It was the morning after the first snow had fallen on Helsinki, this autumn. True, not much of it remained on the ground for very long, but it still made me wonder whether I should expect a wampa popping up from behind a corner as I walked down the streets towards Gloria, the Helsinki cultural club where Hoth Con was taking place.
Aside from the irrational fear of wampas, it was really hard to know what to expect. Mesmerizing as I find it, it was the first Star Wars-themed convention in Finland… ever. Therefore, it was an experiment of sorts, and undoubtedly for the organisers, its outcome was as unpredictable as the result of the battle of Hoth itself. But that was one more reason why I was excited to go there. History was being made.
As I arrived at the spot, everything seemed to be already off to a smooth start. The tall figure of Boba Fett standing quietly by the entrance made it clear that I had come to the right place. I had not realised he was alive until he moved to survey the room, possibly looking for Han Solo. He was nowhere to be seen, however, unless you count the many miniatures and props on display, a classic feature of every convention. I also saw a number of other interesting people, including several Jedi, troopers, bounty hunters, Sith Lords, princesses senators and a Jawa… in other words, everyone you could expect. Well, maybe not necessarily on Hoth. But they seemed to be having a good time, so I joined them in traversing around, surveying the place, looking at toys, checking out the big tables with miniature battles, especially the massive battle for Hoth itself.
Given the nature of the event – being the first of its kind – it was nowhere near the size of your classic big fan conventions. But even so it was pretty impressive. Occupying two floors of the club building, there was plenty of space to play board games, get a Star Wars themed tattoo, chat with the makers of the recent Finnish fan-film The Twelve Parsec Stare which was to be screened later that evening, and even visit a couple of panels about comics. What struck me as the most noteworthy, however, was the nature of the event as being “for the whole family”. And indeed it was. All the time, you could see little kids in perfect Darth Vader, bounty hunter or Jedi costumes running around, followed by their equally geeky parents, playing games, looking at props and toys or just generally having fun. The folks overseeing the board games and miniature battles were more than happy to provide even the little ones with guidance and soon, we saw smoke rising from some AT-ATs as the younglings decided where to fire next. One of the favourite spots, had a couple of consoles where people could try the brand new Star Wars Battlefront game. I had not tried it myself, but it was surely a good spot to check it out.
Suddenly, in the middle of everything, I heard a commotion coming from the big room. Unsure of what was happening, I went to check it out; when I arrived to the place, I saw a Dalek engaged in a vicious confrontation with one of the several members of the Fett family. Such things apparently happen. The confrontation was indeed dramatic and everyone crowded around to watch the outcome, but, perhaps a little unexpectedly, the result was very peaceful. The Dalek proclaimed Mr. Fett to be its friend, they shook hands and appendages and agreed to merrily destroy the universe together. Another happy ending.
Overall, the cheerful atmosphere of the event is one of the things I’ll perhaps remember the most. Maybe it was partly the size of the con, making it much cozier than some huge impersonal happening, but it has to be more than that. After all, nearly six hundred people attending is not really that small amount. It’s the people who make the event, every one of those who attend. The “whole family” thing also plays a big part in why the environment feels so friendly and welcoming.
I stopped to chat with Dean, the owner of the local HeadHunter store which sells most of the Star Wars figures and starship models I could see around, including a huge statue of Darth Vader. It is him (Dean, not Vader) who is behind the whole idea. He, too, seems to be more than happy about how the event turned out. He shares with me (as much as he shares them with everyone who comes around) the hope that this event will become a tradition; in fact, the plan is to use all the profit from this event to make next year’s one. It should be bigger – the building we are in has yet unused space, a whole floor – and longer, perhaps over weekend rather than just one day as it was now. That means we could expect more programme events, more stuff to see and do, perhaps even some interesting guests. Who knows? Always in motion, the future is.
I hope to see you next year in Helsinki. I hope to be there too.