I met Casey, last year. Creator and founder of Sci-Fi Valley Con in Altoona, PA.
In doing Cons all this time, I have seldom met a Con EXEC that was as laid back and outgoing as Casey. I am proud to say that we are now friends, and we are able to learn and grow from each other as we both develop our positions in the world of GEEK-DOM.
Casey and I are of the same mind set. GEEKS RULE!
Both with a mutual appreciation for all things geek; we are both in it for the joy, love, passion and infatuation of the GEEK Universe. So I began to wonder. How hard is it to run a Convention? Casey was more than kind enough to answer my questions.
IMP- "How long has Sci_Fi Valley Con been going on?"
SFVC- "I officially starting the convention in August 2011 and we had our first show in May 2012 at the North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg, PA. The first show was very small, around 40 exhibitors and under 1,000 attendees. Then we moved to the Jaffa Shrine Center in Altoona, PA and used the whole downstairs. The following year, we used the whole building. After that, we moved to the Blair County Convention Center also located in Altoona and we used the whole downstairs. And finally, for 2016, we will have the entire BCCC with over 75,000 sq feet about over 330 exhibitors."
IMP- "What are some of the main challenges in running a con?"
SFVC- "Paying the bills is of course the most important thing. We charge very little for tables and admission so we need a lot of people to attend in order to continue it year after year. We actively attend other conventions and try to recruit as many new vendors as possible, but as the years go on, more and more vendors are finding us instead of it being the other way around. For our upcoming show in 2016, the biggest challenges are to find and sign really, really good celerity guests. There is a ton of work and expenses involved when it comes to getting the higher level guests."
IMP- "What are the benefits of running a successful con like Sci-Fi Valley Con?"
SFVC- "I do it because I love it. It's not about the money to me, I don't need the money and I don't take any money. I don't pay myself because I want to invest every cent back into the next show. That is how the show grew so fast and why it was been so successful. It takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work, and if you don't absolutely love it, you're going to fail. So you have to love running a convention for its culture. If you're just in it for the money than the show will have no culture or no taste... too many conventions these days are money machines and their only mission is to fill the promoters pockets with cash. Those conventions are the Microsoft's or IBM's of the convention scene, and we are Apple."
IMP- "What is the worst thing that has ever happened while running con?"
SFVC- "The worst thing to ever happen was probably something that happened was in 2012 when we just started running the show. We were supposed to have the first con at the War Memorial in Johnstown, PA (my home town), but the city screwed us over by demanding all the vendors pay an additional $150 to the city to sell merchandise. Well, that type of stuff is not acceptable for me... so I picked myself back up and left Johnstown, never to return. Now, Altoona sees a huge amount of money coming in every year from us when we draw thousands and thousands of people to the area."
IMP- "What is one of the coolest things to happen while running Con?"
SFVC- "Getting to meet and work for famous guests is pretty cool, and as a result, some people think I'm "famous"... which I'm not. I'm just some guy who runs a sci-fi convention every year that just happens to get bigger and bigger. My favorite thing is the Jurassic Park Jeep that me and my dad spend a year building. It took a long time and a lot of money, but it is a good memory."
IMP- "Why do you run a con?"
SFVC- "I just have a huge love for science fiction and the geek culture, it's everything that I am. The convention doesn't ever feel like work anymore, it's my hobby. Making promotional material and videos is fun for me. If it wasn't fun anymore, I wouldn't do it. Also, its a great thing to do with my friends and family. We talk about plans all year long and get to spend one hell of an awesome, busy weekend together trying to pull it all off. It's just apart of our lives now, and I couldn't see my life without Sci-Fi Valley Con. It's our baby."
IMP- "What do you foresee/want to happen in the future of SciFi Valley Con?"
SFVC- "This is an interesting question, because if our next show in June is as success as I think it will be now that we have a lot of big time guests coming, I am going to consider doing more than 1 show a year depending on what the vendors think in a post convention survey. I spend 6 months of the year doing nothing because the show doesn't do anything until its 6 months away. Not many people buy their tables and you can't book guests a year out. So having one 2 times a year might be the future considering how we can't grow any larger since we maxed out the BCCC."
IMP- "Would you ever give up doing Sci-Fi Valley Con?"
SFVC- "The only way I'd give up the show is if I invest too much money into a show and not enough people come OR if I die. So as long as I don't die and more and more people keep attending, then we will be around for a long, long time."
IMP- "If you didn't do con, what would you be doing?"
SFVC- "A science convention always seemed like a fun idea. I love science and technology just as much as I love science fiction. It's hard to say what I'd be doing if I didn't do the show. Whatever it would be, it would be big. I have a fire in me. I look at people like Steve Jobs and I want to achieve something as important and as beautiful as what he built in his life. I hope someday to match his achievements. I'm still young... time will tell. I'm not finished yet. Everything I've done so far is just the beginning."
IMP- "If you could get one celebrity to attend con, who would it be and why?"
SFVC- "I already booked two amazing guests that I could be happier with. Jewel Staite from Firefly and John Rhys-Davies from LOTR. I mean, come on... it doesn't get much better than that. I really look forward to meeting and working with them both. It's going to be such a honor to get to meet the people I get to meet."
I can't wait to attend Sci-Fi Valley Con! I had a blast last year! Great Vendors, AMAZING FOOD!!! (UNUSUAL FOR A CON) and GREAT PEOPLE, ARTISTS and AUTHORS!!!! SEE YOU THERE!!!!
CEO Spike Bowan is the Pittsburgh based Actor/Director/ Author/ Creator of the Alternate History Genre/Fiction saga "War in the Backyard".
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