This past weekend, my husband and I and two friends went to a small, first time convention in Las Vegas. It was supposedly held in the very Victorianesque Main Street Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas, although the bulk of it actually occurred across the way in the California Hotel (which confusingly had a very Hawaiian theme to it). The Main Street Hotel has tons of very lovely Victorian era antiques and brass everywhere. If it didn’t have a casino in it, it would be the perfect place for a steampunk convention. Unfortunately, Vegas still allows smoking, so many of my smoke intolerant friends wisely decided to stay home and avoid the issue. Even if a restaurant does not allow smoking, the doors are always wide open and the smoke is everywhere. Some of the larger casinos have better tech to whisk it away, but old Vegas is sadly lacking in this tech. I am still uncertain why the Social Club at the Main Street was not used. It looks to be a very large room and it is away from the smoke and noise of the casino entirely.
As with most first time conventions, it was disorganized and not as smooth as it could be, but it made a valiant effort. We were surprised to read that they were not planning on selling memberships at the door, as this is where a good 50% of the sales usually happen. It turns out that they had limited space and could only accommodate about 150 people. While it is good to know your limitations, it might have been useful information for merchants and others to determine their involvement. (Edited to add: It seems that not selling at the door was due to some state licensing issue. Quite inconvenient I would suspect.)
There were only two event rooms used most of the weekend and one other that was used primarily Friday night, the Pullman Room. The Pullman Room was very lovely and Victorian and even had a Pullman car attached to it. It was also away from the smoke. It is unfortunate that it was not used the rest of the weekend, except for one group photo op that most of us did not know about. The other two rooms were in the California, a hotel across the sky bridge from the main hotel. The first room, the Maile Room was 1,428 sq feet and housed the tiny primary merchant room. The second room, the O’Hana Room was about twice as big, but housed not only another six or seven merchants on the periphery but also the stage and chairs for all the programming throughout the weekend. I have seen other small conventions do this, but it is quite awkward for the merchants trying to do business. The programming participants did have a microphone, which helps a bit. These rooms are right off the casino and so of course the smoke is invasive.
The programming that we saw was on par with that of most small first time cons. The concert on Saturday night was headlined by the Velveteen Band, an okay ensemble including a rabbit headed lead and some puppets. Unwoman and Poplock Holmes were awesome as always and our favorite part of the weekend’s entertainment.
We had a great time sitting and chatting with various folks at the bar outside the programming rooms, although we were dismayed that they closed at 11:00 PM on Saturday night. I invited anyone we knew who was staying on Sunday night to join us at the bar in our hotel and we had a great turnout. These sorts of impromptu gatherings are often the best times of a con, and this was no exception.
Mr. Kastler is a very gracious host, and as an intimate gathering for his birthday, this was successful, but it hardly lifted “the standard of a steampunk con” as he has boasted. As always, the attendees were the best part of the event and we had a fabulous time chatting and making new friends. There were so many wonderfully outfitted steampunk enthusiasts. I personally despise the word “garb” when referring to steampunk enthusiasts. I think “gear” might be more appropriate. The environment, at least in places was simply magical for photos and we took full advantage.
So, despite still coughing the smoke out of my lungs, I have quite a few lovely photos and had a nice weekend at Steamathon. I know personally how difficult it is to make everything run smoothly, especially the first time, so I applaud the effort of Kastler and his staff.
Some of our photo galleries can be seen here and here.