Some days you just gotta love how fandom pulls itself together. One recent example was the last RadCon, located in the Tri-Cities.
Now RadCon has always been somewhat of an interesting science fiction convention. Because it’s located near Hanford there’s been a bit of a draw toward panels based on science topics and a heavy number of attendees with science and engineering backgrounds. There’s a regular core of gamers. Cosplayers. Writers. Its attendance pulls as much from the Portland, Seattle, BC, and Spokane areas as it does from the Tri-Cities.
So when a bad winter storm hits the week before RadCon, that’s going to be problematic, right? Six inches or so of snow at the Pasco Red Lion and even locals snowed in. Ice all over the place. Around 500 attendees canceled due to weather–including panelists, presenters, and dealers. Eeek. A conrunner’s nightmare, right?
Well, that’s not accounting for the dual nature of the Pacific Northwest. West of the Cascades, snow is rare. People just don’t have the tools to manage large amounts of snow, much less deal with driving in questionable weather. Even those from elsewhere who do have experience with snow get frustrated with what they see as inadequate preparation for the rare heavy snow event (when you are talking about something that maybe happens 2-3 times in ten years, city budgets aren’t inclined to include snow removal equipment as a regular budget and training expense. BTDT, ever since experiencing my first big snow event in the 60s). But there’s just not a lot of incentive to dedicate much attention to something that goes away within a couple of days, which is the usual state of affairs when a big snow dump hits Portland or Seattle.
Those of us who’ve lived here all our lives know and accept this reality with a shrug. Some West-siders learn how to handle snow and do so well. Or they grew up in snow country and they adapt to the West-side freakouts.
But east of the Cascades, especially for those populations who live in and around mountains? No big deal for most of us, just like it is for the minority of West-siders with snow experience. And that got reflected in RadCon attendance. Both the Columbia River Gorge and Snoqualmie Pass had a small window opening up for safe traffic to reach RadCon. The experienced and the bold in Portland and Seattle went for it. And then there were the Canadians…..
The question still remained…was anyone going to show up? And what was going to happen with the holes in the schedule because people couldn’t travel safely?
Attendance got answered pretty quickly on Friday, when the registration lines were as long as they ever were–only perhaps for not as long as in years when the weather behaves. Granted, there were still fewer people there than in past years, but nearly every panel I attended had at least a partial audience, and others were standing room only. We panelists marveled at the number of people who showed up for 9 AM panels on both Saturday and Sunday.
Programming told panelists to feel free to jump into panels that had less than four panelists (while checking with the other panelists, of course). So we rose to the occasion, filling in so that most panels had a full range of presenters.
It was fun. The con had a more intimate, collaborative feel to it. I was able to visit with people I don’t normally get to talk to, and relax at the same time. I missed seeing some people who didn’t make the drive, but then again, not everyone is cut out for winter driving. It wasn’t overwhelming, and even though we drove home in a little bit of weather, it still wasn’t bad.
I’ll probably remember this RadCon as the Yaktrak con, since I ended up wearing my Yaks every day to hike over the icy path from the Best Western to the Red Lion. But I’ll also remember the new people I met, and others that I got to know better. We all pulled together to make things work, and they did. Gotta love it.