Smoky Mountain Fan Fest 2022 Review: Monkeys, Wolves, Moonshine, and Power Rangers

This year makes the third year for this event and because it had some interesting events to offer and the fact that this is a convention that is fairly close to home I once again decided to stop by and experience what it had to offer. This is actually the only event so far that I’ve gone to every year that it’s been held so I’m having an interesting time watching as this event changes year after year from its inception. So the big question I had going into this year was what direction they decided to go that was different from year 2 and was it the right choice.

I’ll talk about vendors first. Vendors were rather diverse this year full of all kinds of merch and because the crowd wasn’t bad it was really easy to take our time and really look at all of the merchandise without feeling confided in any way. This is one of the reasons I prefer smaller events to larger ones because I just like to have my space when I do things and not feel rushed by a massive crowd. I will say nothing really stood out to me this year that was different than last year which is fine as the event still had a nice variety but it also meant I didn’t find anything to buy.

The panels were done exactly the same as last year and that for the most part worked out well. There were very enjoyable q&a panels with the guests and seating wasn’t hard to find but even if you didn’t find it this was set up in the vendors hall so you could still hang around near the area and enjoy the panel. Normally I don’t care for this kind of set up but where this is a fairly small event, attendee-wise, it actually worked out very well. I will say though when the convention decides to expand having a dedicated panel room should be the first priority so that more people can sit in the audience and enjoy the show as there weren’t that many chairs to sit at. It was plenty for the size the convention is now but it won’t stay that way as the event grows. One issue I did have was the fact that they for some reason had the front row for the Halloweentown panel for VIP passes only. Now I don’t mind the policy itself but I wasn’t a fan of the fact that the panel area only had three rows total and the fact that I couldn’t find this information anywhere else other than the host relaying that information via the microphone minutes before the panel started. If that is going to be a thing fans need to know this information in advance not only for planning but it can even motivate people to buy the VIP pass if that information was known beforehand.

The guest list was really good with an impressive variety like last year. In fact, this convention had more voice actors which I really enjoyed, and had the actors who played Harry Potter’s parents which was a must-see for my wife. I was actually pretty shocked at the awesome people they managed to get. I also really liked how they really had innovative ideas on what to offer as guest experiences. By using the local businesses in Gatlinburg, TN the convention had an actual owl during the photo ops with the Harry Potter stars and offers other events such as a Moonshine Tasting with the original black ranger from power rangers. I’ll be honest when I grew up watching him on TV I never thought I would wind up having a drink with the guy, but I did and it was so much fun. Speaking of experiences they also had photo ops with other animals such as wolves and monkeys so my wife and I had a great time with all of those. As an added bonus a few of the guests from the convention also showed up to have drinks which really added to the experience. Overall these experiences were by far the highlight of the day because these were so different than any of the 50+ conventions we’ve been to so far and they were a ton of fun which makes this convention so memorable.

Now for some hiccups, but thankfully they are minor. I first mentioned the issue with one of the panels but the photo ops had some issues as well. My wife bought a photo op for the Harry Potter actors but when the schedule was first released they were only doing the photos on the day we were not going to be at the convention. Now thankfully the event was more than willing to assist with resolving this concern and managed to get a photo op set up for Saturday, but even if they couldn’t they were going to have us change to another option which was something we were equally ok with. However, if they had established what days the photo ops would happen prior to selling them then this confusion would not have happened. The only other issue is the lines were slow. It took a while to get the photo op passes and it took a while to get the photos but to my understanding, this is because the internet was slow. Hopefully, that is an easy fix for next year as it wasn’t a big concern this time, but with more people to wait on this can become a more significant problem.

So overall I got to take photos with Wolves and Monkeys and got to drink moonshine with one of my childhood heroes and I am blown away at how much fun all that was. I would love to see this event do more guest activities using the local attractions because I’d gladly do the moonshine tasting again with another guest and maybe other options could become available somehow like going up to the nearby skybridge. This is absolutely a direction that proved to be a smart choice and I hope the convention continues to embrace that and take it even further. There were some hiccups but with the size of the event it didn’t amount to any significant problems and can be resolved for future events with more planning and communication. If they continue to do more clevel and unique events I’m coming back again in 2023.

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