A new layout, more space and faster queues Steel Town ConThe December show at the Monroeville Convention Center is enjoyable for most vendors and guests.
The last pop culture and comic book convention of the year at 209 Mall Plaza Blvd. featured over 30 celebrities and 100 vendors.
Parking lots were packed Dec. 10-12 as tens of thousands of people filled the more than 100,000 square foot event space.
Organizers have made some adjustments from conventions earlier this year, particularly in mid-August when horror icon Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) was in town.
Many attendees complained about long lines, issues with VIP packages, and unprofessional photos. That was not the case this month, as attendees took to the convention’s official social media fan forum page to congratulate the promoters of the changes.
“The pro photo shoot area, in my opinion, worked so much better,” Dusty Fausnight said.
Participants John Staus and Karen Sagel accepted.
“I liked having the photoshoot in the new location,” Sagel said. “Virtual tickets have made things so much better, you just have to find a better system even if it’s a system where you send the first text and then call the announcements…You’re never going to please everyone, but you are doing a great job trying I would love to know all the names of the people, volunteers and staff, who helped make this weekend such a great weekend.
The new pro photo section was near the loading docks. It was previously used as a seating area for cosplayers to rest and people to eat.
Plum resident Derick Harper has attended several conventions over the years.
“The new spacing in the aisles and moving the food vendors to the end was a good idea,” he said. “The convention was fun and well run overall.”
He said he can’t wait to see actor Jon Bernthal (Fury, Netflix’s “Punisher”) in Steel City in April.
Violet Bish-Hawkins of Ohio-based DHD Designs started out as a Steel City fan and decided to join this year as a business.
“I love this comic con,” she said. “It’s actually pretty awesome. It’s one of the first I’ve been to other than Pittsburgh, which was Wizard World. I didn’t particularly care about Wizard World. I loved Steel City so I decided to keep coming back and now I’m a salesman.”
She featured tumblers, epoxy pens, sparkling wine courses, and other artwork.
Bish-Hawkins said the aisles have been widened from the August show, leaving more room for setup and customer interaction.
Designer Joe Wos d’Oakmont was one of the famous performers at the convention.
The Emmy-nominated star of WQED’s “Cartoon Academy” said he usually travels to other states and countries for conventions, and felt it was a good opportunity to reconnect with local fans after more of a decade.
“I don’t usually do local conventions,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been back to Steel City in probably 12 years. I’ve been around. Before covid I was mostly doing traveling conventions. I thought I had to reconnect with that local audience.
“It’s weird for me to understand the concept of ‘famous artist,'” Wos said. “All I do is draw funny pictures, but it was awesome.”
He and other artists participated in Quick Sketch, an activity in which they created artwork on location and raffled it off to raise funds. They raised approximately $1,650 for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in just a few hours.
Convention officials say they have 100% renewed vendor tables, a first for a convention to close immediately, but it’s no surprise to welcome Mike Devine.
He said companies, agents and celebrities were talking about their experiences at the convention and many wanted to return.
Devine hosts the costume contest as well as the celebrity Q&A sessions and Q&A contests in the event room at the back of the convention center.
“I always make sure that every time a celebrity walks in here, they get a standing ovation as soon as they step on stage, and remember all of that,” he said. “I make sure these people are on their feet, which makes them feel like a million bucks. you get a great Q&A that way. I have been there for 10 years. I’ve seen it grow begging celebrities to come here. Now, this is one of those things where agents say, “When can we come back?”
One of the classic activities of the convention is the costume contest on the last day of the three-day weekend. Children, teenagers and adults participate.
Awards range from Best Craftsmanship to Best Concept, Best of Show and Host’s Choice.
Amanda Johnson, 21, of Clarion won Best Concept in the Adult Division with her recreation of the tornado in the ‘Wizard of Oz’.
She said it was made with a repurposed laundry basket, lots of poly-yarn, cotton and mesh netting as well as plastic horses, cows and other figures that were blown away by the wind .
Johnson also wore long striped socks and ruby red slippers.
“I’ve loved ‘Wizard of Oz’ since I was 2, and I came up with the idea because I didn’t just want to be Dorothy or something,” she said. “I wanted to do something different. So I created the tornado because I had never seen anything like it before.
Nearly 60 teenagers and 71 adults took part in the contest, barely a few from the contestant’s record.
Johnson said she loves seeing everyone’s creativity shine through and that being around others who share her passion inspires confidence.
“It makes me feel accepted,” she said.