I made the last minute decision to go to Phoenix Fan Fest this past weekend, and I’m beyond happy that I made that I did! I wasn’t sure how to feel about it at first since it doesn’t get as much press as Phoenix Comicon (which is another local convention that I’ve attended a few times), but I figured since David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things would be there, as well as Brett Dalton and Elizabeth Hendstridge from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the event had to be at least somewhat close to the quality of Phoenix Comicon (which I thoroughly enjoyed). So alas, I rallied up a few friends and we headed out to Fan Fest!
It was definitely way less hectic than it was at Phoenix Comicon. Most of the events/panels were located in the east half of the convention center (I don’t think anything Fan Fest-related even happened in the other half), and there was significantly less people at this convention than there normally is at Phoenix Comicon (way less than half, that’s for sure). I wasn’t really surprised, since this event didn’t seem to get as much press as other conventions, but it was definitely a plus to not have to barrel roll our way through crowds of Harley Quinns, Overwatch heroes, and Deadpools just to get through one door.
The exhibitor’s hall was less impressive than I was expecting, but it was combined with the autograph booth area for the celebrity guests, as well as the area for interactive displays (the combination most likely as a result of the event being much smaller than large-scale conventions). However, the one thing I DID appreciate in this exhibitor’s hall was the ratio to people selling handmade goods/art to stores or companies selling mass-produced products. I feel like every other booth I saw was an artist selling prints or a stitcher selling hand-sewn plushes, and I appreciated that these exhibitors seemed to be highlighted way more than they are in bigger conventions! Typically they’re stuck in a corner of the exhibitor’s hall called the “artist’s alley” where there doesn’t seem to be too much traffic, but at this convention, they were mixed into all of the rest of the booths! I feel like it should be like that at the bigger conventions, because all of those artists deserve way more attention for how much talent they have!
The biggest reason I went to Phoenix Fan Fest is because of two of the headlining guests, Millie Bobby Brown and Elizabeth Henstridge. I paid for a photo op with Elizabeth, and my friends were nice enough to let me hijack their photo op with Millie. The Elizabeth photo op happened shortly after we arrived, so we browsed the exhibitor’s hall for a bit until it was time for me to head over. Apparently I got there just in time too, because despite getting to the photo op at the designated time, the staff told me that she was going to be leaving in ten minutes. I still had to actually get my photo op ticket printed out, so they assured me that she would still be there after getting my ticket printed. Now that I’m actually thinking about this moment while writing this, no one ended up being behind me in line, so I’m wondering if they kept her from leaving so that I could still get my photo…which was very nice, on their part. However, I felt a little gypped, because it felt like this change in scheduling happened without any notice. It’s still all very confusing, to be honest. Despite all that, I still got this incredibly dorky photo!
Mind you, when I say “dorky” I meant that I’m the dorky one. She was incredible.
This moment is/was/always will be a blur, and it was not at all how I expected it would be. The staff told me where to put my belongings, I entered the photo area, saw that Elizabeth was there and she appeared to be talking to someone, and that’s when I was like “oh snap it’s actually happening.” This is where the blur began. I remember her complimenting my shirt, to which I said “she (Peggy Carter) is my hero,” and then Elizabeth basically said she felt the same. There was then an awkward pause where I could have probably been like, “let’s do a crazy cool pose that will make you think your fans aren’t all awkward dweebs like I am,” but no. I just stood there, put my arm around her, and made sure to muster up the cheesiest of smiles. After that, I think I said something like “nice to meet you,” which I remember feeling weird about, because having an interaction with someone for less than thirty seconds doesn’t necessarily constitute “meeting” someone.
Long story, short: a photo op isn’t an ideal way to meet your favorite celebrities, but it’s a great way to make sure you look as embarrassing as possible with them.
After that split second of my life was over, we explored the exhibitor’s hall for a bit longer before heading down to the Stranger Things panel with David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown! I wasn’t able to get any great pics because of how far back we were (which makes me regret not bringing my good camera) but oh my goodness, these two humans are absolutely incredible. Their dynamic felt a lot like he was an older brother who desperately wanted to embarrass his younger sister, and she desperately wanted to not be embarrassed. They’re not allowed to talk about Season 2 of the show at all, and David decided to taunt Millie for a good cumulative 10-15 minutes of the panel by saying things like “YOU GUYS, I JUST WANNA TALK ABOUT THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF SEASON 2 OH MAN IT’S SO GOOD,” to which she’d be like, “NO DON’T DO IT.” It was hilarious because she so genuinely believed he was about to spoil it, but you could tell he was messing with her so hard.
Also, Millie held a stranger’s baby. I mean, what other twelve-year old actor would do that? She’s also incredibly mature for her age, and that was so refreshing to see. I have high hopes for her as a rising star.
Immediately after their panel was over, we had to head upstairs for the photo op with Millie, where we waited in the HUGE (but not necessarily intimidating) line. My friend and I decided that we should come up with a solid plan for a pose, given my lack of preparation earlier that day resulted in a dorky face that probably broke a world record, so we decided “gang signs.”
Funny enough, that’s all that my friend could say to Millie once we actually got into the photo area.
I feel like Millie was too confused about what we were trying to set up for, because she kept trying to figure out what exactly was going on. That’s when my friend uttered those words (which was more than I could do at that moment, so props to her) and we snapped right into these incredible poses:
Of course, Millie happened to be the most adorable out of all of us. No surprises, there.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D panel with Elizabeth Henstridge and Brett Dalton was up next, and I was pretty excited for it, considering they both seemed like pretty incredible people. I already knew that Elizabeth was hilarious through her social media posts, and Brett had kind of a dorky charm from what I see on his Instagram every once in a while, so I figured it would be a hilariously fun time.
Somehow, they managed to exceed all of my expectations.
They handled a few pretty gross questions with incredible professionalism, which I’m sure they’re trained to do, but I was surprised at just how gracefully they did it. One in particular I remember was a guy saying that Brett had the height/build to play Nick Fury for some sort of spin-off series (which made no sense, since Fury is already played by a different actor in the current Marvel universe), and asked Elizabeth if she’d be willing to play the girl who has sex with him.
I’m not even joking, that’s basically how he asked the question.
But aside from that, they were dorky human beings who made me smile to the point where I regretted not paying for the photo op with both of them. Most of the answers they gave to questions started out as serious and well-meaning, but went off into hilarious tangents, one of which somehow turned glitter into a sexual innuendo. They definitely ended at least half of the questions by asking the person if they even answered their question, so that should give you an idea of the nature of these tangents. However, it added to their charm…somehow.
I was even surprised to hear someone ask Brett about what it was like to play Mike in Until Dawn! I wasn’t sure how many people at the convention would know of his role in it, and considering it’s one of my all time favorite video games, it was cool to hear him talk about the production of it. Also, apparently everyone in the cast loves the guy who plays Fitz in the show, Iain De Caestecker. I mean, the guy seems like an adorable person, so I guess I can see where they were coming from.
Shoot, Elizabeth even had a moment where she made sure to remind Brett that men are also attracted to him when he brought up that he had an “effect on women.” I have quite a soft spot for celebrities who destroy the notion of heteronormativity, so this made me respect her on a WHOLE new level.
The last part of our Phoenix Fan Fest experience consisted of us spending money on all the things we saw that, in our minds, we couldn’t live without. Believe me, I could have spent five times the amount of money I actually spent at this convention, but I managed to not dump most of my bank account onto these vendors.
Here’s a pic of me trying real hard to lay out all of my Fan Fest swag in an aesthetically pleasing manner:
I could NOT pass up that Stranger Things print, which was made by one of my favorite artists. I absolutely LOVED the square prints of Sailor Pluto, Katara, and Sailor Venus, and the wonderful and talent artist selling them was doing a sale on them, so I had to snag them. And I mean, who could pass up those adorable buttons? Resistance was futile, when it came to these items.
As you can see, most of the things I bought were prints or handmade items, which is definitely a result of most of the booths being ran by artists! Even that Captain America shirt was made by the vendors themselves, using Puffy paint to make the designs on the shirts (which apparently means that it won’t crack or fade in the washer/dryer!) I usually make it a point at conventions to buy from at least one artist, but because there were several talented artists at Phoenix Fan Fest, I ended up buying from multiple. I feel better knowing that my money is going toward supporting their career of doing what they love.
Overall, I definitely loved attending Phoenix Fan Fest. It was all the fun of Phoenix Comicon without the stress of trying to battery-ram through crowds of people. We got there at about 11am, did two hour-long panels, waited in line for a photo op, and saw everything we wanted to see before 6pm. The only reason I’d go for the whole weekend is if both days had panels I really wanted to go to, since the small-scale nature of the event made it easy to experience it all in just one day. Regardless, I had fun, and I would seriously consider going again next year.
And if next years guests are people who I want photo ops with, I’ll think harder and prepare better, as to avoid any embarrassing faces. If you’re reading this, Elizabeth (let’s be real; you probably aren’t) I’m sorry my face decided to be dorky right upon being in a photo with you. I wish I could say it’s not you, but like, it was kind of you. So…sorry ’bout it.