Con Nooga 2015
Over the years on this site, we’ve covered our time at various conventions. DragonCon, here in Atlanta, has received the most coverage, because it’s an annual tradition. Like all good nerds, we’ve made a couple of pilgrimages to San Diego Comic Con, and supplied plenty of coverage of that event as well. One of the most popular articles on this site covered a trip to Star Wars Celebration, which is a Luscasphile’s dream.
All of those are big Cons. DragonCon practically strangles downtown Atlanta every Labor Day weekend with its well over 50,000 registered guests and countless non-registered onlookers. Comic Con has had to cap its attendance at around the 125,000 mark for the better part of the last decade, and it a legitimate Global pop culture phenomenon. And Celebration, while huge on its own because it’s friggin’ Star Wars, happened to be the 30th Anniversary of A New Hope when we covered it, so that was an even bigger than usual event.
Not all Cons, however, are quite so large. And, like Chris Rock said about cornbread, ain’t nothin’ wrong with that! While I look forward to DragonCon more than anything else all year, sometimes you have to whet your appetite with some smaller gatherings. The girlfriend and I, as well as a couple of our Con-going friends, had discussed the possibility of attending one of two science fiction conventions that take place in the Chattanooga area each Winter as soon as our 2014 DragonCon experience had ended: either Chattacon in late January, or Con Nooga in late February. With a drive of just a couple hours away and a moderate price tag for an entire weekend, this seemed like just the right thing.
As none of us had ever attended either of these conventions, I did a little research on the subject. Chattacon has been around since 1976. It started out with only 81 people, and more recently has grown to just under 2,000. While it attracts geeks from all walks of life, its schedule of programming and special guests leaned more toward the worlds of fantasy literature and gaming. Con Nooga is a much younger Con, only beginning in 2008, attracting around 1,000 guests in its original year. Since then, it has grown to over 4,000 guests, which makes it quite a bit bigger than Chattacon, but still nowhere near the aforementioned big Cons. Its programming seemed to be slightly more diverse, and also came a month later, so we decided to give the latter a try.
COn Nooga is held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, as well as the nearby Chattanooga Convention Center. This was a little confusing at first – once we found our way to the Choo Choo and parked, we looked on the handy smartphone app that the convention had provided us to find out where registration was being held. According to our app, it was in a part of the building that was right near our parking spot at the hotel, but we were soon directed to the shuttle which would move us over to the convention center, just a couple of miles away. We caught the bus and made our way toward the convention center, which was also hosting a cheerleading convention. After wading though a bunch of prepubescent girls waving their spirit fingers, we found the anime freaks and furries and Star Wars geeks we were looking for, and quickly acquire our badges.
The girlfriend and I had put together a pair of costumes based on the TV series Fargo last Halloween, and we decided (with minor upgrades) to make our ‘Con debuts with them at Con Nooga, which was fitting because it was 28 degrees in Chattanooga on Friday. We wore them all morning, which resulted in one person recognizing us, and I quickly bought a T-shirt from that person only partially because I was glad people didn’t just think that my awesome makeup job wasn’t just because I was the victim of abuse.
While perusing the dealer room, I started noticing that something wasn’t quite right. There was a morose vibe that hung over the ‘Con, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I got the news: Leonard Nimoy had passed away. Whether or not these people had actually heard the news, or there was just some sort of cosmic imbalance that had overtaken the overall mood via osmosis, there was definitely a shroud that held itself over the entire crowd.
So, what did we do? We got some beer.
Chattanooga has some wonderful brewpubs and breweries, as well as some terrific restaurants. I highly recommend the Social at the Public House, who once named all their signature drinks after Pixies songs; the Chattanooga Brewing Company, whose 5 oz. beer flights are only made better by the spent grain pretzels they serve with them; and the Terminal Brewhouse, which will fill your belly with homebrews and amazing burgers. The Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel buffet was nothing to sneeze at either, and I blame it for the four pounds I picked up during my weekend in the Tennessee Valley.
Day two of Con Nooga meant outfitting ourselves in our G.I.Joe costumes. Now, a few years ago, while discussing ‘Cons, I had mentioned my affinity for those in costumes from the world of G.I.Joe and Cobra. in the ensuing years, I have dove headfirst into the hobby, and dragged quite a few along with me. In the morning, I had outfitted myself as a Cobra trooper, while the girlfriend accompanied me as Dr. Sidney Biggles-Jones, who is a character that 5% of G.I.Joe fans might recognize from a very short story arc in the early 1990’s. Our traveling partners geared up as Cover Girl and an Ice-Viper later in the day, while we donned the personae of Lady Jaye and Flint. We ran into some old friends of mine, who are fellow members of The Finest, the costume club I’m proud to be a part of. Cobra Commander and a Jungle B.A.T. posed for some pics with our Joe and Cobra costumes.
Along the way, we hit a few costuming panels. On Friday, we learned a little about Pepakura, a paper-based modeling system for 3-D props, before a fire alarm cut the panel short. On Saturday, we did a WORBLA workshop, making cool masks out of heat-sensitive materials. And on Sunday, just as we were wrapping up our Con Nooga experience, we sat in with the guys from Pit Viper Studios (who also were part of our G.I.Joe photo experience) for a lesson on Fiberglass molding. I can honestly say that in one weekend in Chattanooga I learned more about prop building than at a dozen or so years at DragonCon.
There was also a costume contest, which we watched on Saturday night before checking out the nightlife. Con Nooga has a reputation of hosting some pretty epic parties in the suites of the Choo Choo hotel, but the rooms were a bit too crowded and the outside air was a bit too frigid for us to really get into the groove. Besides, throwing on pajamas and playing Heads Up in our hotel rooms with rum and cider turned out to be all the party we needed to cap off a couple of awesome days at the ‘Con.
Con Nooga was blast. Unlike the DragonCons and Comic Cons of years past, there was no real sense of urgency. I could comfortably peruse vendors and check out costumes without worrying about being trampled. I could move around in my costume without sweating to death. And, most importantly, I had a fantastic weekend with some awesome friends.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not gearing up for the grandaddy of them all, at least for those of us in the Metro Atlanta area. It’s only six months until that Dragon rears its scaly head.