For the third year in a row, Donna Barr, creator of the Desert Peach and local activist, hosted the Clallam Bay Comicon in her local town of Clallam Bay, Washington, July 13-14.
How difficult is it to stage a show in a town of 363? (Yes, that’s the population, not the attendance!) She scheduled it during the local Clallam Bay Sekiu Fun Days. She rented the local Lions Club meeting hall for $75. She created a Facebook page to facilitate planning, and hosted the main page on her own website. She charged $25 for a table, and offered free admission. She invited people via Facebook.
Crazy? Not any more so than hosting a comic con in a library, high school cafeteria, or church fellowship hall. Yes, it’s a four-hour drive from Seattle, but Port Angeles is halfway, and the second half is through some forested mountains. (I recommend taking the southerly route on 101 through Olympic National Park, and stopping at Lake Crescent Lodge. (Site of a gruesome murder: a husband had dumped his wife’s body in the lake. The cold water preserved the corpse, and the lake’s minerals turned her body to soap!)) Think four hours is too long to drive? It’s about the distance from New York City to SPX. (Without the traffic jams! And better scenery!)
Why did I fly out from New York City?
- I had known about this show from years past.
- The crazy “let’s put on a show” small town vibe caught my imagination.
- Donna Barr was in charge.
- It had been ten years since I had “gone Thoreau”, escaping to small town America for rest-and-relaxation.
- I’d never been to Washington state.
- The temperatures ranged from 50F at night to 70F during the day.
So? What was my experience?
* If you don’t have a car, you need to stay in Clallam Bay. The bus system isn’t that’ frequent. I thought I could walk the two miles from my room/trailer in Sekiu, but with the curvy roads and minimal shoulder, it was a little dicey in broad daylight. Half of the hike was along the beach/waterfront, but even that was a workout with the pebble beach.
* Clallam Bay and Sekiu are recovering from a downturn in logging by promoting tourism. Sekiu promotes sport fishing with a big marina (get up early and wander the shoreline north of town!), while Clallam Bay is a bit more civilized. Both towns (and the spaces in between) offer motels, RV parking, and camping. (CAMP COMIC CON!)
* Aside from the low hanging clouds which dampened the fireworks on Saturday, the weather was ideal. Pack a hoodie, or cosplay as Nirvana. 50-70F along the shoreline, chillier up in the mountains. It does rain, but even in the winter, it’s just rain and wind. (No snow.) If you camp, plan accordingly.
* Five hours from Portland, four hours from Seattle, three hours from Victoria, by car. There is an airport at Port Angeles, and a smaller one at Sekiu, but I’d recommend flying into SeaTac and renting a car or carpooling. (Many thanks to Roberta Gregory, who provided transportation to me and Linden Cook of Project Wonderful. Great conversation! Next year, perhaps a podcast!)
* This show, as you might imagine, is almost stress free. Every table is an artists alley table, and costs only $25, so you don’t have to worry about selling cases of comics. Rooms aren’t too pricey, and there’s an official con hotel (actually, a bed-and-breakfast, which is even more awesome!) RV and camping are cheaper. (Check out these rates!) The Lions hall has a kitchen, and there is never a line for the bathroom. You can either hotspot a wifi connection, or wander over to the library, which offers a picnic table when not open. The local bar, co-op, and liquor store are just a few blocks away (about the same distance to the 7-Eleven at SPX). Plus the Lions Club has a barbecue!
* This is a “big tent” show. Comics are the focus, but anyone with a geeky background is welcome! From her website:
EVERYONE WELCOME. If you make or enjoy any sort of books – including comics – movies, music, poetry, cosplay, Steampunk, gallery art, jewelry, paint cars, bake pies, sing, do stand-up, sculpture, hip-hop, light shows, make frybread, whatever – bring it. Everybody welcome for the 10:00 am Saturday parade starting from the Weel Road Deli (Shell parking lot).
Remember “Northern Exposure”? You’ll find hints of that here on the Peninsula. Donna started this, but now the attendees are beginning to brainstorm ideas. SCA, a medieval hall for gaming, maybe even some makers. Want to present a panel? Pitch it to Donna Barr!
* Want to join? Here’s the Facebook page for 2015, where the conversation is already ongoing.
If you’re not going to San Diego, or just want to escape to somewhere cool and secluded during the summer, consider Clallam Bay. I’ll be making this a tradition, as I had a great time! Yeah, I need to attend Emerald City some day, but that seems a bit boring compared to this.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!