Home Conventions Calgary Expo turns into Calgary Stampede with too many fans

Calgary Expo turns into Calgary Stampede with too many fans


What was that we were just saying about the term “Comic-Con” meaning entertainment?

Some 50,000 people showed up to the Calgary Expo this weekend to hear the complete Star Trek: The Next Generation cast reunite to share a cup of Earl Grey tea, and also perhaps spot Kate Beaton or Peter David. Although it wasn’t really a riot, there were wayyyyy too many people Saturday, and the Fire Marshal shut things down, leading to many people not getting in and the show offering ticket refunds for those who were shut out. People who showed up to buy tickets on site were turned away, say reports.

The high demand for tickets to this year’s event caused headaches and heartaches for fans who were turned away or locked out when the popular event reached crowd capacity at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo on the weekend.

Organizers had anticipated 35,000 fans — about 5,000 more than last year — but the Stampede Park BMO Centre was mobbed by a crowd of nearly 50,000.

There was anger among those who were shut out and left outside holding their bags of spirit gum.

Sean Flint arrived for the weekend from Regina, but was locked out Saturday.

“People were packed in like cattle. My wife was on the inside,” he said.

“I was on the outside with everything prepaid. They told us we had to go home, no one else is being let in at 3 p.m. The volunteer used a bullhorn to announce this. They sold too many tickets for the event. It was not a rush hour. They ruined my vacation.”

There was heartache and separated families:

“I am beyond angry,” said Andrew Caswell, 43, who drove six hours from Whitecourt, AB only to be denied access. “This is beyond acceptable. They obviously sold more tickets than they had room for.”

Nikki Coubrough, 27, who was dressed as a female version of The Riddler from Batman comics, was flustered too. She and her friends (also dressed as various Batman villains) had made the 14 hour drive from Winnipeg, accruing big costs for gas and hotels along the way.

“They haven’t given a definite answer as to whether or not we could get in,” Coubrough complained. “They said ‘Go stand over there’ and ‘maybe.’ There’s lineups all around the building and you can’t get through anywhere.”

Andrew Cardinal from Edmonton got to the event early enough to get in, but he made the mistake of stepping out for a cigarette around 1 p.m. When he tried to get back in he says he was denied access, even though he had four family members inside, including his children, 13 and 11.

Organizers promised better organization next year, although they aren’t backing down: they have an idea for a Star Wars cast reunion at the show in 2013.

In case you’re wondering, Calgary is the third biggest city in Canada with a population of just over a million. However this con had such a stellar guest list that people traveled from Australia and Italy to get in on the fun.

Here’s what we see as the ultimate resolution of all this: a TV movie is made about one man dressed as the Joker getting separated from his wife, dressed as Poison Ivy in the middle of a crowded media expo and their desperate struggle to reunite.

And then in 10 years the actors who star in this movie are guests at a media expo!

  1. Really sorry to hear about what people went through. We had a lot of people turned away the previous week in Vancouver as well.
    But the Calgary Expo for those that made it inside was one of the best cons I’ve ever been at.

  2. I dont give a toot about star trek, but this would have me livid.
    I was at the first NYC comic con, and I remember walking out and past all of the down turned, dejected faces who might have had the highlight of their year taken away from them.

  3. Calgary is only the third biggest city in Canada by a very specific (odd, perhaps) definition.

    It is the third biggest MUNICIPALITY.

    This link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_100_largest_metropolitan_areas_in_Canada lists Canadian METROPOLITAN AREAS – and by this standard, Calgary is a respectful 5th.

    I don’t know what the best definition should be (pros and cons for several different ones), but there is no way Calgary should top my old Vancouver!

    Just want to set the international readers straight.


  4. The TV movie idea is good, but it would be even better if the husband was dressed as Batman and the wife was dressed as Robin. Fredric Wertham jokes alone could almost fill the whole two hours.

  5. Just goes to show: After years of experience, Comic Con is the only con that gets it right (sure, it still sells out, but it is the most organized con out there)!

  6. Words of advice for next year for those upset with the challenges of this year’s show:
    1. Get there early like 7 AM
    2. Buy your tickets online as soon as they are available
    3. Get VIP tickets if you want perks like first thru autographs, into panels and early access into the show among other things.
    4.Please offer whatever comments you feel would improve the show.
    5. For those that have critiqued us volunteers..Sign up to be a volunteer if you feel you can assist in any way, it can be challenging but it is very rewarding. Being in our shoes may give you a better outlook and perspective…

    This has been my second year of volunteering and the smiles of one person more than made up for so many jeers from others.

    Thank you

  7. PAX does it better than SDCC.

    And Beat…I got nothing but love for you, but the New Yorker bias that anything smaller than NYC is the sticks is just awful. Calgary is a real city with real culture!

  8. “…the New Yorker bias that anything smaller than NYC is the sticks is just awful.”

    What? I just re-read the article above after reading this comment and I have no idea where it’s coming from.

  9. Chris Hero and Shags — yeah I pointed out that statistic just to show that Calgary is a large um, area or municipality or something and not a little town in the woods with some wrestlers and a rodeo. I’ve been hearing lots of good things about the Calgary show. It sounds like it just grew too fast for them to handle.

    Toronto’s Fan Expo is usually cited as the third largest show in North America.

  10. “a TV movie is made about one man dressed as the Joker getting separated by his wife, dressed as Poison Ivy in the middle of a crowded media expo and their desperate struggle to reunite.”

    From the picture above it looks like his wife ended up with Wil Wheaton.

  11. This is unacceptable. How can you “expect only 30,000 fans” when you sold 50,000 tickets? If I were a fan that traveled 14 hours and got hotel rooms for this event and was turned away with prepaid tickets, I’d consider a lawsuit on principle alone. If I was shut out with my kids inside they would have had a fight on their hands.

  12. Take a cue from those from the USA and lawyer up! There may have been violations of consumer protection laws. Their should refunds at the least regardless if the tickets sold said “no refunds/transfers/etc”.

    Having worked in event management, overselling a venue is a stupid and easily avoidable mistake.

  13. Stuff like this is why I’ve barely gone outside of Manhattan and Long Island for conventions. I’ve been to four cons away from home, Fan Expo Canada in 2002, which was near my aunt’s apartment, Animenext 2003, in Jersey, and two Botcons.

    After experiencing the NYCC rush, I’m pretty glad I’ve never tried a huge con away from home.

  14. Beat

    I’m sorry…I’m overly-sensitive to what I perceive to be an attitude from NYCers who think any other city in the world is the sticks. Maybe it’s because I travel a lot, but I’ve always thought of Calgary has a big city like Cincinnati, Indianapolis, or San Diego, but not a huge mega city like NYC, LA, or Chicago. It doesn’t mean I should give you a hard time over it. But am I ever tired of hearing, “You’re from Ohio? Are all your neighbors cows?”

  15. If it makes you feel any better Chris, it’s probably due to being the song of Irish Immigrants, and getting to travel to London and Paris and Toronto and Pasadena and Ireland and Mexico, but despite growing up near NYC, I don’t have that kind of attitude about it.

    The only thing that stood out to me is that the living rate outside of the Metro-NY area doesn’t leave your wallet crying nearly as often. If anything gets me to leave NY, it’ll be the cost of living.

  16. This was actually the first con I’ve been to and I came away with no disappointments. Personally if I was one of those people that came from overseas I would’ve been there at 8AM at the latest.

    But I showed up at 9:30 and there were still many people let in after me.

    My only real complaint is the traffic jams, and that’s more the fault of the way the building is designed than anything else.

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