EXCLUSIVE: KATSUCON is where Cosplayers bring their ‘A’ Game
There are many Cons these days, celebrating a wide diversity of interests from fantasy to science. But few are as amazingly beautiful, both in Cosplayers and in setting, as Katsucon.
Katsucon is the equivalent of New York Fashion week for Cosplayers on the East Coast. In the Washington DC area since 1995, it has moved around different site locations until it finally settled in 2010 on its current host site: The Gaylord Convention Hotel and Convention Center. It’s a match made in heaven. The Gaylord provides a perfect environment for Cosplayers to show off their skills. An abundance of natural light from the glass canopy that covers their very large atrium provides for ideal settings. And immediately outside are manicured lawns with water fountains, and a walkway next to the river with a pier. It is a setting any Con would love to have at their disposal.
The Gaylord is in the middle of a recently built urban community with an abundance of stores, restaurants, other hotels, and, most importantly, several parking garages. It is easily accessible by car from VA, MD and DC, and even offers access by water taxi. The hotel and convention center were all built at the same time as part of the same buildout so access is seemless from one to the other. It is a large hotel with a multi-tier atrium with several stairs, escalators and elevators. It can handle a crowd, which is a good thing because Katsucon is still growing.
The impetus for Katsucon’s several moves has been its own success: it continues to grow. According to Wikipedia, they have not released attendance numbers since 2016. But what started as a convention of 500 in 2005, has grown to at least 17,000 in 2016. In 2018 that number was easily reached, and likely exceeded. Breakout sessions between panels and talks threatened to overwhelm the main convention corridors at peak times. Even late into Sunday the Atrium was buzzing with cosplayers as if it were a Saturday. The host facilities were clearly pushed, but they were able to meet the demand.
The Cosplay level has attracted a horde of professional photographers eager to capture images of the cosplayers. Photography equipment worth several thousands of dollars were on display as pictures were snapped both in and outside of the building. The Con organizes by the hour photography opportunities by themes near the hotel indoor fountain, and while these were taken advantage of, spontaneous professional photography sessions were popping up all over.
For those not wanting to engage in cosplay or photography, there is a wealth of programming that both goes till the early morning, and starts up again in the early morning. There is also a cavernous video game room which can satisfy any gamer. The Con breaks out merchants and artists into separate rooms which works very well to allow people to focus their shopping. The Con makes smart use of staff and white boards to control the flow of people in and out of each room by designating separate entrances for entry and departure.
The hotel has two sets of rooms: those facing the indoor atrium, and those facing the back of the building. Attendees should always try to get one of the rooms facing indoors. The view from one of the balconies of the sea of cosplayers spread out through the entire inside lobby is worth the price. The hotel has wisely restricted use of elevators to guests who have room keys, which enables the elevators to be less tied up by guests simply riding up and down to enjoy the view. Attendees are not simply Anime or Manga cosplayers; in fact, a simple turn of the head would easily allow anyone to spot cosplayers from star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Stranger Things or any number of shows that are not directly related to Anime.
In terms of what the Con does very well:
The location is a game winner. It’s a beautiful hotel with an ideal setting. Not only was the hotel built together with the convention center, it boasts a huge glass atrium, with multiple tiers, next to a body of water. This is a far cry from your typical convention center which is located in the middle of a city. Presidents Day weekend is also a great time for the Con, because it allows guests to stay an extra day without feeling they have to rush out on Sunday afternoon to be back at work or school on Monday. Superb planning by the organizers.
The hotel and the Con work very well together. At check out time on Sunday, the hotel could not keep everyone’s luggage at their bell stand. So they designated a large corridor in the convention center for people to leave their luggage after checking out, and had staff watching the luggage, which was organized in alphabetical rows.