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[UPDATED] Inaugural Universal FanCon Indefinitely Postpones Convention One Week Before Event

Universal FanCon, an event scheduled for April 27-29th in Baltimore, MD, has indefinitely postponed their event on short notice—just one week before the event was supposed to begin on April 27th.

What was supposed to be a weekend of fun and celebration has become a scene of confusion and panic as special guests, exhibitors, and attendees are scrambling to gain some sort of understanding as to why it’s mysteriously being postponed and what to do with their largely unrefundable tickets, hotel, and travel expenses. It’s self-described as the “First multi-fandom Con dedicated to inclusion, highlighting Women, LGBTQ, the Disabled and Persons of Color,” according to the kickstarter page that initially funded the convention.

In the wake of the tumult, attendees can’t help but be reminded of other large, inaugural events that followed a similar direction of postponement followed by subsequent cancellation, such as the music-oriented Fyre Festival, in which the eventual outcome was eight lawsuits accusing the organizers of defrauding ticket buyers—one seeking larger than $100 million in damages.  On a smaller scale, the Pokemon GO festival in Chicago last summer had to dole out refunds and in-game credit compensation to attendees since the massive influx of users caused ticket buyers to not receive the goodies that were promised.

All of this is worsened by the fact that all official channels and communication surrounding the event had gone silent, leaving attendees in the dark, save for a thread of tweets from the official event account:

The thread of tweets goes on:

“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that FanCon has been postponed until further notice. We deeply apologize for the disappointment, anger and feelings of lost trust due to this decision. We are taking the steps to reschedule the convention & will provide an update”

“We know there are lots of questions regarding what happened and how it happened and why this happened at this stage–all of this will be addressed in full detail later today and will be posted on our site and our social media accounts.”

“We recognize that people have poured time, effort and money into making this convention a success and many are in precarious positions as to their plans for the next weekend. We will do all we can to help establish some resolutions”

“We are devastated to make this postponement decision–but most importantly we recognize and take on any pain we’ve caused to our guests, our backers, our affiliates, the attendees and anyone even remotely involved.”

This news comes coupled with the abrupt resignation of the Director of Entertainment Group, Melanie Dione. It’s unclear why Dione is resigning, but it supports the notion that things are not going well for the con:

Several attendees even received word through a very roundabout way—the hotel had to contact them directly, notifying them that the event had been cancelled, before any official announcement from the con could reach them:

The Baltimore Convention Center, the venue where the event was to be held, has also delisted it from their events page.

Some attendees were planning on coming from out of country, and are scrambling to figure out what to do with their international travel itineraries:

Hot 99.5, a popular radio station in the DC/MD/VA area, still has an ad published on their site promoting the event.

People tabling and exhibiting at the event are now squarely behind the eight ball as they had already shipped their merchandise, tablecloths, and other materials to the Baltimore Convention Center. Out-of-staters are now unsure of how to deal with the logistics. They had paid for table and booth space as far back as October 2017:

The following are the contents of an email that was sent to backers of the kickstarter. Courtesy of twitter user @youthinkmemad:

“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that Universal Fan Con is being postponed until further notice.

We understand and deeply apologize for the disappointment and anger this decision may generate. We are acutely aware of the impact of postponing the convention. We understand there will be a lot of people affected by this decision and we are working hard to help everyone make alternate arrangements.

We are now taking the steps to reschedule the convention and will provide an update on when the new date is announced. All registered ticket holders and exhibitors will have the opportunity to have a ticket and booth space held for them at no additional cost.

We are currently working on a list of FAQs to go on the website to answer as many questions as possible about why this happened and what went wrong here. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to Universal Fan Con if you receive instructions from the public, you can have them email info@universalfancon.com.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and we hope you will join us in the future for a new event with Universal Fan Con.

Sincerely,

Universal Fan Con Board”

A Twitter user provides alternative activities that people can partake in since they may be stuck in Baltimore for the weekend:

It’s also unfortunate that Marvel’s upcoming film Avengers: Infinity War is debuting the same weekend since the con is aimed towards the same hardcore fans that would usually see the movie on opening weekend. Some attendees have expressed being left with a feeling of missing out, as tickets for opening weekend had gone on sale almost a month prior on March 23rd and are largely sold out.

Hopefully the convention can gather itself and get back up on its feet to succeed; however, the lack of clarity and information from the organizers leaves ticket buyers worried.

We will continue updating this report as we receive more information.

[UPDATE] 4/21/18 10:00 AM — Universal FanCon has issued a public statement since this story was published and you can read it in full here. However, the statement didn’t seem to satisfy many attendees that are still out flight, booth, and other expenses.

One notable detail to surface from the backlash was the fact that Thai Pham, listed as VP of Conventions Operations and Entertainment on FanCon’s website has a history of running kickstarters for cons that never happen. Most notably, Pham ran a kickstarter for Pride Con in 2016, where $15,000 was raised and the event never happened. Backers were never refunded and an eerily similar statement was made in apology.

Backers of the FanCon kickstarter are feeling like their money has just vanished.

Some booth exhibitors were not there to sell nerdy merch, but to promote causes for social and political acitivism. Twitter user @ljoywilliams was supposed to help attendees register to vote, recruit networks, and participate in other civic engagement activities. Williams is out over $2,000.

To top it all off, as of the time this update is published, ticket holders still have not received an email notifying them of the postponement. The messaging has come through their website and twitter and has attendees questioning how the PR are being handled during the crisis.

We will continue updating this report as we receive more information.

[UPDATE] 4/21/18 10:30 AM — Some attendees are banding together and compiled a comprehensive list of artists and vendors to boost web sales of merch in order to support people who depend on the income from the lost convention. You can support them here.

We will continue updating this report as we receive more information.


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