ConCarolinas returned for its 16th year this past weekend for three days of sci-fi//fantasy fun in Charlotte, North Carolina. Much as we are every year, the Nerd Nation crew was in attendance, with our own Dave Harlequin participating in various panels and programming all weekend long, including his highly popular signature panel: “This One Time at Con”, sharing many of the wild, crazy, and often times unbelievable stories he’s collected over his many years on the circuit (many of which we did together).
This year marked a big moment in ConCarolinas history, as it saw the convention return to its longtime former home of the Hilton Charlotte University Place in Charlotte’s University district on the north end of the city after a few years in Charlotte suburb Concord at the Embassy Suites Concord-Charlotte Convention Center. As with every relocation, there were of course pros and cons to this move – with the most notable pro being its easy access to the many bars and restaurants that surround the lake adjacent to the Hilton, putting various options for food and drink within walking distance of the host hotel. While this may sound like a small thing, it really does make a big difference, especially for out-of-towners and the party crowd.
The most notable con, of course, had to be the considerable downgrade in both overall space, and quality of amenities. While the Hilton is a fine hotel in its own right, it’s just nowhere near as big, or as nice as the Embassy was. While I cannot speak as to why the move back to the Hilton happened, as I do not know, one can only assume it came down to money… as it almost always does with every convention out there. Fun fact, ladies and gents, most conventions struggle in some way, shape, or form with the venues that host them… especially those that take place in hotels (and let’s be honest here, all the really good ones do). Perhaps it was simply a case of “better the devil you know” at work with this move, perhaps it was something else entirely. I suppose you’d have to ask the board of directors, and quite frankly, I’m not going to bother any of them right after a con weekend.
Anyway, the guest list was quite impressive for a mid-level con, featuring musician/artist/comedian Aurelio Voltaire and authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Stephanie Osborn as their 2017 guests of honor. All were friendly and quite well-received by the fans, and while none of those pack quite the punch as previous years’ heavy-hitters such as George RR Martin or MST3K’s Joel Hodgson, it was still an impressive guest list, especially once you factor in the TONS of other guests on that billing, which were literally more than I can even hope to begin to name out here.
Speaking of which, the programming – as it ALWAYS is – was absolutely fantastic, and if there’s ever only ONE reason to go to this show, its impressive programming/panels list would absolutely be it. Lots of other cons out there are basically just giant flea markets with a little window dressing to distract you from this fact, but ConCarolinas absolutely is not. As a matter of fact, my only complaint with the programming was that there was too much going on for me to do it all, and I had to pick and choose which panels and films I wanted to attend. Pretty great problem to have, if you ask me!
Finally, the other big appeal of ConCarolinas has to be its parties. The entire show is a full-blown party atmosphere, with so many familiar faces, friendly people, and more booze and fun than you’ll know what to do with. After dark on Friday and Saturday nights it is absolutely the geeky, nerdy paradise any party person could ever ask for. Walk up and down the halls of the hotel and you can find any number of wide-open room parties, as well as gaming that runs very late, a bar packed full of people, and of course a big open outdoor shindig out by the lake. Combine all of that with tons of other fun stuff to do, and you’ve got one heck of a con – which this absolutely is!
The Bottom Line:
Overall, ConCarolinas remains one of the absolute best conventions in the southeastern US, and easily the best in the Greater Charlotte area. It’s packed full of great programming, always has a nice guest list, has tons of fun stuff to do, and of course has one of the best party atmospheres you’ll find anywhere at any con. While definitely not perfect, and while I will admit to personally liking the previous location better, this still remains one of the tops on our annual list for very good reason. We will definitely be back in 2018 and absolutely encourage all of you to do the same!
First Ambassador/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine