Supernatural #SPNNJ 2018 Convention– Secaucus, NJ
It was Supernatural’s 100th Convention, but for my daughter Allyson and me it was our first Supernatural con. We’ve attended other cons from a different series but never Supernatural. I will do a little comparison between the cons after telling you all about Supernatural's!
Before the Con
Due to having to work, I could only attend Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, including the Louden Swain concert on Saturday night - which was epic! The best thing I did was book us into the hotel directly next to the venue so we could walk back and forth without having to drive, use the bathroom in the hotel instead of waiting in line at the Expo Center, and connect with fans in a relaxed manner, especially at the hotel bar before the concert and the next morning at breakfast. Even though we live only forty minutes from Secaucus, booking into the hotel took a lot of stress out of the weekend (and I didn't have to movoe my car once!).
While Allyson put on makeup (following a looong Jeffree Star YouTube tutorial), I walked around the venue, checked out the vendors and merchandise, listened in on a panel, and looked for super fan Kevin Roma, who had asked for a hug on the SPNNJ con Facebook site before the event and was easily recognizable by his pink hair. We hugged as if we were old friends. Kevin is a con pro from Virginia (he even attended the May 2018 JIBcon in Italy) and I ran into him throughout the weekend. He was a god-sent and had answers to all my questions. Kevin had the best con experience and we were all just thrilled for him. He is a regular and the cast knows him, so he got lots of hugs.
I witnessed a quick exchange of negativity from a person who told the lady in front of the stage that she wasn’t very helpful. The lady looked offended and hurt so I pulled her aside, asked her a question which she answered, and told her not to take negative, miserable people seriously. She had been super helpful to me. Later it turned out she was no other than Stephanie from Creation herself, the gal who ran this con!
Meeting the Supernatural Cast
The guest who attended New Jersey's convention were: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Richard Speight, Jr., Rob Benedict,, Mark Pellegrino, Matt Cohen, Ruth Connell, Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Adam Fergus, Rachel Miner, David Haydn-Jones, Samantha Smith, Jason Manns, Baby (1967 Impala)
Misha Collins and Mark Pellegrino autographs were included in my ticket. Misha, Rich and Mark had been filming until 3:30 that morning, flown across the country, and headed straight to the con. They were super tired, super exhausted, and super nice! Misha seemed a bit out of it on Saturday evening, but he was very sweet.
To tell you the truth, I did not care much for Mark Pellegrino until the con. When I met him in person, I was surprised how handsome and approachable he is! He really took time to talk to the fans, so I asked him to sign a page of the book my friend Yolanda and I made. I told him this is going to South Africa to a friend who had a very difficult life. He looked up and asked, “Is she okay?” I told him that through most of her life, she literally went through hell, and that the show helps her to go on. He looked upset and said in a grief-stricken voice, “Wow.” Then he wrote “Yolanda, Stay strong. Mark.” He really meant it; it was genuine.
I sat outside on the steps still waiting for Allyson when someone shouted, “Was that Baby? Was that just Baby they drove past??” I said, “Let’s go see!” We ran down the street to another hotel where the iconic 1967 Impala was just being parked in a hidden corner behind a fenced area. Before they covered her up with a tarp, we were able to take pictures. We were looking for her the next day, thinking they would bring her to the front of the Expo Center, but only later did we find out they kept her at the hotel out front, so we missed it. We would have loved to have taken pictures and donated the money they were requesting for a local animal shelter.
Trickster/Baby 1964 Impala “behind bars”
Allyson and I hung out in the hotel bar before the Louden Swain concert and met wonderful people, including a new fan friend, Toni, plus a whole table full of young ladies who were the Creation event planners and had flown in from California. Stephanie gave me a hug and thanked me profusely for being so nice to her earlier. She said she almost cried because the woman was so nasty, but I helped her get over it. She put so much effort, nerves and worries into this con, the 100th, so naturally she was anxious and worried if everything would go as planned.
Saturday Night Special/The Louden Swain Concert
After a drink and dinner it was time for the concert. I wasn’t sure how much I would like the music and what to expect, so I was thrilled to see the long line of people waiting outside around the building. Before we filed inside, volunteers handed us baggies with red glow sticks and instructions. Turns out I do like their music, but it wasn’t even about that. The moment Rob and his band stepped on stage, you could feel the energy and passion exploding out of them and embracing the whole audience. One guest star after another came on stage and joined the band in song: Matt, Kim, Brianna, Ruth, Rich and Mark, as well as a few others (see set list), but not J2 who were still flying in for their Sunday appearances.
We surprised Rob when we waved red glow sticks during “She Waits”, the song he wrote about his pain and how hard it was for his mother after his father left them. He held his hands over his eyes and looked out at the crowd, tearing up, then he formed the heart hand symbol. He is such a sweet, great guy.
Final Concert Verdict: Fantastic! Such energy and passion, so many guest appearances, great songs, voices, and fun!
The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel. Allyson and I immediately hit it off with Rebecca from Boston, MA, and a mother-and-daughter pair like us. Again, it felt as if we had known each other forever and we kept running into each other all day. At the end of the con, we hugged good-bye. It just felt so natural!
I didn’t do any photo ops or private meet and greets (I wish!), so we had time to linger. I got Rob’s autograph and chatted with him for a bit. He knows my favorite German punk rock band, The Toten Hosen, so I promised to bring him a t-shirt next time.
Ruth Connell surprised us by walking freely through the crowd before settling on stage for her Q&A session. She is so dainty and sweet, especially on Sunday when she looked like an “Italian Dessert,” as Richard Speight Jr. said when he announced her. She brought a goody-bag and handed out gifts to fans who asked her questions. What kind of gifts? Toiletries and the “Do not disturb” door sign from the hotel, lol. She’s hilarious!
The J2 panel was packed and brought down the house, of course. When Jared and Jensen came on stage, people went crazy. Jensen wore ripped jeans, and they are still talking about it on Facebook. Jared appeared without his beanie, but wore a gray one during autographs after. They were wonderful with the fans.
We had to enter our names in a drawing for the Jensen and Jared Q&A to even be able to line up on each side of the stage to ask a question. I wanted to ask them something from my friend Yolanda who lives in South Africa and can’t make it to cons in the US. She is super hooked on the show and calls it her life saver, a phrase I hear more and more. My name wasn’t picked, but here is Yolanda’s question:
"With the show being about things that go bump in the night, both Sam and Dean escaped from hell and had to continue with their lives. With Jared and Jensen being involved in campaigns like Always Keep Fighting and You Are Not Alone, what advice will you give to those who are struggling to fight their way out of their own hell?"
The last person who got to ask them a question, a young girl, hit the jackpot. Jared came down, escorted her up the stairs, and plopped her on his seat in the middle of the stage. She was overwhelmed, then squeaked, “This is my first con.” People were thrilled for her.
We had autographs with Jared and Jensen on Sunday night. Both looked exhausted. They sat at their tables behind the curtain at opposite ends of the room signing autographs, looking pale, skinny, red-eyed and tired, but they made each one of us feel special and appreciated. Yolanda and I wrote a Supernatural fanfiction story which I had printed into books and brought as gifts. In the back of the books, we explained what the show and characters mean to us. I had Jared, Jensen, Misha and Mark sign it for Yolanda and it will be on its way to Africa soon, with a bunch of other con memorabilia and merchandise.
The Convention Experience
I actually went looking for Stephanie and praised her for doing an incredible job planning and running the con with such a tightly packed schedule and on time to the very end. The J2 autograph session for Gold and Silver ticket holders on Sunday evening was a bit delayed, but we still got out earlier than expected, around 9:30PM.
We saw smiling fans coming out from photo ops and autographs all weekend long. They were swooning, hand to their hearts, happy tears, laughing, and on the verge of hyperventilating. Meeting these actors in person can be an overwhelming experience.
The girl dressed as a tape ball was a hit (during filming, color coded duct tape is used on set to mark where the actors need to stand and where props need to be placed. At the end of filming, the tape gets pulled up and formed into a ball, similar to a ball made of many rubber bands).
Jared and Jensen, and I am sure, others, took pictures with her.
I want to point out a very special booth. You could write a secret message on an index card and add it to a board.
The messages were incredibly touching, sad, raw, honest and encouraging.
Differences between a Supernatural and The Walking Dead/Walker Stalker Convention
Even with only a day pass you can get photo ops and autographs with Jared and Jensen. At Walker Stalker, you need at least the VIP pass to guarantee an encounter with the top actors.
Fans bring tons of presents to a Walker Stalker (WS) con and give to their favorite actors. At Supernatural, I was one of the few. It is discouraged, but I brought a custom made t-shirt for Jared, which he accepted, as well as the book with the fan story that I gave to him, Jensen, Misha and Rob.
At WS, we were able to talk a bit longer with the actors during autographs and we got plenty of hugs. At Supernatural, it felt rushed and no hug, just hi, signature, a sentence or two, and next. I’ve heard from others at the con and Facebook that they had great photo op encounters, hugs, all kinds of poses, a little bantering, just more interaction. I just bought one for next year, less than a week after this convention!
There were more vendors and interactive booths such as a haunted house or zombie paint ball at WS than at Supernatural.
I am not complaining. Each convention is special in its own way. These were just a few things Allyson and I observed. The love between the actors and the fans was real. It truly is a fan family!
I want to conclude my convention experience with this observation:
Through shows like Supernatural and The Walking Dead, people have found characters they can relate to. Through the fandom, people have found their tribe in which they are understood and accepted. The show and the characters, the actors and the fan family give them a purpose to keep going and it is a beautiful thing to see how loving they are to each other. I am sure it has saved many a life, and just alone for that reason, the show can NEVER end, lol.
Jared's message to us all is: Guys, look at me. I have everything you could possibly dream of, money, fame, family - I am living it and I am still depressed. It's not your fault. You are not being ungrateful. You can stop trying so hard. You are not a failure and you are not alone.
It’s okay to feel sad. Really, it is. But don’t let it control you. Reach out to the fan family. Be heard. Cry and laugh together. You are not alone with this.
Blessings and love to all, until next time!!
Pictures taken by Allyson
Read about Heimatstern's Personal Relationship with Supernatural in her first article: Dreams and Demons: The Power of Supernatural and the #SPNFamily