Walker Stalker Con – Atlanta 2019
What really happened at Walker Stalker Atlanta?
I’ve been back in Baltimore for less than 36 hours, and that’s the question I’ve heard most since my return from covering all three days of the convention in Atlanta. There’s been a lot of chat all over social media about the event – I’m going to give you my take on the entire weekend.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a fan of The Walking Dead, but I did attend as a member of the media and participated in portions of the convention as a panel moderator.
As with most Walker Stalker and/or Fan Fest events – the list of celebrity guests is plentiful. There’s always somebody there for everyone – which is good – because isn’t that the reason most people come to these type of conventions?
Talent from The Walking Dead, Scream, Game of Thrones, and others were available for autographs, selfies, photo opportunities, panels and more. And from watching them all at their prospective tables/booths – they seemed to genuinely enjoy their time spent with fans as much as the fans did with them.
Some lines were longer than others – but all-in-all it appeared that most lines moved fairly quickly. That’s impressive considering most of the celebrity guests really took the time to chat with their fans and give them an “experience” rather than just a quick signature and a nod. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Norman Reedus both had long lines – which was to be expected – but dedicated fans stuck it out to meet their favorites.
Vendors and Artists
There’s always a lot of great vendors and artists anytime you visit a convention of this nature. So much to see, so much to buy and take home, so much to get excited about. Speaking of interesting vendors – have you considered grabbing a “creepy” baby?
I only bought a couple of t-shirts, but I did consider grand theft auto… Not the video game, the actual crime. Because, let’s be honest, doesn’t everyone want a car to prepare themselves for a potential zombie apocalypse?
Fun and informative interviews/panels
The panels may be my favorite part of these conventions. You learn so much, usually have a few laughs, and it’s just nice to hear your favorites from TV/movies discuss their various projects. Some highlights for me from the panels:
- Matthew Lillard (Scream) put his arm around me and rubbed my head after reenacting a “chased by the killer” scene with Chris Durand.
- We also learned that Lillard had the role of Negan for approximately 5 mins.
- Chandler Riggs likes explosions
- Sarah Wayne Callies doesn’t think Proxy Snyder (from Colony) would have survived a zombie invasion
- Thora Birch is impressed with many of the fan theories floating around
- Michael Rooker will never be contained – and Negan’s bat doesn’t frighten him at all
- IronE Singleton would win a Rock/Paper/Scissors competition
It’s a good time!
Yes, there were some “hiccups” or issues over the weekend – and i’ll get to them in a moment… But, the fact is, Walker Stalker Con is a good time for fans! It’s an amazing way to meet some of your favorite celebrities, find some new friends, and hang out for an entire weekend surrounded by a bunch of cool people and stuff you love.
Despite some of the negativity you may have heard about (or seen) on social media – the convention floor was filled with smiling people. People were generally having a good time. I stopped a number of people to ask: “Will you be back next year?” The answers were a resounding “yes!” – even from some that experienced some of the headaches I’ll discuss shortly.
In short – Walker Stalker Con is a lot of fun and offers fans a number of opportunities to enjoy their favorite shows and actors.
The people “behind the scenes”
I need to take a moment and acknowledge a huge part of what makes Walker Stalker and Fan Fest events a success. Their people.
The “staff” is largely all volunteer… from line control to escorts to photo help to general information – these volunteers put in a ton of time and energy to make things run as smoothly as possible. And, I have to tell you, even when things aren’t going smoothly – these people NEVER quit and do everything in their power to alter the direction of things. So – to all of you that volunteered this past weekend: BRAVO! You did one hell of an amazing job. (Also, take a nap – you deserve it!)
I had the opportunity to meet and chat with some of the people that work with Fan Fest News and Walker Stalker – some of which that tirelessly worked through the night to ensure each day was the best it could be. These are some of the most dedicated people – and deserve a ton of credit for all they do. Giant kudos and thanks to Allie, Jason, Merri, and Denise – it was nice to meet you all. (I’m terrible with names so if I missed mentioning you by name, I apologize, but you hopefully know who you are…)
My take on the negatives…
There were a number of issues surrounding this event – and I’ll give you my view/thoughts on most of them…
Froggy / Photo Ops
Saturday was a long day for those waiting for their photo ops. I don’t participate in these – so I can’t completely speak to the frustration level – but I do know at times this was a little out of control. Too many were sold, the lines were insanely long, equipment failed, and from numerous witness accounts – Froggy came off as unprofessional and uncaring – and even left early on Saturday!
The volunteers working this area absolutely did their damnest to make the best of this tough situation – and while I know not all situations were fixed – many did finally get their photos. (I’m also impressed how hard people behind the scenes worked overnight to make things better on Sunday.) This, at least in my mind, is an area of the convention that can be fixed moving forward with a better photo vendor and better logistical planning.
A Tough Call
There’s a video floating around social media from a mother/daughter duo that attended the convention – with the mother being removed by security. There’s always two sides to every story – and, frankly, no one may ever know the 100% truth to this one. Apparently, someone cut in line, some words were exchanged between them and some others – including the mother who was asked to leave.
It’s a shame any of this happened at all – it doesn’t seem like anything dangerous happened beyond words being spoken. Should she have been ejected from the con? In my opinion, probably not – BUT – the convention does reserve the right to revoke access to anyone for any reason. So, whether we all agree with it or not – they had the right to do so.
First and foremost – I met and had a chance to chat with Angel and her mother while visiting the convention. They are some of the sweetest people – and I’m happy to have been able to spend some time with them.
As many fans know, Angel is deaf/HoH (hard of hearing) and there was no interpreter hired or assigned to her prior to the convention. This represents a huge issue/obstacle for her – and is something that could have been rectified long before it became a problem. WSC dropped the ball on this one and, frankly, should have scrambled to hire someone – even at the last minute.
So Many Shows had a few people there to cover the convention, and one of them is a good friend of mine. She also happens to be an ASL interpreter and graciously volunteered to assist Angel all weekend. She doesn’t want any credit or to be even be named – but she deserves some recognition and to know how proud we are of her. You know who you are – and you were a complete rockstar.
That wasn’t the only issue surrounding Angel Theory. At one point on Saturday evening, Angel was on the floor playing with her pup, Nova. (Nova is awesome BTW. Can’t be much bigger than my 20 oz coffee cup – but is cute as can be. I even tried to convince Angel to let me kidnap him – but to no avail.)
A member of the security team attempted to shout out to Angel about the dog – but, of course, she couldn’t hear him. Believing he was being ignored, things escalated quickly – and as Angel came to the realization that something was happening around her – police were now there on scene – some holding weapons. Imagine the fright of someone who cannot hear what is going on around her – to now see multiple police/security all focused on you…
This could have been completely avoided.
Security should have been informed of Angel’s circumstances and her service dog. This would have prevented any unnecessary confrontation from anyone in security. If the needed full-time interpreter had been hired and on site with Angel – the situation would have never escalated either. Two simple items that should be implemented in the future for any guests with similar needs.
James is the “main man” behind everything Walker Stalker. There’s a lot of anger directed at him for the items above and past complaints from previous conventions. I do not know him – we’ve only met briefly. (I’ve also invited him to sit down with me to chat about some of these issues past and present – and what the plans are to overcome them in the future. We are working on setting that up and when it happens I’ll post something separately.)
Mistakes have been made – there’s no doubt about that. The refund issues from previous events are still here today – and they continue to be worked on by James and his team. I’d like to point out two quick things about Mr. Frazier before you make judgement…
- He could have pulled the plug, claimed bankruptcy, and left it all behind. Instead, he’s attempting to persevere and right the wrongs from the past. Whether or not you agree with his methods – it says something that he hasn’t just “given up and walked away”
- He was there all weekend. Every day – all day long. He faced some of the anger and every time I witnessed someone approach him – he listened. That’s one bold move considering the negativity flying around social media and the issues with photo ops and Angel Theory.
This is a guy who started a small podcast about a TV show – and turned that success into the world-wide phenomena we know as Walker Stalker Con. It almost happened “overnight” as they say – and there have been a lot of growing pains and mistakes made along the way. That could happen to anyone – and the fact he genuinely does want things to change for the better says a lot about him.
I’m hopeful to learn of his plans to “right the ship.” Hell, I’d even offer some of my own services to help change things for the better.
Walker Stalker and Fan Fest are really great and fun conventions giving fans an experience they can cherish for a long time to come. While there have been obvious issues lately, they’re all issues that can be overcome and corrected.
With the right direction, leadership, and vision – these events could successfully continue forever – and, frankly, as a fan – I hope they do.
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