With Covid restrictions lifted this past year has been full of amazing conventions, From Star Wars Celebration to ICCC in Nashville I have been on the road what feels like non-stop. The latest convention I had the privilege to attend was Fan Expo Chicago (formally known as Wizard World) that took place this year July 7 – 10 and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. From amazing cosplay and vendors to guests from all over the pop culture universe there was a lot to take in during the convention. So here are my thoughts on the first-ever Fan Expo Chicago.
What Is Fan Expo Chicago?
FAN EXPO Chicago is the ultimate go-to event for sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event in Chicago that attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
FAN EXPO Chicago offers exciting family-friendly attractions, events, and world-renowned Celebrities! The show, which started as Chicago Comic Con in 1972 and became Wizard World Chicago in 1998, has featured celebrities and creators like Stan Lee, Michael J. Fox, John Travolta, Carrie Fisher, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, WWE® Superstar John Cena®, David Boreanaz and many more headliners.
Everyone is a fan of something, and FAN EXPO Chicago is a place to celebrate all things pop culture. Get an autograph or a photo with your favorite guest then get the inside scoop about your favorite movies and TV shows at our celebrity panels! Watch professional comic artists battle it out in our popular Sketch Duels, learn from our “How To” workshops, and take photos with your favorite costumed characters! It’s also a great place to buy a unique gift (or treat yourself!) with a huge show floor for shopping madness.SOurce: Fan Expo Chicago
My Thoughts On Fan Expo Chicago 2022
Heading to this event I had to keep in mind that this was the first year for Fan Expo Chicago. Before Fan Expo took over this convention was formerly known as Wizard World. This convention took place for four days (July 7-10) and had a lot for pop culture fans to take in. From Star Wars and LOTR to Clerks and Anime Stars, the guest lineup was strong. Also if autographs were not your thing there were a ton of amazing artists, writers, and vendors that could keep you busy for hours.
So with all this fun going on at once, I decided to break down my review into four categories. These categories are location, accessibility (ADA), guest lineup, artist alley, and vendors.
Fan Expo Chicago Location
Fan Expo Chicago took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center 5555 N. River Road Rosemont, IL 60018. The best thing about this location is that the convention center was within walking distance of most of the hotels in the area. For those that had to drive there was plenty of parking that didn’t break the bank.
Also what was nice about this location was the food options. For those that wanted to eat at the convention, there was a medium-sized area with some food vendors. For those that need a break and wanted to grab something outside of the convention, there were a lot of options within walking distance.
As someone who is disabled, accessibility is very important to me. Fan Expo Chicago had some ups and downs when it came to ADA accessibility but overall the staff there did a great job and some conventions could take notes on some of their ADA policies. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. One of the biggest downfalls was the lack of seating. Most of the time the sitting areas were full which cause some to have to sit on the ground.
ADA guests that were in attendance could have benefited from an ADA room which some conventions offer. The other thing was the conflicting information on the website. If you looked there at the ADA guidelines you would have noticed that it says there is no ADA staging area for entry, autographs, and panels. Thankfully this was not the case at the convention and this leads me to the positives of how they handle things.
What was great was how they handled ADA guests. Guests got a medical sticker that was put on their badges and their companion’s badge as well. This sticker allowed ADA guests to be escorted to an ADA for entry, autographs, and panels. This service allowed ADA guests to be able to enjoy more of the convention. Now in some ADA lines, you still had to wait so I would recommend bringing a small travel chair to sit in while you wait. This writer may have forgotten his chair, but I also want to give a huge shout-out to the staff for helping not only myself but others find a chair or a space to be comfortable in.
Fan Expo Chicago Guests (Autographs & Photo Ops)
Fan Expo Chicago had a pretty strong guest lineup. Now, this is amazing because they also had some big names cancel. Fans that were hoping to see Gina Carano, Ming-Na- Wen, Jacob Bertrand, Peyton List, Levar Burton, Brent Spiner, and a few others were disappointed when these actors canceled; but even with these actors gone there were a lot of great actors that gave an amazing fan experience. From Star Wars and Star Trek, Clerks and Anime, to Sons of Anarchy and The Lords of the Rings fans had a lot of actors to choose from for autographs and photo ops.
I mean with actors like Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter, Carl Weathers, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, Jonathan Frakes, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Brec Bassinger, Billy West, Christopher Sabat, and many more you can’t go wrong.
Most of the time autograph lines were handled very well. Once the staff got settled in they kept the traffic flowing (when they could). One of the downfalls to the lines was there really were no scheduled times for most of the actors. Also, there were no assigned times scheduled when you bought an autograph ticket. this made it hard at times to know when to line up, especially if there were duo autographs that were taking place. Also, there were a few times that photo ops ran over causing some big delays in autographs, but again the staff handle it as well as they could to make things work.
For those that did photo ops, the biggest complaint was the lining up process. Some were put in the wrong lines and some lines merged with others. But again once things got figured out things started to flow a lot better. Space was also an issue for both autographs and photo ops for some of the busiest actors like Ashley Eckstein, Kevin Smith, and Jason Mewes.
Overall the autographs and photo ops were not that bad once things got figured out. Also to my understanding, the space issue is already being addressed for next year. You can check out the official 2022 guest lineup by clicking here.
Artist Alley And Vendors
One of my favorite places to check out at a convention is artist alley. From artists like Joe Corroney, Greg Horn Art, Joe Quesada, Ashley Brienzo, and comic publishers like Paxel Comics, Merc Publishing, and more you pretty much had to hide your wallet so you didn’t buy too many prints or comics. It is hard going into these conventions and not buying some amazing work from these amazing artists and writers. Artist Alley was also spaced out very well. It was easy to look at what everyone had to offer without being on top of other fans.
Also, we can not for all the wonderful and unique vendors that were set up all over the convention floor. Vendors like Norse Legion, Illuminidol LLC, Comic Elite, and tattoo artists like Kevin James Tattrie there was a lot to take in and do over the four days of Fan Expo Chicago. In some areas, space was tight around the vendor booths but overall traffic seemed to flow pretty well on the floor. If you are attending next year you will defiantly want to take your time and check out these areas.
My Final Thoughts
For this being the first Fan Expo Chicago I think it went really well. Yes, there were a few hiccups like I said earlier, but overall it was a fun convention. The staff did a great job. Most were friendly and if they didn’t have answers they would try to get them for you. The guest lineup I thought was amazing, even though they had a lot of big names cancel. I know most of the celebrities I dealt with were fun and made the fan experience even better. Yeah, there were a few line and schedule issues, but most of the time things worked out. Also, I want to give a shoutout to the crew that worked the Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes duo autograph line. They did a great job trying to take care of the fans waiting in a very delayed line (no fault of the staff).
Artist Alley was great. There were so many talented artists and writers I could have spent all my money there. Also, one of the best things is meeting new comic creators. This has made me read and check out comics that I would miss out on if I didn’t attend this convention. One example of this is a series called Miss Meow (review coming soon) written by Murphy with Aaron Sparrow. Also, the vendors were on point. There was so much to choose from, from collectibles and shirts to candles and cosplay props there was something for everyone.
Also, while I do not put cosplay on my review list I still like to talk about it. The cosplay at Fan Expo Chicago was great. To me, it seemed like there was less on the floor during the weekend than at other conventions but the ones that were there were on point. From Star Wars to Anime it just always amazes me what people can do to make their cosplay unbelievable. Thanks to my friend Joshua Bindewald-Moore at Moorcroft Photography I am able to share with you a few of the amazing cosplayers that attended the convention.
If you are in the midwest or just love to travel you will want to check out Fan Expo Chicago. Next year’s Fan Expo will take place once again at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 10-13. I can not wait to see you all there in 2023.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
What were your thoughts about Fan Expo CHicago? Are you planning on returning or going next year? Also, what guests would you like to see make an appearance at next year’s convention? Well, That Hashtag Show wants to hear from you!
You can tell us your thoughts by leaving a comment below or hitting me up at starwarsnerd574. Also, make sure to stay up to date on all the Pop Culture news by following us at ThatHashtagShow.com. More importantly, be safe, I can’t wait to see you all at some conventions throught the year!