Each November my wife and I take her grandmother to Indianapolis’ own Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. When we checked out this year’s model last month, the event was on its 67th year; Mamaw is on her 91st and still going strong. The Show provides a variety of shopping opportunities and entertainment activities, some of which began to remind us in not-so-subtle ways of our favorite geek conventions. This show doesn’t have nearly the scope or the attendance of C2E2 or the Indiana Comic Con, but we had to wonder if the new showrunners picked up an influence or two from our scene.
Obviously both kinds of shows have their exhibit halls in which specialized vendors stake out their booths and wish you’d shop with them first. In this case the businesses great and small (the ones doing it right, anyway) focus on Christmas decor, Christmas gift ideas, handcrafted works, licensed character merchandise, irrelevant industrial-arts services, off-brand Sham-Wows, telemarketing schemes, DirecTV, and more. Past a certain point the comparisons diverge, but you get the idea: it’s shopping time!
Both kinds of shows have their creatures. With Wizard World Chicago and its ilk, the halls are populated with super-sized monster sculptures, high-end collector statues, puppets, and those totally irrelevant, out-of-place Sugar Gliders. At this show, it’s live animals all the way, though nary a Sugar Glider in sight this time.
Both kinds of shows have their monolithic displays. At Gen Con you’re surrounded by the largest signs, logos, murals, inflatable dice, and more. Here, the largest exhibit piece caters to a different kind of fandom.
Both kinds of shows have their special guests, including a clutch of tables manned by self-published authors wishing for sales so they can afford lunch. Longtime MCC readers are familiar with our ongoing “jazz hands” photo-op collection, but 2016 marks the first time the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show brought in an actor from one of the most popular movies of all time.
And of course, both kinds of shows have the one ingredient that enlivens the aisles and adds much-needed color to obscure the concrete floors: cosplay! All over the show floor, dealers and patrons alike dress up in the gear of elves, reindeer, trees, ornaments, and other toy delivery system participants of note.
Both kinds of shows also:
* Attract crowds large enough to make the aisles impassable and claustrophobic after the first 2-3 hours
* Aren’t easy to navigate when you’re pushing someone in a wheelchair
* Allow pushy salespeople hawking services no one wants
* Have a guy selling bootleg DVDs without a care
* Offer concession stand food you’re better off skipping
* Don’t have those issues of Pirate Corp$ I’ve been looking for since the ’80s
* Can expect to see us again next year, Lord willing. I’m still not buying any Funko Pops, though.