Earlier this week, Louisiana’s largest and longest-running anime convention, MechaCon, announced that next year will be the final event. This year was its fifteenth year, making it the longest event of it’s kind in our state, exponentially growing year after year.
Just like when local and family-owned businesses close their doors, the news brought tears to numerous fans who had made MechaCon a part of their life every summer. To a person who has never experienced an event like this, it’s hard to put into words what this event meant to so many Louisiana fans and their families. It is a 3 day event where people celebrate their shared love for not only animation, but comic books, video games, card games, cinema, and art. It can be compared to how a sports fan feels about their favorite teams, they seek out others to share in the excitement when their team has a big win, or is gearing up for a big match. I could just go on telling you why the majority of convention-goers love MechaCon, but I’d rather share my personal experience, as my involvement with their event has shaped the person I have become.
I grew up on video games, Magic the Gathering, comics, and cartoons… I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, and I was very quiet. Instead of seeking out others for company, I buried myself in my hobbies like drawing and gaming. If someone would have said I’d be a radio host, or anything to do with entertaining, I would have laughed. I just couldn’t imagine myself ever having that level of confidence.
Back in 2004, there was very little way for Louisiana fans like me to express themselves or connect with others who liked the same thing. Many fans felt alienated, as there were little or no events like MechaCon. For the few that existed before it, they were tiny and poorly promoted. So most fans (like me) went years without knowing there were anime conventions or comic-cons anywhere near our state. A group of dedicated fans, right here in Lafayette, LA, got together to create MechaCon, a convention that focused on serving the fans and the community. And yes, the first years were right here in Acadiana, at the Lafayette Hilton, with the very first one taking place in August of 2005. It was much more than just a vendor hall full of art, collectibles, and celebrity guests… it was discussion panels, educational workshops, an annual charity auction, meeting other fans, and making life long friendships.
For me it was all of those things, as well as discovering who I was. The group of volunteers, MechaCon’s original staff, approached me about a year before the first event. I was working at GameStop in the Acadiana Mall at the time, and one of them asked me if I would be interested in promoting their event with flyers… dressed up in a space suit! I obviously couldn’t resist… I LOVE costumes… but I had no idea what an anime convention was like. They created a character that was modeled after me, everything from the shape of my face to the exact hair color I had. They named her “Jett” after my name “Brigette” (the “gette” = Jett) choosing to spell with two t’s as a nod to the name it came from. That character and another one they created, Zee, appeared on all of the promotional artwork, posters, program books, and the website.
It was very surreal. I worked hard for them. In a short time I became very good at speaking publicly, I learned to conduct myself professionally at events, and learned a whole lot about promoting and how to put on a great event. They taught me the value of putting on a smile, as well as the value of teamwork. Eventually, after 6 or 7 years, the convention had grown so large that it was moved to New Orleans, and around that time was when I was finishing college at UL, in media. I ended up stepping down as a volunteer to let others have a chance to represent the red-headed MechaCon space girl, but kept in mind all I had learned for being a part of their journey in creating, in my opinion, the most successful fan event in the state. As the years passed, I continued to attend every single year, competing in their cosplay contest, as well as hosting educational workshops on how to make costumes. Here at 106.3 Radio Lafayette, I was able to work with the convention organizers to put together great giveaways for our radio station with event passes and hotel accommodations. No matter what year, I was always involved in some way, as a way to thank them for the opportunity, experience, and valuable skills I gained from being a part of their organization at such a crucially developmental time in my life.
I did not write this blog to mourn the loss of a Louisiana event that impacted my life… but rather to celebrate what it has done for not only me, but for the entire community. Think about who you are today, and compare it to 15 years ago. Has there been any organization that has changed your life? If so, celebrate it. For the press release about the Grand Finale of MechaCon Anime Convention, click here. > MechaCon Omega