Across the ditch our New Zealand brethren have just had their first major pop culture convention for the year. Armageddon Expo has been held in Auckland since 1995 and in Wellington since 2001. Over the Easter weekend just passed, fans of film, television, comics, and gaming descended on Westpac Stadium to rub shoulders with celebrity guests, or buy that coveted Funko Pop Vinyl figure or play some of the hottest video games. We hopped over for our first ever international pop culture convention to see how the Kiwis do it.
Friday the 30th of March was when it all kicked off, doors opened at midday but we decided to make it a bit of a leisurely stroll in. We collected our premium passes and made our way inside. The venue is the Westpac Stadium, so it’s a little weird in comparison to some of the Australian cons. The stadium is circular, so all the vendors and exhibitors and stalls with wares are lined up around the concourse. We figured it was worthwhile getting our bearing so we did a loop of the stadium, twice, just for good measure, and also because the toilets weren’t all open. One of the advantages of having it on the concourse level is that the width of the concourse made having vendors either side and foot traffic flowing through the middle quite comfortable.
We then popped into the arena area where the main stage was set up. It looked a bit like a ramshackle tent and metal scaffolding, with a long rectangular footstool as a makeshift couch. Again, feeling a bit weird. The sound wasn’t great for the panels, a lot of echoing due to the outdoor location and having to rely on a PA setup that went through some of the speakers. Having it situated outside with partial cover from the stadium roof overhang, meant we were subject to Wellington’s “unusual” weather. With Friday being quite warm with occasional cloud cover, Saturday being blustery and windy and grey and cold, and Sunday having blazing sun until just after lunchtime.
We sat in on a number of panels over the course of the weekend, including DJ Qualls and Kim Rhodes (both from Supernatural), What We Do In The Shadows panel, featuring Deacon (Jonny Brugh) and Petyr (Ben Fransham), surprising really since we all thought Petyr was dead? Matt Ryan from Legends Of Tomorrow and the short-lived Constantine. Rahul Kohli and Aly Michalka from iZombie and the main drawcard for the weekend, Jeremy Renner. It was fairly obvious that the Marvel star was the biggest drawcard with plenty of fans lining up to ask him questions. For some of those answers you can read about his responses here.
With our Premium Passes in hand, we were also able to take advantage of priority queuing for photographs and autographs with the celebrity guests. As somebody that has attended many conventions one of the downsides of any expo with large crowds is also long queues. You pay for the privilege of convenience at these events, and it’s often worth it; because the time saved means you end up being able to get to check off all the things you want to do. For us it included lining up for autographs on several occasions as well as obtaining photos. Though Wellington’s overall crowd size (according to their recent Facebook post) claims around 22,000 over the entire three days. So it was definitely smaller than anything we’ve ever attended in Australia. Regardless, having priority on queuing is generally worthwhile when there are big name guests on the drawcard.
Armageddon Expo put on a really well oiled convention, and despite some of the issues with the main stage and its shoddy audio everything went off without a hitch. The volunteers we dealt with were all super friendly and generally quite helpful with our questions. Considering the venue, and the fact that the stadium is really the only place big enough that can host it in Wellington, we’ll overlook some of the limitations such as food offerings or numbers of bathrooms that are available for use. But on the plus side, Wellington is only a 3 hour plane ride from the Eastern states of Australia, and with its ever growing lineup of guests each year it’s worth considering if you’re a fan of the pop culture convention circuit.
Armageddon Expo Wellington was held at Westpac Stadium from Friday 30th to Sunday 1st April 2018.
For more information on Armageddon Expo you can check out their official website or their Facebook page.