BotCon in Hasbro's Backyard
(griffin's 2007 BotCon report)


WEDNESDAY JUNE 27TH - (NEW YORK TO RHODE ISLAND)

I woke up again before the other two, at about 5.30am (New York Time), had a shower and got dressed ready to go.  The others were awake by then, and while they got ready, I went down to the computer room to print up the maps for Providence I forgot to print up before I left home. I was just lucky that they were on my server from when I emailed the links to Ian and Liam a few months beforehand.  I just had to remember the exact file names for the address bar.

We checked out a little past 7am, and walked to Penn Station, about 7 blocks away, which only ended up taking about 15 minutes, so we had about an hour before the train departed (Ian had already booked and paid for the train tickets).

8.30am, the train departed New York.
Midday, we arrived in Providence, Rhode Island.

Map below shows where Providence (the red star) is located in relation to New York.

 

Below is an aerial shot of the Downtown area of Providence.  It must have been taken at least a year ago though, as there is now a huge arpartmant building between the two top Red Starts, and two huge buildings between the Marriot and the Trainstation (which are noted on the next map).

And below is the street map version. The lower left blue star is the main convention centre, the upper right blue star is the hotel's own convention centre (both areas were used). The Red A at the top of the map is where the trainstation was (so it was a rather short walk).  Red Star 1 is the Westin Hotel (first hotel), Red Star 2 is the Biltmore (second hotel, which Liam and I stayed in), Red Star 3 is the Marriot (third hotel, where Ian and Caroline stayed), Red Star 4 is the Hilton (fourth Convention hotel).  The big coloured space called 'Providence Place' was a large Shopping Centre, with a walkway access to the Convention Centre and Westin Hotel.

I was sharing the Wednesday to Saturday nights with Liam at the Biltmore, but since we arrived at midday and he wasn't expecting to be in until about 3pm, I went with Ian and Caroline to their hotel first (Marriot), as they checked in and went to their room.  I left my stuff in their room, and after they settled in we all went off to the Providence Place Centre to see what was there, not expecting to find any toy stores.  My earlier search for Kaybee online showed nothing, but there was actually a KB toys store in the centre.  Since they are expensive like our Toyworlds, it was lucky that there wasn't too much there that I wanted.  I was hoping the cheaper Walmart down the road would have more of what I wanted.  I did find that this KB store had a Peter Cullen Version of the Cyber Stomper, which I was happy about, so I bought it. Caroline wasn't happy about it though, because for the next hour or so until we got back to their hotel, she had to listen to Optimus phrases being played over and over again.  I couldn't get enough of the real Optimus voice, but poor Caroline had to suffer for it.
Next we walked onto Walmart, about 2ks north.  It took about half an hour, and it was a lot hotter there than I expected.  I think it was about 25-30 degrees, and it was just a pity that there was a cold front two days later, cooling everything down after I had spent two days walking around in the open.  We stopped at a Wendy's Burgers (one of my favourite unhealthy fast food joints in America) and had a late lunch, and then into Walmart. I was really hoping to find the last four Alternators (Mirage, Camshaft, Ravage, Rumble) at retail in the US, because we don't even have them here. But Walmart had none.  They actually had a pretty pathetic assortment of Transformers. You'd think that someone at the store would know that a toy convention is on and would just order in a heap more stock because of it, or FunPub would have alerted them to take advantage of having hundreds of fans travelling into a host city with one thing on their mind - check out stores they've never been to before to look for toys not in their area.
One thing I did find amusing was (as always when I go to America) is the range of unhealthy kids cereals.  This being a Walmart (think BigW here), it had a 'small' selection, but still had bulk buy sugary cereal in big bags that resembled those big dry pet food bags. They were a few kilos of chocolatey or fruity coloured cereals, in a handy bulk bag.  Then there was the really funny thing.  Special K.  Okay, I'm thinking, how can a 'healthy' cereal possibly have an unhealthy variety, but sure enough, amongst all their various fruit bits varieties (some of which we get here as limited editions), there was a 'choc chunk' Special K variety. And get this, it still had on the front of the packaging, a promo for their weight loss program using their range of products.
Heading back, we got back to the Biltmore (pictured below) by 4pm, and Liam was in the lobby waiting.  We went back to Ian's hotel to get my stuff and Liam and I went back to the Biltmore to drop it off (we would meet up with Ian later that night during his Pre-reg pickup).

The hotel was another one with a early 1900s feel to it. Which made it feel old and rundown (the glass elevator in the centre of the building above, was out of order).  The rooms themselves were amazing, considering the discounted room rate (I think US$139 per night plus tax).  Actually, later in the weekend, on further inspection, it was worked out that these rooms were actually each two rooms made into one.  We thought it odd that the hallways had a fake door between every real door, but as you can see in the photo below, the entrance area with the storage room to the right was originally one room with a bathroom, while the actual bedroom and bathroom side would have been a separate room - but some time in the past, the dividing wall had sections cut out of it, and every second door was sealed over on the inside, yet was still visible in the corridor.

And two rooms need... two TVs!  The one below was the biggeset TV I had ever had in a 'regular' hotel room.  The picture quality was pretty bad though, so it must have been a cheap second.  So we had a regular TV in the main room, and a widescreen TV in the bedroom, but they were both wasted with most of our time spent out of the room.  We did find out that we must have had Cable TV though, because there were about 70 channels, and at night... free porn!!!  Yes, there was a porn channel, but when we found it and tried watching some of it, it was too laughable to be erotic - two topless ladies making out in a jungle while Godzilla and a T-Rex (two people in *very bad* costumes) were watching from the bushes.  After five minutes of that we turned it over to one of the Star Wars movies on another channel - it must have been a Star Wars weekend, because I caught bits from Episode 4,1 and 3 in the four days we were there).

Part of the Target's sponsorship deal with BotCon included having specially made Hotel Room Keys in Transformers themes.
This would have been a massive project, to gain approval from each of the four Hotels, and then do up compatible cards (one was a different size), and have each ready and handed out to BotCon guests at each of the four Hotels.
The Westin had Bumblebee, The Biltmore had Optimus, The Marriot had Megatron, and the Hilton had Starscream.  Each room booked at the BotCon rate on the Saturday & Sunday was entitled to two Keys (one for each day - which made if easy for Liam and I to have one each... not that it mattered, because of how many we managed to get later from the Hotel).
Below are the four different ones, which I was only able to acquire through trading with my spares... spares that I got from this Hotel's front desk on the Saturday after everyone had checked in (so I was able to convince them not to waste them by just throwing them out).  Ian was able to do the same which is hotel, and I think I got a friend at the main hotel to get a spare as well, so I was able to get three of the four quite easily.  The tricky part was gaining the fourth key, which was from the hotel that was least used, so had less amount of key-cards made up.  In the end I found a dealer in the Dealer Room on the Sunday, and was able to swap several of mine just for one of his that I needed.

This was the view from our room, looking right in the convention centre, and the Westin's own 'convention centre' on the right of the roadway that passes under part of the main convention centre.  The building on the right of the photo was the yet-to-be-completed Westin Apartment complex which obscured the actual Westin Hotel behind it.

The Convention Centre from the ground.

From the top floor of the Biltmore, looking north to the State House (parliment building). And in the foreground to the left is the Marriot Courtyard Hotel which Ian and Caroline stayed at.

And this was the Downtown area, with the central bus terminal just across the road from the hotel.

Below was a photo I took of the Providence Place, looking at it from next to the Marriot.  And that was Liam getting in the way... Nah, I caught him before he could get out of the way, so people could know who these other two Aussies were I keep referring to.

All around the Convention centre, we found these special banners on the street posts, promoting the Convention. (this photo is from Liam/Legham)

So after I put my stuff in the room at the Biltmore (on the 15th floor of the 18 floor hotel), Liam and I went to find him something to eat at the shopping centre, because he hadn't had anything most of the day.  Showed him the KB store, but it hadn't been pilliaged of all its TFs just yet.  Most wouldn't be arriving in Providence until tomorrow.  The Wednesday pre-reg pickup was just for those on the tours and customising classes.  We also stopped by the Convention centre on the way through, to see if there was anything being set up yet, and we found Ernie Petralego wandering around looking for Brian from Fun Pub.  He mentioned that he was told to be there on the Wednesday at that time, but after talking over the event schedule, we figured that he was told the wrong day, and was meant to be there on the Thursday instead.  He decided to hang around until the Wednesday pre-reg pickup started a few hours later.  Liam and I went off, and came back at 9pm to meet up with Ian and Caroline.

9.30pm - Wednesday pre-reg pickup

This was for the people who attended either of the Custom/Diarama Classes, or went on either of the Pre-Con Tours.  Since I didn't do any of those things I wasn't there to pick up my stuff, but since Ian & Caroline were going on the Thursday tour, they were eligible, and Liam and I just went to keep them company and see what happened.

When we go there at 9pm there was already a crowd.

Brian made a short announcement to welcome the people, and to explain that they were only picking up their pre-registration packs. They wouldn't be allowed to buy any Convention stuff (toys and merchandise) until the next day when the main pre-registration pickup commences.

......

Waiting in line, the others met with some other people - one pair were locals (Steve and Patty - Steve was in the 'Diarama' Class, so explained what it was), while another person there mentioned that he had stuff to trade in his car.

Ian was pretty keen to get a jump on the toy shopping, so we all went off to the centre's carpark to go through a boot-load of stuff.  Nothing interested me though, but as you can see below, Ian was pretty keen.

(photo by Legham)
 

Pre-Registration materials (Eventually I'll replace any of these pics with my own - I just didn't have the time when doing up this report)

The items in the pre-reg pack this year:
Box set, Convention guide/comic, certificate, Name Tag, Movie ticket (if ordered), Tour wrist strap (if on the Hasbro tour), first-100 pin (if one of the first 100 to register), and a Target pack (varient comic, decoder, and transforming Optimus gift card).

Below is a photo of the Box set in the box.  (photo from TFW2005)

The attendee figure was a translucent blue Mirage, which can be seen below (with the extra figures I bought on the Thursday - I didn't get my Box-set until Thursday).

And the Biocards for the exclusive toys.

Below has the certificate and program guide (yellow cover) from the pre-reg pack  The blue covered comic is the Diamond version, which can be found or ordered through regular comic shops.  The Stan Bush advertising card (for his new CD) was actually given out at the Saturday night party.  Also below is my Name Tag.

This is a scan of the page from the program guide (the only page I scanned in), listing the guests for this year's show.

This is the Target pack that was in the pre-reg pack.  The comic and decoder was something that could also be picked up from the Hasbro display in the Dealer room all weekend.  The transforming gift card actually had a random value on every one.  There were 2000, with 5 having US$500, 195 with US$25, and the remaining 1800 with US$5.  You had to take it to a Target store, or ring up the Target phone number to see how much you had on it.  I had US$5, which was good, because I wouldn't have been able to spend it anyway.  On the right is a photo of Liam's Movie ticket (I lost mine), and he had it signed by Peter Cullen and the Movie writers.

And the other items from the pre-reg pack (movie tickets, tour wristband, voting and prize entries, and party info).  (photo from TFW2005)

And below is the pin given out to the first 100 who had their forms received by Fun Pub. (photo from TFW2005)

11pm - Back to our separate rooms, and asleep soon after.


Go onto Thursday June 28th

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griffin @ otca.com.au

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