Tom Wham's Trip to GENCON 35

the last one in Wisconsin (what a shame)

I hope everybody realizes that the name GEN (for Lake Geneva, Wisconsin) CON means that the convention should be held in our little town of Lake Geneva. Unfortunately Horticultual Hall won't hold 50,000 attendees.

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Got off work a tad early so I could zoom to Milwakee to get my badge. Past experience had taught me never to be in line to buy your badge on Thursday morning of GENCON.

Found a parking spot right next to the Midwest Express Center. Plugged 60 cents into the parking meter, loaded the three auction items I had prepared into my "Magic the Gathering" backpack and headed in.

The first thing that caught my eye was two enormous lines of people, snaking out the front door of the center... ominous. Anyway I wandered into the auction area, where I was received with open arms by all the friends I only see every year at the GENCON auction. Already my day was made. The auction has moved from Kilbourne Hall to the main building, just across from the registration area. This should do wonders for sales. I dropped off my stuff to sell, and made my way back outside the building, and found the end of the line for people who had not pre-registered (it was about 200 people out the front doorand we were standing in the sun.) To be fair, the weather was excellent, 75 degrees in August... who could ask for more?

Why was I in line to buy badges when I work at the Auction? Good friends, Scott and Lisa Russell, were wending their way to the con from Michigan and my assignment was to get badges for their party. In years past, the registration process at GENCON has been long and tedious. You had to provide your name, address, and all sorts of other information which was then fed into a computer, and somewhere down the line, a personalized convention badge was printed up.

This year was a dream! The line, when they finally opened the booths at 5:55, moved like lightning. The people next to me were as happy to be there as I was and the wait was no problem as we chatted away about gaming. And when we finally got to the sales area, all the salespeople wanted was our money! Pay... move down... get generic badge... move on... thank you! Why on earth did it take the powers that be so long to think this one up? Thank you Peter! I'm blaming it on you.

Badges purchased, I went back to the Auction and marveled at our new location. The place may be a bit smaller than Kilbourne Hall, but it's laid out better and the staff has its own little meeting room to hide in and rest and recover. Already the Auction Store was brimming with excellent books, games, and everything else under the sun, just waiting for tomorrow's anxious buyers. I black marketed a few books to an old friend and then wandered back to Lake Geneva.

Thursday, August 8, 2002

Had to work at my job (Lake Geneva Public Library) this morning, and I had been up all night messing with my auction stuff so I didn't get in till around 9 a.m... but I am on vacation. We're currently in the process of mergeing with about 15 other libraries into a common circulation system... and we have to re-barcode over 40,000 items. Phew!

Anyway, after all was functioning at work, I picked up Ernie Gygax (my roomie... we live together in an enormous victorian house) and headed up to GENCON. I made Ernie the driver as I was going to fill out my auction forms on the trip north. However, I soon disovered, that it's really difficult to write clearly in a moving car, so I gave up. We found a great parking spot behind Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee and made our way to the convention.

We stopped by the auction to drop off a few things I was selling and ran into my good friends. Scott & Lisa Russell (who were also putting stuff into the auction). Then we went up to the dealer area, but they wouldn't let Ernie Gygax in (being the son of the creator of Dungeons and Dragons carrys no weight with GENCON security) so we were escorted to the Troll Lords booth, where Ern finally got his convention badge.

I zoomed downstairs to the auction, emptied my backpack of things for sale, took a couple pictures, and soon found myself up on stage, selling stuff. I've been involved with the GENCON auction since 1969 (my first attendance) when I was the entire auction staff (it was a disaster and I needed help).

In 1969, GENCON was held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at Horticultural Hall. It's a wonderful place with a main hall about the size of a basketball court, and an enclosed lawn surrounded by dealer booths with room for about ten vendors.

Strangely enough, this convention has outgrown Lake Geneva, and sadly, it has outgrown Wisconsin. The Midwest Express Center which was supposed to be larger than it's predecessor, Mecca, is actually about the same size. The city failed GENCON, so the move to larger stomping grounds in Indiana was inevitable.

Out front of the dealer area I ran into some guys hyping Indianapolis, the site of GENCON 2003. They had a sort of 3d map of the city, which looked a lot like a German game named Big City. Anyway, If you're planning to attend GENCON 2003, now's the time to make your hotel reservations. INDY has the space that Milwaukee Lacks.

Let's see, I was back auctioning, and I did so most of the afternoon. Around 2 p.m. I took a break and there was some guy who called me by name... Peter Adkinson, new owner of GENCON. I was honored that he recognized me and we shook hands! Around 4:40 we ran out of the advertised selling stuff (computer games) so we shut down until 5 p.m. when miniature figures were to go on sale.

I bugged out at this point and headed to the 5th floor of the Hilton Hotel (just across the street from the Midwest Express Center) where I discovered just how inadequate were Milwaukee's facilities to handle a convention of this size.) All the meeting rooms of the Hilton were brimming with gamers, playing everything under the sun.

Borrow just about any board game you want and play it for free!
Well, almost, you did have to pay to get in to the convention.

That's Anthony (offstage right) being the banker...

I found the Puffing Billy (railroad games) Tournament and saw lots of great train games in progress (about 5 Silvertons, 10 different Empire Builders, and a few 18xx's... if you don't know what I'm talking about don't worry... these are all fine games about railroading.) Nearby, there were a bunch of people involved in a Monoply tournament, and all over the place people were playing Settlers of Cataan, and La Citta. Reiner Knietze and Bruno Fadidutti were well represented here.

And, I might add (in case Tramp is reading this) there were three games of TITAN in progress... a wonderful sight... it's one of my favorites.

By now it was past 6 p.m. and Ernie and I wanted to get home in time for the football game, so I bought some smoked almonds at Buddy Sqirrel to validate my parking and we were off to Lake Geneva.

Well, the brats have been cooked and it's late, so I'll sign off. I won't have access to proper facilites to update till Sunday, so I'll see you then.

Go to August 9'th (Friday)

This page updated August 12, 2002

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