Fashion: It really honestly does run all over the place. It's been my interest to encourage fabulousness over period rigidity. You should wear whatever makes you feel fantastic (with all your bathing suit bits covered, of course). The burlesque women, being from The Home of Happiness Rocky Horror cast were running around in their retro underthings. I wore a black velvet knee length dress last year for the fancy dress masked ball. I saw everything from EGL to gothic to Victorian to rockabilly to modern fresh mainstream fashion. Whenever I am giving fashion advice, I always tell people to wear whatever makes them feel good. We all have that one outfit in our closet -- the one that makes our butts look great, our cleavage (if applicable) look fantastic, our tummies look good, and makes us feel powerful and sexy. I encourage people wear whatever that outfit is.
Size of the convention: We had probably somewhere between 75 - 100 people last year. I confess, I lost track after awhile. I can just about guarentee we're going to be bigger than that this year. We're six months out and we've already presold almost as many tickets as we did last year.
Your fellow patrons: I have been to a few cons and also to many gothic events. I am willing to swear on a stack of religious text of your choice that I have never seen a group of people who were so kind, generous, and gracious. Everyone was engaging and beautifully dressed and open minded. It was really lovely to witness. I got warm fuzzies every time I stepped out into the crowd.
Hotel: The Somerset Holiday Inn is very beautifully appointed. It's a three diamond establishment with lovely celtic inspired carpets, crystal chandeliers, and marble floors. When I walked into the hotel after touring quite a few other establishments, I knew in my heart this was the place for us. How could it not be? It had little plush benches scattered throughout the hotel, just like out of a period movie. I could already see people sitting on the benches whispering to each other behind fans. It was perfect. In my experience in running conventions, I also had a lot of experience dealing with hotel staff. It can be tricky and difficult to do, to make sure everyone is getting exactly what they need. I never, ever had any problems dealing with this hotel's staff. They were nothing but kind and attentive and respective to us.
Food: I love that the main eating establishment is a sports bar. I know that sounds strange, probably. But I really like that if any of our con patrons weren't sure if the whole Neo-Victorian thing was for them (often significant others or best friends who are going to support their SO/BF), they had a very modern place to sit and relax and watch sports or CNN. They have top shelf alcohol as well as v. affordable menu selections (including vegan and vegetarian items!). And if that's not your bag, I can assure you that New Brunswick (which is right next to Somerset) has every possible kind of food you would like, ranging from grease truck fat food that Rutgers University is known for to Ethiopian cuisine to everything in between. I love eating in New Brunswick, I went to college there. I particularly personally enjoy The Bombay Bistro (Indian, moderate pricing), NovaTerra (latin fusion, expensive), The Noodle Gourmet (Chinese, inexpensive pricing), Evelyn's (Middle Eastern, inexpensive to moderate), and the Fat Beach at Mr. C's (fat food, inexpensive).
The Masked Ball: We are looking for this to be one of our highlights this year. It will be kicked off by a performance by our burlesque troupe (one of our highlights from last year). We have a v. capable Decorating Committee headed up by our own
Other con events: Some of our highlights from last year include:
- We support The Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation through our charity auction (and I've attended a few local art auctions, so expect that this event will mirror the style of an art auction). Even if you're not personally bidding, it's exciting to watch.
- Our salons are led by well qualified people of note in their field, the conversation generated is interesting and intellectual.
- Our seance is led by a noted, formally trained practioner. It was one of the few events I personally got to attend myself last year. It's a quiet, respective, non denominational event. It's not done "John Edwards" style, where you're calling up specific spirits, it's more focused on trying to feel the spiritual energy in the room.
- Our cream tea was especially lovely last year. We use the hotel's more formal restaurant to serve a variety of loose leaf teas and scones with their accourtements. The tea is catered by Teaberry's, a local teahouse with a magnificantly well informed proprietor. We had a lovely performance by Kwannon during the tea, she has a lovely voice and uses world instruments to provide a gorgeous backdrop of music to your conversation. We had wonderfully skilled volunteers to assist in providing table service.
- We had a wonderfully intimate performance by Amber Spyglass and Carfax Abbey, who really rocked out.
- An expertly run meetup/swap for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes.
The list honestly goes on and on! Our authors (Catherynne Valente & Sara Harvey) were marvelous, and there were a lot of other great workshops going on as well. And this was just from our first year! We plan on being even more fabulous, more spectacular, with even better events to amuse you this year.
And in case you want to see what last year looked like, please peruse our gallery which was expertly shot by tyrus.