Zakem: Whither Midwestcon

By Joel Zakem: [The following contains my personal thoughts and should be in no way construed to be the thoughts or position of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG) as a whole or of any other CFG member.]

On August 6, 2013, an article entitled “Midwestcon’s Future To Be Decided” was posted on File770. As of early morning on August 12, only two comments to the piece have been posted. While I drafted a rather lengthy comment to address what I felt was an oversimplification of the issue, upon reflection and after consulting with several other CFG members, I decided it would be best to refrain until after the vote took place. Besides, the CFG had earlier reached a consensus to keep this issue “in-house” until after the vote occurred.

There was a vote at the August 10 CFG meeting (one of the few official votes that I remember taking place during my 40+ years as a CFG member), and Bill Cavin left the voting open until Sunday night so that CFG members who were not able to attend the meeting in person could have their say. The choices were to retire Midwestcon after Midwestcon 65 in 2014; to continue Midwestcon, if possible (important emphasis) into the future; or abstention. At a bit past 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) on August 11, Bill reported that the winning vote was to continue Midwestcon, if possible. Discussions are ongoing as to how this will be accomplished.

Such discussion is necessary because Midwestcon, like several other cons, is in trouble. This is not a new problem and there have been many informal discussions over the past several years, within the CFG and among Midwestcon attendees, as to how to change the trend. Midwestcon’s attendance is decreasing and has fallen under 100 for the past three years, with only 86 paid members in 2012 (78 actually on site) and 90 paid members in 2013 (86 on site). Moreover, a sizable portion of Midwestcon’s current membership consists of locals who do not take a room for the weekend (not that I blame them for trying to avoid the expense), which has necessitated the shrinking of our room block.

Another major problem has been the fact that various department heads are looking to step down. Finding volunteers to work within these departments has never been a problem for Midwestcon. The problem is replacing these persons with others who have the time, knowledge and desire to run the departments, who are able coordinate with the committee and hotel, and who can direct the willing volunteers. As someone aptly stated at the August 10 meeting, “the dragon has many legs, it just needs a head.”

(And before anyone misconstrues what was said, the discussion involved department heads, and not the con-chair. I am unaware of any plans for Bill to step down from his position within the CFG or at Midwestcon. Also, I do not believe I have the ability to take over the positions in question, and this should be in no way construed to be an attempt to throw my hat into the ring. I will, however, continue to help Midwestcon in my way.)

This brings us to the “if possible” portion of the vote. Midwestcon is currently in a precarious financial position, and I believe that a majority of the CFG (myself included) is unwilling to operate Midwestcon at a loss. Therefore, Midwestcon’s attendance must increase, and I believe that the CFG should be open to suggestions on how to increase membership without changing the con’s fundamental nature (though I am realistic enough to realize that some change may be necessary). Some suggestions were made at the August 10 meeting and on email exchanges prior to the vote, and I hope these discussions continue. Midwestcon was the first con I attended, and I would hate to see it fade away.

5 thoughts on “Zakem: Whither Midwestcon

  1. I also attended the meeting this past Saturday and voted to “Continue If Possible”.

    Joel’s concerns echo my own; the need to boost Midwestcon’s attendance is an immediate need with the long term goal of finding folks who have an interest in continuing it into the the foreseeable future.

    There were a number of suggestions made (including seven by yours truly) that I am very hopeful the CFG will implement in a timely manner.

    Chris M. Barkley
    Cincinnati, OH

  2. Why are they declining? I don’t know the story behind it. Can someone advise?

    I ask this question because last weekend I attended When Words Collide, an annual readercon in Calgary. It was very successful, with 400 members. My rough estimate just eyeballing the crowd was that about one-third of the members were younger than 30, a very good ratio.

  3. Dale-I’m not sure that it is an easy question to answer (and, once again, I am speaking for myself and not for Midwestcon or the CFG). I have never been to “When Worlds Collide,” but from your description and a glance at that con’s web page, it appears to be a hazily programmed literary convention with multiple guests. Midwestcon, on the other hand, is a traditional relaxacon, with no programming and no guests. Midwestcon offers a well-run con suite, parties (this year, there were several parties from Worldcon bidders and the Detroit Nasfic bid), a very small (this year, Larry Smith and Sally Kobe with new books, and three people, including myself, selling used books) dealers’ room, and the opportunity to interact with older, traditional fans. The few authors who still attend come as fans and, like everyone else, pay their own way.

    Hopefully, it appears that some members of the CFG now realize that Midwestcon may have to do more to attract new attendees and get those who stopped attending to return. In my opinion, the question is how to do so without changing the basic nature of Midwestcon.

  4. Joel cast electrons that glowed: “and get those who stopped attending to return”

    If there’s any sort of registration database – even 3 x 5 cards – contacting past attendees seems like a way to start.

    I have fond memories of the early Midwestcons I attended. Unfortunately for many years it’s been a bad combination of time vs money.

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