The 45th Chicago-region convention held
The early 1970s saw the number of United States regional science fiction conventions more than triple. The Windycon were among the new ones. Chicago was the second-largest city in the country, but its fandom had splintered having hosting the Chicon III Worldcon in 1962. Yet they came together to create the first Windycon in 1973. It was held in a downtown hotel, and more than 500 people attended.
These days, Windycon convenes at the Westin Hotel in the Yorktown Center, a large shopping mall complex in Lombard, a suburb west of Chicago. Attendance is steady at roundabout 1,100 people each year, and 1,076 attended this year. The hotel and its conference centre suit the convention well, and attendees have no need to leave the building for the entire weekend. In many ways, it is a typical N. American convention.
After such a lengthy, unbroken history, the convention’s organisers and many of those attending refer to the gathering as “family”: a number have been coming every year since the beginning. A 30-year-old woman says her parents met at Windycon; they brought her there as a baby; and she also met her husband there. She’s been coming every year for three decades.
Kerry “Trouble” Kuhn, this year’s co-chair and next year’s chair, said that as she was introduced to people attending for the first time, “I would turn to the person who introduced them and say, ‘Another virgin? We're going to have an awesome sacrifice this year at closing ceremonies.’ The look on their faces when I turned back to the newcomer and said, ‘Not really. Welcome to the family,’ was great to see.”
As a fan-run literary-based con, it focuses on books and authors, but its programming includes music, costuming, art, gaming, and videos.
The guests of honour at Windycon 45 were: the author; Faith Hunter, artist Galen Dara,; Kevin Roche, fresh from chairing the 2018 Worldcon, costume masquerade; musician Jen Midkiff,; fan Bobbi Armbruster; and the convention's toastmaster was Andrew Trembley,. Additional special guests were: Mike Resnick (who has a 'Futures' story here in SF² Concatenation), Tom Smith, Alex Eisenstein, Phyllis Eisenstein, Bill Fawcett, Eric Flint, Betty Anne Hull, Jody Lynn Nye, and Gene Wolfe.
This year's convention theme, 'Unlikely Heroes' was reflected in some of the programming and events, which included: 97 panels, 34 readings, a writer’s workshop, a masquerade costume contest, an art show, a dealer’s room with 41 vendors, a teen lounge, a room for board games, a room for video games, anime videos Friday through Sunday including Akira and Inuyashiki, kids’ programming, 15 concerts, and special makers workshops for crafts like creating chain mail.
The con suite offered free food all day and night, such as a lunch of Chicago-style hot dogs with all its “dragged through the garden” toppings, and free beer and hard cider (donations accepted) starting in the afternoon, so the con suite was a constant low-intensity party. The hungry and thirsty also enjoyed food and drinks at evening parties on three floors of the hotel.
Each year, Windycon picks a charity, and this year it was the DuPage County Habitat for Humanity. More than US$1,700 was raised by various means, such as charity items included in the art show auction, and the Imperial Xeno Legion Klingon Assault Group jail-and-bail.
In all, the weekend included 150 events. Panels had no special tracks but leaned toward literary concerns. Topics were as varied as 'Collaborative Songwriting'; 'Diversity in SciFi/Fantasy'; 'East Heros vs. West Heros'; two book club meetings; the Chicon 2022 Worldcon bid; 'Were Dragons Real?'; 'Shaken Not Stirred – the Mystique of the British Spy'; 'FX Makeup'; and 'Introduction to Quantum Computing and IBM Q' presented by Kevin Roche. “Evil Kevin” Roche also brought his Tiki Dalek, which had made an appearance at Loncon 3 in 2014. It stood in the art show inviting selfies and also occasionally rolled through the convention. Kevin changed clothes often, appearing in costumes ranging from Star Trek’s Captain Kirk (the alternate universe evil Kirk) to Batman’s sidekick Robin.
The closing ceremonies announced the convention winners. Galen Dara, whose art decorated the programme book and Windycon website, won Best in Show in the art show. Party awards were selected by popular vote: 'Best Food and Snacks', 'Royal Manticoran Navy'; 'Best Alcoholic Drink', 'Bar Fleet'; 'Best Non-Alcoholic Drink, 'Bar Fleet'; and 'Best Party, Moulin Rouge'.
Overall, everything seemed to run smoothly – if anything, too smoothly. A couple of fans said it felt too much like a relaxacon. Fans also skewed older, and one vendor complained that they were harder to sell to than conventions with younger, newer attendees.
Windycon will be back on November 15 to 17, 2018, again at the Westin Lombard, with the theme of Space Opera. Its Guests of Honour are to be: Elizabeth Moon, author; Mitchell Bentley, artist; Chris Barkley, fan; Harp Twins, music; and Lee Martindale, toastmistress.