(griffin's 2016 BotCon adventure from Australia)


This year the convention was spread out all over the place.  Not only were the main convention rooms split between two buildings (Rivue and Suite towers), and three rooms in the Suite tower, AND the Friday night events held 4 blocks away from the Hotel's Convention center, but the Saturday Awards dinner was being held in the Kentucky International Convention Center that was two blocks south, but connected by a walkway "skybridge"... which I didn't work out until I got in Louisville (at the time when I worked out that the Hotel was in two buildings).

Andy and I left our hotel room a little after 7pm and headed over to where we thought we were supposed to be going (from the Suite tower's skybridge connection), but we didn't have to worry about finding our way as there was already a steady stream of BotCon attendees with namebadges, making their way through the various corridors like a line of lemmings.

Walking through the maze of two buildings to the KICC, we were still about 20 minutes before they opened the doors but most of the people were already lined up, snaking their way through the ground floor lobby area and running out of room, so many of the last few people who arrived just grouped together and piled in when the doors finally opened.

Inside there were tables with food on them, tables for people to sit at to eat their dinner, and tables for play gambling (with the "casino dollars" in the registration pack, and you could buy more casino dollars with the money going to a children's hospital charity).
Most people lined up at one of the two food stations, with the one on the left side (at the back of this photo) being a "cook to order" stir-fry station that was really slow, and on the right side (at the back) being a finger food station that moved very fast.  The table in the foreground of this photo was the non-alcoholic drinks & desert table.

With people eating first, the "casino" staff were either left to sit at their tables waiting, or entertaining us with circus tricks... like this one with a hoola-hoop.


And these two juggling... with Benson Yee in blue taking a photo as well.


And there was a guy up the back of the room balancing chairs on his face. (I was stuck in a line for food so couldn't get any closer... and the lighting was making it hard to get good photos)

With pretty much everyone queued up at the main two food stations, after I had taken several photos of the room, I decided to have desert first, as the sweets table had no one at it yet.
There was only two sweet items on offer, and I didn't like one of them, so after a few minutes snacking on a couple of sweet items, I found Andy again and we lined up in the stir-fry station line.
Andy then found out that he didn't bring his voucher for $100 "casino dollars", so he went back to the room to get it while I stayed in the line... and I hardly moved while he was gone for about 10-15 minutes.  As soon as he got back we jumped over to the finger-food line.
Within 5 minutes we managed to get our food and found an empty table to eat at.


But just as we were about to get to the food table, it was 8pm and Brian started talking on a small stage in the far corner of the room.  I couldn't get any closer without leaving the queue, so I just had to take some notes and some distant photos.
He welcomed us to the Dinner and gave some details of what would be happening this evening - first we would have the Hall of Fame winners announced now, then at 10.30pm after people had eaten and played casino games we would have the Art awards announced and then the charity auction.

So up first was Hasbro's Mark Weber again, to announce the fan-voted Hall of Fame winners.
Favourite character - Optimus Primal
Underated character - Cosmos
Favourite Music - Weird Al Yankovic

Then he introduced Judd Nelson onto the stage to give a speech that was probably supposed to be about him being inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame or something about Transformers in general.
I was initially really surprised by this... maybe he was encouraged to say a few more words to the fans, after just giving us a sentance yesterday... but we were soon left disappointed once again, not because of length this time, but because of the content.
It lasted for 3 minutes, but was really weird, like he was drunk or stoned. He rambled off random statistics to do with time, some unrelated philosophical quotes, plus some odd phrases and expressions... all of it unrelated to each other or Transformers, so it just sounded more like the ramblings of a homeless man. (and he was dressed the part too)
Just like for the Friday Hall of Fame presentation, check out Benson Yee's video of Judd's speech.

Reflecting on past BotCons, the first few Hall of Fame ceremonies were fancy events with souvenir cards for the occasion (see below), but by the fourth one in 2013, it was relegated to being a short announcement at the end of the Hasbro panel. It came back as part of a major event at BotCon in 2014 and 2015, but no more commemorative cards were produced ever again.

Hall of Fame 2010

Hall of Fame 2011

Hall of Fame 2012

That reminds me, while we were in the food line, Aaron Archer was right behind us.  I asked him if he had indeed recently followed my personal twitter, or if it was someone else pretending to be him.  I described my twitter as being one that recently posted up 30 years of toy collecting, but he didn't remember, and said that it might not be him.  Unfortunately we weren't on the Hotel grounds, so I was out of range of their internet and couldn't bring it up on my phone to show him.  (I would check it out later that night and found that it was his official twitter handle, and ran into him the next day and mentioned it.)

So Andy and I just casually ate our food, and sat there for a while, occasionaly talking (we were both fairly tired - me from lack of sleep, him from his cold - so we didn't have much energy to get up and walk around yet).
I managed to get another few precious minutes with Tim, who had managed to sneak in with someone else's badge (I had joked to him earlier in the day to find someone who wouldn't be here and use their badge).  He wasn't there to eat anything, so it was no cost to FunPub... and it would be hypocritical of FunPub to break their own rules for letting one important person to get into the Custom Class 3 hours late, and then boot out another important person who was just at the dinner to spend as much time as possible catching up with old friends... and being a significant veteran of the fandom, he deserved to be there tonight.  So it was good that the people who knew he was just a walk-in, didn't have him removed or reported.  If they had, I would have left with him in protest.

I actually saw a lot of people tonight who were hugging or greeting people in way that looked to be the first time in a long time, and/or for being the last time as well.  It made me sad again, empathically feeling what others were feeling, because I had already felt that way a number of times as well.

About an hour later (9pm) we got up and walked around to see what things they had going on.  Neither of us had any interest in playing any of the table games, or the bingo being hosted in another room.

At the balloon-pop table, with the available prizes on offer. This had become a fan favourite in the past, as it guaranteed you a minimum winning of Casino Dollars, plus a 1 in about 20 chance of winning a BotCon or Club toy, for just $20.  I remember the last time they did it, I was only able to get one go (at the limit of 5 balloons at a time) because they were all gone before I got to the front of the line again.
This year though, they didn't get to pop all their balloons, and had to make a few announcements just to get enough balloons bought to give away all the toys.  I guess it is one of the symptoms of the drying up of support and attendance at BotCon in recent years.

The toys on offer, which you could select yourself if you had a winning piece of paper in your balloon.

Over on the Auction table, all the items were layed out for preview... which looked like a lot, but there have been years where there was a lot more stuff, so that items went cheap enough for most of us to go home happy.

I had actually donated an item this year, but one of the Staff put it with the door-prizes instead of the Charity Auction.  It was one of the TF4 Movie diecast Optimus figurine 2-packs that were only available in Asia for the midnight release of the toys at select ToysRUs stores... and it was way too valuable to be a door-prize, so I managed to get it back, but it was a shame that it didn't make it to the Auction.
I had brought two spare sets with me, giving one to Andy, and one was supposed to go to the Charity Auction. (I've donated several toys over the years to the BotCon Door-prize pool, but this was the first time I had donated something that I thought was valuable enough to be worth being in the Charity Auction)

The Cybertron banner was donated by Pete, who won it in the very first Charity Auction in 2005.
The yellow mystery box was from the dealer in the Dealer Room that was selling them, and Brian added a heap of extra items in it, making it worth at least a thousand (real) dollars. He added a 2016 loose set, plus 6 or 7 of the Attendee toy (Terrorsaur), and some of the other exclusive items from this year.



A toy donated by the guy in the Dealer Room who had all the ex-Hasbro employee prototypes and pre-production samples. This was obviously a sample of the BotCon 1995 Nightracer toy, before it was hand-painted up and packaged as Nightracer.





Next to the table was the stage, and one of the FunPublications staff was getting out the Art Contest awards, ready for the presentations in about 45 minutes time.
They are really nice, and they've been like this for as long as I can remember.  It's one of those rare elements that they put extra attention to, that almost seems out of place among other elements that seem  a bit rushed or half-assed.

It was now 9.50pm and the food tables were now gone... and we were just waiting for the Casino staff to get the bidding cards so that they could write up whatever Casino Dollars we had left, or had won.
I had given Andy my Golden Ticket's $2,000 Casino Dollars, as there wasn't any chance for me to win anything I wanted on the preview table, and it would really depend on the amount of people left when the auction started for us to know how cheaply items will go. (unfortunately there were enough people left, that resulted in items going for a minimum of $5,000, which was more than double what Andy had to bid with)

While we waited for the awards and auction to start, Dispensor went to get me a drink... it was probably drugged so that I am more submissive to his demands.

At 10.30pm the Art Contest awards were announced, and the trophies or prizes were handed out. (see the art contest page for photos of what won)

At 10.50pm the Charity Auction began, and Dispensor tried to run off with Andy's bidding card... not that it would have bought him anything.

The first few items could only be bid on by kids, and I was worried that Brian would give away half of the items to kids again, including collector items (like in 2012), but after about 6 items it was open to everyone.

The Auction went for almost 40 minutes, with some of the display banners auctioned off last.
(the guy in the fluffy red coat is one of the regular elements of BotCon that gives it a sense of familiarity each year, as he wears all his previous BotCon nametags around his neck every year... and he's been to one more BotCon than me)

With the end of the auction at 11.30pm, everyone left, including Andy and I, back to our room.

Return to Saturday 9th April

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***All pictures in this convention report are mine unless noted. Any that are borrowed, have the source credited/noted.  If you want to use/borrow any of my photos, please credit the source as well. I try to take as many of my own photos as possible, and usually only resort to using others if I failed to get something, or my photo wasn't clear enough.

OZFORMERS - The Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction in Australia (OUR 20TH ANNIVERSARY IN 2016)
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au