Yama Con 2021 Review: Rough Around The Edges

Yama Con is the last convention for 2021 for me and usually, I have pretty high hopes for this event because it’s located in Pigeon Forge so this event offers a great opportunity to do a convention and go sightseeing. However, this year came with some hiccups that unfortunately had a negative effect on the whole experience.

I’ll talk about guests first especially since this is where the biggest pro and con of the convention lies. Yama Con gets about seven or eight voice actors a year and they do a great job getting a good variety of popular actors and this year was no different. Like most years the convention had Johnny Young Bosch and Paul St. Peter and this year they also had some really well-known actors from Demon Slayer such as Bryce Papenbrook, Abby Trott, and Mark Whitten. One of the things I like most about Yama con is that it’s an event close to home that allows me to meet these actors without the hassle of a lot of traveling.

However, now we get to the downside which was the autograph sessions. This year Yama con tried to do something different and they had two different sessions for autographs. A paid session inside the vendors where guests would sign at times they were available and a free autograph session in a nearby hallway where you can get a personal item signed for free as long as it wasn’t a funko. Now I believe this was to make it clear when the autograph was free and when it wasn’t and the idea wasn’t all that bad, but in application, it failed miserably. Some guests decided not to do the session outside and choose to do the free autographs in the vendors to avoid moving their prints around from table to table which is honestly a practical idea. The problem is that this caused a lot of confusion in staff and attendees so there were many moments where you just didn’t know when and where an actor would be signing. This confusion caused a bit of chaos in the longer lines but I want to really highlight staff here for a moment. They did an amazing job trying their best to resolve the situation and were really understanding of how frustrating it was to us the fans. The staff has my absolute respect as the hard work and dedication they showed was on par with the best I’ve ever seen at a convention. It just happened to be a situation so confusing that there was not going to be a quick and easy fix to it. Since this problem was specific to the free signings it wasn’t a huge deal since it was still fairly easy to get an autograph from these actors during their paid sessions, but going forward I think the free autographs can stay with the VIP passes unless they find a better way to implement this idea for general admission.

Now for the vendors. The vendors were great but there were fewer of them this year. I found out that the reason for this was that ten vendors canceled due to concerns of covid. Now this is clearly a valid reason to cancel and I don’t judge them at all for that; however, it does affect the overall experience of the con as there was less shopping to be done. I’m not going to harp on this because while it negatively affected the con I would rather deal with that than as opposed to having the vendors sell items in a situation that they were not comfortable in. Even so, the shopping was still a lot of fun as there was still a nice variety and there was plenty of space to shop comfortably in.

Finally, I want to talk about panels. Now Yama con has never had what I would call a lot of panels but that’s still ok because it’s close to a lot of local attractions so even without a lot of panels there’s always plenty to do. This year Yama con had great Q and A panels and some nice cosplay panels to go to. Plus they opened a panel room up for people to practice panels that weren’t on the official schedule which I thought was a really cool idea. Great for people who have an idea but are not sure if they want to actually make it into a panel. I also did 18+ panels for the first time and wow that was quite a new experience for sure, but the only complaint I have about those is the seating. If you’re towards the back there really wasn’t much point in being there as you really couldn’t see anything. Plus there were fewer of these panels this year due to some sort of issue between the convention and the host hotel, at least from what I’ve found out so far. Next year the con is doing a different host hotel that has more space for panels and they will offer more panels so I can’t wait to see where that goes.

Overall it was still a solid experience. Great guests, great panels, great vendors, and going to the nearby attractions provide an incredible experience. However, there were issues with everything but the attractions. A new idea to do free autographs for guests backfired, the con was forced to not do as many 18+ panels and, for a valid reason, a lot of vendors did not appear. Even so, none of these setbacks did anything that ruined the overall experience they were just noticeable issues that the convention was able to work around enough to still be really enjoyable, and with their 10 year anniversary coming up next year I have high hopes for when I end my 2022 convention year with this con.

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