AwesomeCon 2021 returned to Washington, DC this weekend for an in-person convention, but anxiety around the pandemic remained present.
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an effect on the convention scene. While most of 2020’s conventions were postponed or done virtually, 2021 has seen a few conventions return to in-person events. AwesomeCon, an annual convention that is held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, returned this past weekend for AwesomeCon 2021 with another in-person event.
Upon announcing that the convention would be happening, AwesomeCon announced that attendees must be always masked inside, except when eating. Unfortunately, the convention did not mandate proof of vaccination. As other upcoming conventions are starting to require proof of vaccination at their events, AwesomeCon should have made the same decision. While being vaccinated cannot completely mitigate the risks, it would have gone a long way to helping both slow the spread and ease the worries of attendees.
I ultimately made the decision to attend this in-person convention. Though this decision is controversial, it was not a decision I took lightly. I got both doses of the vaccine as soon as I was able to earlier in the year and have consistently worn masks when I have been in public since the start of the pandemic. I was definitely hesitant about going to the convention center due to the continued spread of the coronavirus and the news of the Delta variant, and I second-guessed myself multiple times. After talking to my doctor and my family that I live with, I decided to make the trip down to the convention center and experience my first in-person convention since February 2020.
Once I decided that I would be attending, I did my best to try and plan my weekend in a way to minimize risks as much as possible. I planned to walk through the exhibitors and artist alley on Friday, typically the least crowded day of the weekend. I planned to social distance the whole weekend as much as possible and I was double masked the entire time that I was on the metro or in the convention center, other than when eating or drinking. While not part of my initial plans, I ended up only going on Friday and Saturday.
When I arrived at the convention center, I found that the majority of the attendees I saw were complying with the mask mandates. There was signage all over the convention center encouraging people to wear masks and wash their hands, and I saw multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. The one issue I encountered throughout the weekend was a lack of social distancing. The struggle with social distancing created some anxiety, and I had hoped that the convention staff would have made it much easier to do so. For better or worse, it felt like a traditional AwesomeCon but with masks.
Though much of AwesomeCon 2021 felt the same, the pandemic was far from forgotten. The sight of everyone wearing their required masks was a constant though reassuring presence. While the show floor was filled with artists and exhibitors, there were a few empty tables when I walked around. It is unclear which of these were late arrivals as opposed to last minute cancellations, but there were more empty tables than I’ve typically seen in past years of attending the convention.
In addition, discussion of the pandemic made its way into programming and filled the spaces in between programming. Actor George Takei opened his panel with an impassioned speech encouraging people to get vaccinated, criticizing some governors’ handling of the pandemic (though not mentioning anyone by name), and comparing the current racist attacks against Asian Americans to his own childhood experiences of being in a Japanese internment camp. Later in the day, actress Christina Ricci paused mid-panel to put her mask back on, explaining that she didn’t want to test positive while being pregnant.
Despite the worries about the pandemic, I enjoyed my time at AwesomeCon 2021 and there were a lot of highlights from the two days I ended up attending. Even though I know there’s a chance that I will end up testing positive, I assessed that risk in making my decision and do not regret my decision to go. Though the convention was still enjoyable despite the pandemic, hopefully we’ll be able to attend in person conventions in the future without the pandemic looming over everything.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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