The Newbie's Guide to Wonderfest
UPDATED 04/20/13

Wonderfest Survival Guide 2.0
more tips and advice

Ok. You've read about it on the boards. You've seen the pictures and heard the stories.
You think you are ready to take the plunge and actually go for the first time.
You've got your room booked and travel plans are in order.
You're all set for you first pilgrimage to Louisville.

But as the time draws closer you start thinking about it. And you aren't sure what to do when you get there. You want to experience as much of it as you can. But you have no idea what to really expect.
That is what this page is for.
Most of this will be from my own perspective. But I will probably also borrow heavily from all the advise I have seen posted on the various boards every year when WF comes rolling around.
I've got 5 years under my belt.
(make that 12 years now)
Still a noob compaired to the grizzled veterans with umpteen years experience.
But I've been going long enough to have a good handle on things, but not so long that I can't remember my first year. I was lucky enough to go with my daughter, so I had someone to talk to.
A touchstone of sorts to normal life. So I imagine the shock wasn't as bad as if I had gone alone.

Anyway. Let's start this off.
I'm going to try and go in order.
This is assuming you are coming Friday night. If you aren't getting there until Saturday, things are going to be a lot more hectic, and you will miss a lot of pre-show festivities.

Ok, you're there. You're all checked in. You've unpacked and gotten familiar with the room.
Next step is to go exploring. Learn the layout of the hotel. This will come in handy if you do hook up with any friends you've made online. Because that will generally mean at least one room party during the course of the weekend. There are lots of formal and informal gatherings at all hours of the night during the weekend. It would be a good idea to at least have a clue of which way to start the trek if someone invites you.
Also, you will want to find out where the show actually is.
Especially since once the dealers start showing up and hauling their stuff in, the admission area is open. (from 5PM to 8PM) This means you can go ahead and purchase your pass, and any contest entry forms now. Before the show. One less thing to do in the morning. Also you are going to want to grab a program.

Wonderfest Program Wonderfest Program

That way you can start laying plans for the remainder of the weekend.
Trust me. If you want to catch any demos, or guest talks, you are going to need to plan ahead.
The reason for this?
Because there is a whole lot going on all at once.
And sometimes hard choices have to be made.

Wonderfest Program Wonderfest Program

Take a look at last years program. Look at the Saturday schedule (pic on the left)
You see how many things are all going on at once?
That is what I mean when I say you can't do it all. If there are 3 things going on at the same time and you want to check them all out, then you really have to decide which you want to do most.
Use the descriptions to get an idea of what each one is about then decide which is the most important to you.

Don't forget to leave yourself plenty of time for wandering the dealers room also.
You're going to be spending a lot of time in there. There are tons of kits to check out. And a decent sized crowd to work your way through. If there are any kits that you just have to have. And you know who has them. Wouldn't hurt to check the map in the program and note where their table is.

Wonderfest Program

Might want to head straight to their table. Dealers can only haul so much stuff with them, and the 'hot' kits tend to sell out early.
My daughter and I have our own system that works well for us. We go in, and go all the way around the outer edge of the room counter-clockwise. Then down through the middle row.
We scope out as many of the tables as we can as fast as we can. That way we can kind of get an idea of what is there, and where we might want to spend the limited funds we have. Usually we end up bypassing tables with big crowds and come back ot them later.

One last thing in the schedule that will really help. The map.

Wonderfest Program

This will let you know where all the rooms that are part of the show are.
The demo rooms, the theaters, the dealers room, and of particular importance, the Lizard Lounge.
Well, it used to be called the Lizard Lounge. Not sure if even has a name anymore.
Used to be a room opposite the bar. But when the hotel was renovated that room and the bar got converted to what is now used for the contest room.
Don't worry there is a bar. Just in a different place now.
Anyway, now they use the main hallway in the convention area as a sort of pre-show get together.
There are some displays, and some rooms where you can just sit, visit, and meet people.
Word of warning. If you drink, watch who you are drinking with. Or you could end up in some sorry shape the next morning. :-)
There are some real professionals at WF. (or if not actual pros, then really gifted amatures).
When there is talk of after hours festivities, they do mean after hours. Things continue on after the bar closes and things move to some of the rooms.
Pace yourself. You have a big day ahead of you and you want to at least be reasonably concious for it. (which is why a lot of the veterans save the hard core fun for Sunday night)

A little word about socializing.
Don't be shy.
Half the reason we all go to this is to hang with people who share our hobby.
If you are a member of any of the online communities and would like to meet people you know from the boards, the only way that is going to happen is if you walk up to someone and say hi.
That or if you have a badge on, and they see you.
A word about badges. Most modeling communities have their version of one. A way to identify that they belong to the same group. Makes it easier to find people and make friends.
Just watch out as it is easy to get carried away.

Wonderfest Program

Too many badges and things get cluttered and makes it hard for people to read the names.
That pic above has (from top to bottom) PL BB badge, Clubhouse badge, WF admission badge, Cult TVman lanyard/badge.
I like the Clubhouse badges the best. They have nice big letters on them that make it easy to read from a distance.
But if you want to actually meet people in person, you need to be a bit forward.
Walk up and say hi. Even if they are in the middle of a conversation. Interuptions are sort of expected here. (just use a little discretion if it sounds like the it is an important topic, or a heated debate).
If you want to meet us. You can find us on the couch in the lobby at various times through out the night.

Wonderfest Program

It is kind of our base of operations. We go down to the lobby and see if anyone is around.
If not, or if we get the urge to wander. We do. We head up to some of the room parties to say hi, or see what is going on. Then we end up back in the lobby again.
We have found it more fun to just play things by ear and see where we end up.

Ok. The first night is over. It's Saturday morning. Things are about to kick into high gear.
I hear the breakfast buffet at the hotel is pretty good. I don't know, because we eat in the room. I know I have seen some long lines waiting to get in for breakfast. So you should probably get there early.
Next thing on the list. If you have contest entries. Try to get down there and get them all entered before the dealers room opens. Anything you can get done before the room opens, the more time you have for the actual WF events.
If you don't have an early-bird admission, and you want to get in the dealers room as soon as it opens. You had better get down there and be ready to wait. I have seen people lined up the entire length of the hallway waiting to get in. We usually hang in the lobby and chat with friends until the line clears up.

Once you get into the dealers room. Expect to be dazed at first. Any thoughts of actually being prepared for it will just make the experience that much more overwhelming.
We are talking about over a hundred tables. All of them catering to our particular interest.
There will be tables full of kits (resin, vynil and styrene). Kits you've never seen. Or thought you would never see in person.
Tools for working on kits. Paints and putties. DVD sellers with all those obscure shows that you can only find on the net and never in the local stores. There will be full sized replica props. Toy sellers with Godzilla figures and other cool stuff that will never be seen in a big box store.

Ok. Now that you have picked your jaw up off the floor. And shambled around the room a bit, eyes wide with the shock of the whole thing. Wipe the drool off your chin and check your watch.
Was there a demo or talk you were going to check out around now?
Check your program again to make sure. (you did carry it down with you right?)
If there is, do you still want ot go? Or would you rather keep looking around the dealers room?
I would opt for the demo/talk. The dealers room will still be there afterwards. The demo won't be.

Ok. You've made it back from the demo, and might actually remember some of what you were shown. You're back in the dealers room, and you have picked up where you left off.
Finally you make it all the way around the room. You think you have seen it all.
Not quite.
If you have time (there are demos/talks all day after all) start going around the room again.
Trust me. You will see a ton of stuff that you missed completely the first time.
I don't know how many times I have posted pics of a kit I picked up and I hear people who were there all weekend say they never saw it.
No matter how many times you go around the dealers room, you will always find something you didn't see on previous trips.
Don't forget to keep checking your watch. It is amazing how fast time will fly. You don't want to miss any of the other things you wanted to do today.
Don't forget to check out the display room. The one with all the cool stuff that some of the guests have brought with them. You would be surprised what can be found in there sometimes.

Next thing you know. The day is over and they are asking people to leave the dealers room.
Where did the time go?
Darn it, you didn't get a chance to check out the contest entries. You wanted to. But you kept thinking you would do that later. Now the show is done for the day. :-(
Take heart. They may open the contest room back up in the evening. That way you can check things out when it isn't quite as crowded. It's not a sure thing though. They've done it some years, but not others.
It all depends on how long it takes to do the contest judging.

But before that you need to go back to your room. Unload all your purchases. Maybe take a few out of the boxes and admire them. Wind down a little.
Next you need to decide on something to eat.
I'll leave that up to you to figure out. We do things easy and just order pizza.
But try to get some reast. Because the day is far from over.
You have the official after hours activities. (I personally love the movies upstairs with Doctor Gangrene). Plus there is the unofficial after hours festivities. Either in the bar, or at any number of room parties.
Whatever you end up doing, don't forget, you have another early start on Sunday.

Sunday is basically more of the same. Demos, talks, dealers room, displays. And the contest awards ceremony. If you entered kits, it's the only way to know if you won anything. And then, right afterwards, you have to grab your kits and take them back to the room (you did bring your copy of the entry form so they will let you get the model right? If not, you have to go back to your room and get it and come back).
Then back to the dealers room for some last minute purchases before it closes for another year.
Sometimes you can get some good deals late Sunday. But there is also a lot of stuff that is already sold out, and some dealers even leave early occasionally. So if you really want something, don't hold out waiting for a deal. But if there are some things that you would like to have if the price were better. Then now is the time to see if you can do a little dealing. Make a reasonable offer and see what happens.

Sunday night features the last of the official events. The banquet. I've never been so I can't comment.
All I know, is that Sunday night is when the serious partying starts. That is when the dealers cut loose and have fun.

When it is all said and done, you will wonder where the weekend went.
It will be amazing how fast the time flew by and how much you saw and experience in that short time.
Don't feel bad if you don't remember even a quarter of the people you met.
That is normal.
The first year is a blur.
You will be lucky to be able to put a handful of names and faces together.
But that will be a building block for next year.
You will have that group for a base, plus all the faces that look familiar but you can't put a name to.
By your third year, you will know a bunch of people on sight. What their names are, which boards they are on and what their user names are.