Sigma told me she'd like to take a nap. She mentioned that the time difference between Japan and Florida was 13 hours! Which was much more then the time difference between Florida and Holland. No wonder her jetlag was much worse than mine was.
It was still early, so what could I do next? The Con registration was supposed to begin that afternoon at 15.00 PM, so there was plenty of time for me to do something useful. I thought it might be a nice idea to go and look at the preparations for the Con. Maybe I could talk to somebody and/or give a helping hand. There seemed to be much more activity now. People were busy building up the registration area, the Dealer's room and the Art room. I walked around and saw some familiar faces from people I met the night before. They were preparing their dealer's tables and unpacking the things they wanted to sell. In the Artroom I met Chandler. She was very busy making frames to put the artwork on. When I told her my name, we were smiling big smiles and hugged each other firmly.
It was early in the afternoon when I went back to the Dealer's room and noticed that there were more people busy preparing their tables now. While looking around I thought I recognized a well-known face. Aurea! There she was! Our Mom of the BBTV mailinglist, I wanted to meet so very much. She was very busy preparing her table with all kinds of B&B stuff and didn't take the time to look up. 'Hi', I dared to interrupt her, 'Are you perhaps Aurea?' 'Yes, that's me and who might you be?', I think she asked me, while she gave me a sideways glance. With a hesitant voice I said 'I'm Angelique... from the Netherlands...' (During the Con I frequently would repeat the phrase 'Angelique from the Netherlands', when introducing myself to people whom I only knew by name)...
When Aurea heard my name, she came to me while giving me a big warm smile. It felt like the sun starting to shine very brightly suddenly. I got another big hug. 'I'm so happy to finally meet you!' I said, smiling back at her with my biggest smile. It felt wonderful!
At Aurea's table there was another busy person. Since she was with Aurea, I wondered who she might be. So I went to her and asked. She looked at me searchingly for some time and finally said: 'Melinda. And who are you?' When I told her my name, another warm, bright sun began to shine. 'Melinda! It's so good to see you!', I said, while hugging her enthusiastically.
It was almost 3.00 PM, time to start the registration. So I went to the registration table and saw Lori sitting behind the table. There were other people too, but I don't recall their names. Except from Shelia, who was suddenly there too. I was already told Shelia was a great hugger. So after I said 'Hi!' to her and I introduced myself, it was my turn to receive one of her famous big hugs.
I was still looking if I could give somebody a helping hand. I heard someone, I think it was Lyn, saying that the totebags still had to be filled with the Conzine and some information brochures about Orlando. The totebags were given to all people who came to register themselves at the register table. Now filling totebags was a job I could definitely help with. It was rather easy to do and I wasn't forced to communicate in English all the time. After some time I saw Sigma entering the hall and registering herself for the Con. When she saw me and asked me what I was doing, I explained my job and she was kind enough to help me. Together we sat there on the floor for more than an hour, filling all Conzine totebags and having much fun. At a particular moment I heard Lori asking how we felt about it, coming from so far only to find ourselves sitting on the ground doing this job. We told her we didn't mind and were glad that we could be of any help.
Later in the afternoon the Welcoming Party was planned. I went to my room first to change in something more appropriate to wear at the Party. When I came back in the Con area, many people were already gathered there. I joined up with Sigma again, who was wearing a lovely Japanese cotton kimono. I thought she looked great! Many people took pictures of her in her beautiful dress.
This morning at 8.00 AM I went to the registration table in the Hall of the hotel. I had made an appointment with Judy in advance to meet her and help at the registration table for some time. While I was sitting behind the table and talking to some newly arrived, I noticed I had some difficulty in understanding many of the family names. Fortunately Judy was there to help me. In the end she was registering the people and I was able to assist her now and then.
Later that morning was the Opening ceremony. Just before this ceremony started Sigma and I introduced ourselves to Myhr. I thought it was fun to be able to finally meet this famous cat man. He gave me a big hug, which felt pretty good! During the ceremony Lyn, as head of the Con committee, made her speech, explaining the Con procedures and introducing the other members of the Con committee. Then Teri entered the stage. She told us something about the special interests events, like panels, which were to take place during the next few Con days. She also made some kind remarks about the Con virgins who were attending the con for the first time. She especially welcomed Sigma and me, because we both came from abroad and had made such a long journey. We received a big applause from the audience, which was heartwarming!
After the Opening ceremony we all quickly went to the Dealer's room. This room apparently seemed to be a very popular place among the Con goers. Everybody wanted to be the first to buy new B&B stuff. I had brought my own small list with a few zines and some B&B things.
When I walked through the room I was watching the interesting stuff on the dealer's table and tried to decide what to buy. Also I talked to a few people. Some of them I had not met before and it was good to meet them at last. I saw Peg McNabb at the CABB's dealer's table and it was very glad to meet her! Then I went to the BBTV table, where I talked to JoAnn, CathyM and Sandy2 and bought their zines and artwork. Other people I met were Trisha from BBTV and Clare Sieffert, who makes those beautiful paintings. And last but not least I found the dealer's table of TunnelDreams (another Internet B&B mailinglist of which I'm also a member). I met list mom Becky Bain and her two companions KarenMR and Kay. It felt so good to finally be able to talk to them in person!
In the afternoon I had planned to attend a few of the special events. Some panels had been organized. The first panel I attended was about the Online cyber fandom. Aurea and Chandler were hosting the panel. Chandler told us some interesting topics regarding the usage of the Internet, for example the way someone is able to chat with other people.
One of the other panels I attended was about Writing adult fanfic, hosted by JoAnn, PatK and Teri. Many people attended this last panel. Obviously it was about a topic which many people find interesting.
Friday evening was the Costume and Talent show. Some Con goers were dressed up as very curious persons or things. I saw Teri dressed up as 'Catherine's Tree' and Lyn as 'Catherine's Rosebush'. Philip and his partner from Novtek, dressed up as Mulder and Scully, won the Costume show.
At the end of the evening suddenly there was a huge silence descended over the room, something was about to happen. There they came on stage! The celebrities, first David Schwartz, followed by Edward Albert and finally Ron appeared! All of us in the room were beyond ourselves from exhilaration. Me too! I was sitting in the second row, so I could see them all clearly. It was overwhelming to see them for the first time!
This morning the celebrities Q&A session was performed. All celebrities, one after the other, came on stage. Ron was the last one. This morning I was sitting in the second to last row, so it was difficult for me to understand everything they were talking about. I know Edward was telling about his movies and Ron took his time to answer the many questions of his fans in the room. He mainly talked about his previous as well as his recent movies, but not too much about B&B.
During the evening was the Banquet. For me there were a few highlights. The ceremony of the Lighting of the candles, when all celebrities read a part of the old B&B tale, was impressive.
Another highlight was the Vincent & Catherine's kissing scene from the Happy Life episode. The kiss was a real one and it took a deliciously long time! The kissing scene was part of a videotape that Linda Campanelli had taken with her to the Con.
After the Banquet the Celebrity Auction began. Ron and Edward had donated many items, so the Auction wasn't finished that night and it was decided to continue the next morning during the Celebrity Brunch.
Someone told me that Ron had left the hotel very early in the morning. He had been with us for one whole Saturday.
Sunday was a rather quiet day, with the Celebrity brunch and the remaining Celebrity Auction. During the brunch I shared the table with a group of BBTV-ers. They were all so kind to sign my Cyberdreams zine adding a personal note. I still treasure this zine!
In the early afternoon was the Art Auction (one of Jamie's paintings was chosen by the public as the best painting in show). Then the Closing Ceremony (which I missed because I was so tired, I slept during this part of the afternoon) and finally at the end of the day the Pizza Party.
Today some tours were planned. I took the Tour to Disney's Animal Kingdom. We started walking in a large group, but quite soon we split up. It so happened that Clare Sieffert was my companion for the rest of the day. Together we visited a few attractions. Although there were a few nice attractions, I'm sorry to say that in my opinion the park as a whole wasn't very interesting. Also it was hot that day and it was very crowded, so there were long lines everywhere. But I didn't mind this so much, because Clare told me many interesting stories about the previous Cons, about the celebrities and about the way she's composing her paintings. So the day passed quickly and I had a pleasant day.
That night at about 0.30 AM, many of us were waiting for the launch of the Columbia. We were waiting outside in front of the hotel, sitting on the grass. But unfortunately nothing happened. Someone, who was passing by, told us that the launch had been postponed until the next day, Tuesday. I thought it was too bad I couldn't see the launch. I really would have loved to watch it.
Today I hadn't planned to do anything particular, so it was another quiet day. In the late afternoon many of us went to King Henry's Feast for a dinner party. The Feast simulated the Birthday of King Henry VIII of England in the past. It was a show full of singing and acting. The actors were wearing beautiful costumes and performed very well. During the Feast a dinner was served.
I left Orlando early in the morning. I was there for almost seven days, had seen and done many things and the time went by very quickly. I felt a bit sad that I had to leave, but at the same time I was also glad to be able to go home again. I've had a great time during the Con, attending and enjoying many activities and meeting so many wonderful people in person at last.
During the Con people were already talking about going to the next year's Con. I hope I'll be able to do that too, going to the L.A. Con. And if not to L.A., then I'm hoping to attend the NYC Con in 2001. I'm already looking forward to it!