Guest Exodus Hits Louisville Fandom Fest After Venue Change

Louisville’s Fandom Fest is still happening this weekend (July 28-30), but in the past few days its slate of celebrity guests has lost so much luster that local TV station WDRB reports “Fans of Fandomfest now say they feel conned by convention”.

The list of near 40 celebrities announced paired down to just 18 as of Wednesday, two days before the start of the convention.

The event brings celebrities and superheros under one roof with superfans. In years past, thousands traveled to Louisville to interact with the actors of television and film. Some even dress up as their favorite characters from entertainment including comics and cartoons.

On Facebook, a Fandom Fest spokesperson glossed over the situation:

  1. The Cancellations started with several guests who are contracted to film either TV Shows and or Films. This is something that every convention deals with. When you book any working Celebrity this is a risk you take. Every guest we announced we have signed contracts on from them.
  2. As far as the rest of the guests they each have their reasons. Some are medical, others are personal. It is not always for us to disclose the exact reason they have chosen to cancel.

Fans’ dissatisfaction is amplified by the convention’s strict “no refund” policy. The WDRB story says:

Online fans are irate, one calling Fandomfest, “A fantastic bait-and-switch scam.” Tickets range from $30 to $300 for the three-day event and all of its VIP experiences. Some paid for personal interactions, autographs and pictures with stars who are no longer coming. They’re being told they can exchange it for an experience with a celebrity in attendance.

“We have a no-refund policy that is listed on the website,” [Fandom Fest organizer Myra] Daniels said. “It also says that any guest is subject to cancellation at any time.”

Guests have been dropping out since a recent announcement that Fandom Fest was moving from its previous venue, the Kentucky Expo Center, to an empty Macy’s store several blocks miles away – accompanied by questions whether the convention had even booked the Expo space for 2017. While some think the less glamorous facility is to blame, the real reason may be failure to meet commitments to the celebrities..

The latest cancellations include Weird Al Yankovic and 90210’s Tori Spelling and Ian Ziering.

“Delayed flights and hotel room reservations — it just didn’t look like a good situation to be in,” said Tony Vela, Spelling and Ziering’s booking agent.

“They did not ever confirm travel and or accommodations with two deadlines accepted to do so. It was on them,” said cartoon voice actor Charlie Adler.

Daniels insisted to WDRB the travel arrangements were in place.

Insider Louisville has been keeping track of the guests who are no longer coming: “After venue change, Fandom Fest loses celebrity guests”. A few do have work schedule conflicts. In addition to those already named, the cancellations include —

…Chris Sullivan, who is one of the stars of the acclaimed “This Is Us” television drama. He also appeared in “Stranger Things” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

Paul McGann, the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in “Doctor Who,” has also canceled.

Spencer Wilding has also canceled. He appeared in as Darth Vader in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Movie” (James Earl Jones voiced the character), “Guardians of the Galaxy” and other sci-fi movies and television shows. In a short video on the con’s Facebook page, Wilding says that he’s “gutted” not to make the festival, but that work calls.

Also gone are Burt Ward, the original Tinkerbell, and voice actors from Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Update 07/28/17: Corrected distance between Kentucky Expo Center and the old Macy’s.

11 thoughts on “Guest Exodus Hits Louisville Fandom Fest After Venue Change

  1. Actually, the new venue (the empty Macy’s) is at least ten miles from the downtown area where most out-of-town visitors had already booked their hotel rooms. There are few, if any, hotels in the mall vicinity, and Louisville’s public transportation is spotty. So that’s one complaint. The mall itself also has internal rules about crowds and curfews, though the FF organizers said they were working with mall management. Even though I’m local, I’ve never attended, celebrity autographs not being my thing.

  2. Not meeting reasonable expectations of people they know are working professionals, then tacking on an unexpected move to an inconvenient and unattractive location, that has crowd capacity rules that one needs to rely on these organizers to “negotiate”…

    Yeah, sure. I’ll be hopping on a place to Louisville for sure!

    Or maybe not.

  3. What an incredible fustercluck you’ve discovered!

    I wonder whether 2018 memberships were on sale before this went down; I suspect they won’t sell enough more and will collapse with the usual sound, fury, and angst (and maybe tarring the images of other appearance-based conventions, even the ones that have competent management).

  4. Agreeing with the comments about the concom apparently missing basic competencies WRT booking venues. Make one wonder about finances. Did they not have enough money to meet the booking fee to reserve the dates? Have never been to this con, don’t know anyone who does, so can’t have an opinion on the folks running it.

    Having said all that, yes, it’s several miles from downtown, but it’s a straight shot down I-65. Lyft and Uber and all those sorts of rides should be able to help, especially if fen clump.

    Also, and I mentioned this when the news first broke: While I have no idea what the inside of a vacant Macy’s looks like,
    a) free parking is plentiful, which it most certainly is NOT downtown.
    b) There is at least one main entrance to the store space that doesn’t go through the mall itself.
    c) there are lots of restaurants in the neighborhood: many chain and fast-casual of all types of cuisine, plus locally owned stores. Again, less expensive than downtown.
    d) Hotels are plentiful one exit north. Again, cheaper than downtown. Plus more restaurants, due to proximity to airport.

    And there’s at least one bus route, #18, that runs from downtown to the Jefferson Mall. The local bus service is called TARC, route maps and timetables available on their website. The good news is you’ll be riding against the grain: downtown to mall in morning, which is opposite of the normal rush hour ridership.

    I feel bad for folks that made plans and spent money for this messup.

  5. The latest is that the fire marshall will reportedly let no more than 1,700 people in the building at any one time. Also, according to “Kentucky Geek Girl”‘s facebook post, linked in the article, many of Macy’s fixtures remain in place.

    And, as was pointed out, the distance between the Expo Center (aka Freedom Hall, near the airport and not downtown), the location where many people have booked nearby hotel rooms. and Jefferson Mall is about 6 miles down I-65.

  6. There needs to be a gigantic sign dropped on all convention members that accompanies every mention of a convention. The sign says:

    Commercial Conventions are FOR PROFIT ENTITIES FIRST. This means that management will do anything and everything to preserve the bottom line in the face of adversity, up to and including lying and misrepresenting to attendees, venues, guests and everyone/anyone else necessary in order to turn a profit (and in worst-case scenarios, show as little of a loss as can be achieved).

    Good, well-managed companies will deliver an event that is at least marginally compatible with providing a value perceived as commensurate with attendee expense. Regardless, in every single case, the event cost attendees more than it cost the producers.

    Traditonal cons are not exempt from having issues (there’s another sign for “first time convention being run by wannabes who refuse help from the experts”), but they don’t start with the be all end all imperative that every decision made is based on whether or not it will contribute to a positive bottom line.

  7. Also gone are Burt Ward, the original Tinkerbell, and voice actors from Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast.

    Here’s one of those times the Oxford comma (and/or list order) is Not Helpful.

    Or…is it?

  8. This is impressively incompetent and greedy. Crogglingly so.

    Yes, $300 to see celebrities I don’t want in the middle of a not-yet-decommissioned department store. That’s so enticing.

    Heck, I’ve seen celebrities I was interested in for free in various malls and once even in a (working) Macy’s.

  9. I attended Fandom Fest with my publisher, Hydra Publications. Attendance was clearly down from previous years, and booksellers and, I assume, other vendors, were having a tough time of it. I heard several out-of-town sellers decided not to come even though they’d already paid for tables, not wanting to spend even more money that they wouldn’t get back.

    Oddly enough, the department store display cases and shelves in many areas made it easier for vendors to show off their wares. But that doesn’t nearly make up for the lack of celebrities that so many people had hoped to see.

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