Three weekends ago I attended Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in Secaucus, NJ – but I attended as a volunteer. HVFF is my fourth comic con, but it was my first time volunteering and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.
HVFF was to take place the weekend of 1/23/16. I did not, however, think far ahead enough to take off work on Friday the 22nd to help with setup – a mistake I will never ever ever make again. Unfortunately, the event was scheduled in January. In New Jersey. In winter. One never knows what the weather will do here, and we had had a few times where it was supposed to snow but never actually did. Well, not this time, of course. Mother Nature decided that since EVERYONE was travelling to the Garden State, there MUST be a paralyzing blizzard! Sigh. This resulted in the event being cancelled for Saturday.
Oh, but that didn’t stop anyone from having a kickass weekend. I managed to leave a bit early from work on Friday afternoon to get to the hotel right by the Expo Center. My bestest friends Chrisha and Chris were already there (they had enough brainpower to think of setup day!). Using the magic of social media it was known that Stephen Amell and John Barrowman were in town, too. On Friday night it still hadn’t started snowing, but the storm was definitely on its way affecting some people’s travel to NJ. Governor Christie declared a State of Emergency in anticipation, effectively cancelling the next day’s activities. People immediately reached out on FB, Twitter, etc to find out what everyone else was doing, what hotels everyone was staying at….People started hotel hopping to meet up with other con goers.
Super genius artist Lord Mesa even came to our hotel to do free sketches. Chrisha, Chris and I got in line with the hopes that we could get a sketch of the 3 of us. In that time, we made friends with two awesome ladies named Amy and Gloria, who reached out to me on Twitter. In the end, we never made it to Lord Mesa because the line was so long, so the 5 of us went to the Embassy Suites next door to see what was going on over there. We played a strange but super fun card game called Fluxx and chatted with other awesome people hanging about.
At one point, Stephen Amell tweeted an Instagram picture near Buffalo Wild Wings nearby. It was fascinating to watch the entire hotel lobby empty within seconds of the pic being posted. After the crowds had cleared a bit we decided we should probably get something to eat and Carrabbas was just around the corner. We bundled up and headed out into the blizzard.
When we got to Carrabbas, this guy told us that Stephen Amell was inside with friends and we should let him chill. We had NO idea he was there! The pic was in front of Buffalo Wild Wings. The guy pointed behind us – there was Buffalo Wild Wings! What a troll lol. Well we were 10000% NOT leaving Carrabbas at this point. We never bothered him or approached him but drank up the vibrant energy there.
Carrabbas was PACKED. And because of the blizzard they were understaffed and underprepared and they knocked it out of the park. The staff was all smiles and taking care of everyone all night. Robbie Amell was there, too. While we were waiting for our table, John Barrowman walked in with, who I later found out, Katrina Law. John went on FB Live to show the internet how much fun everyone was having, then had a snowball fight live on FB, too.
I should mention at this point that I am completely new to the world of Arrow and The Flash. I started watching several weeks ago and so I don’t know everyone or everything yet, so I had not recognized Katrina at all. She later on made snow angels with Chrisha. I felt a bit left out of some conversations and jokes because I just wasn’t there yet. Next time, again, I will be far more prepared. I am almost caught up. 🙂
Anyway, later that night we attended the Nocking Point mixer. They did not let a silly blizzard keep them from having a kick ass party. Stephen, John and Robbie were there hanging out and talking to people. They are the most down to earth guys, those Amell boys. And for the most part everyone was cool and so they were able to properly hang out. The best part happened when Stephen and John got on stage to entertain us, since the originally scheduled band got snowed out. Between Chrisha and I, I think we have the whole thing recorded on video. Because they were not already freaking awesome enough, Stephen started singing songs from Frozen (YES he sang “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build A Snowman” and YES my life is forever changed), but it soon turned into “Copacabana,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and, I swear to God, “Music of the Night.” I experienced a surprisingly very musically gifted Stephen Amell hit some notes that made my heart stop beating. No, really…watch the video!
(The rest of my videos are after the jump!)
After the amazing show, the party went on for a little bit longer. I bought a few NP shirts at the merch booth. Then at one point Stephen was taking pictures with people and that is how I got the photo at the beginning of this post. He was so sweet! Chrisha also got a fantastic pic with him 🙂 Soon after the party came to an end and we had to brave the elements again. The NJ winter seems to have got to Amell & Co, because they went on FB Live while they tried to get their car out of the snow lol.
Veeeeeery early the next morning, we made our way to the Expo Center because the blizzard was gone, the SOE lifted, and there was a con to run!!
Chrisha was super lucky to get assigned to work John Barrowman’s autograph table. She was suuuuper busy the rest of the day. Chris was supposed to run Caity Lotz’s autograph table but she could not make it due to the blizzard, so he was moved to the Information Desk. I had been accidentally scheduled for a half day so my only duties were the ticketing booth in the afternoon. When I asked what I could do until then, I was pretty much told I could just help out wherever I wanted or was needed. Cool!
At first it was a bit slow until the con was officially open and the crowds started coming in. I met a woman who worked with The Lazarus Pit and took this pic of me with the TARDIS for free. I couldn’t believe it. If anyone knows how I can reach them on FB or Twitter please let me know. I forgot to grab a card.
I immediately made friends with one of the other volunteers named Barbara. She is from Hungary here on an au pair and one of the sweetest people ever. She and I walked around the floor, answering questions from attendees and helping however we could. At one point I was approached by two girls who were having ATM trouble, and who were struggling with English a bit. I recognized their accent, and when I saw their receipt in French, I started speaking to them in French, too. They were immediately relieved and felt more comfortable. They needed to get to the Chase bank so I gave them directions and wished them luck.
About 10 mins later, my cell phone rings. A phone call from France. The girl at the other end of the line was asking if I was Esty, someone told her I speak French and she needed my help. I asked her where on the floor she was and I met up with her. She needed help understand how the autograph tickets worked for Stephen’s table. We went back to Stephen’s table and got her all the info she needed. Then she and I learned her name is Laura and she would be in the area for a few more days before flying back to France. As we were chatting, ANOTHER girl comes up to us to chat bc she heard French and felt right at home. I have to say, that experience right there…that alone made the whole event for me. I hadn’t had the opportunity to really use French in a long time AND they said I spoke excellent. Heh, I still got it! And I was able to help people and make new friends out of it. Beyond words 🙂
Then it was time for photo ops! I had bought a photo op with John Barrowman bc I needed a pic with him where he was hugging me. And, my GOD, did that man deliver:
Now, somehow Chris managed to get a free photo op, which we learned we could use for a group photo op. Naturally we signed up for the Stephen/Barrowman option and produced this delicious work of art:
I can’t even tell you what this photo makes me feel. It’s one of my favorite pics ever taken. Best part was, while we were in line, Chrisha says she wants to hug Stephen and Chris really wants to get Barrowman so would I mind being in the middle. ….. Would I…MIND?? Seriously? That’s not even a real question!! HELL YES I will do this for you! I mean, look at me in that sandwich!
After a quick bite to eat and a quick stop at a booth that had Labyrinth t-shirts (it’s my favorite movie and I was/still am not handling Bowie’s death well), I went to the ticket booth for the rest of the afternoon. I met a really cool girl named Chantal who showed me the ropes and we talked all afternoon long. It was pretty quiet in the lobby since most people couldn’t make it due to the storm. I did see these fabulous guests, though:
The rest of the day was busy with end of con stuff. We stayed to help with tear down and putting things away. To say that I was hurting all over is a huge understatement haha. But it was worth all the effort!
Honestly, being a volunteer for a con rather than attending it was a WHOLE new experience for me. I feel like I got more con out of the con as a volunteer than I did as a paid attendee. I have already signed up to volunteer at the make-up date in July bc I just had THAT much fun doing it this time, and am looking to volunteer at other cons. Fandom is my life, my coping mechanism, it changed my life. I want to be as involved as I can!