Yes, I read through many first-timers tips before attending my first LeakyCon in Denver, 2022. I even attended the Ickle Firsties meetup at the convention. While these were all good and helpful, I felt like several key tidbits of information were left out, and I wished I’d known them.
Tidbit #1: Ribbons are a thing.
Okay, I actually did find out about this really fun trend ahead of time, and came prepared with ribbons. But many first-timers knew nothing about this, I discovered. So here’s the thing: attendees at LeakyCon really love handing out and receiving ribbons to attach to their lanyard, eventually creating a very long trail of ribbons down their front, lol. The fun part is anyone can print these ahead of time (not just the merchants and shops), and you can have anything printed on them: a fun picture like Luna Lovegood’s glasses, or funny quotes from the Harry Potter books or other sayings. One ribbon simply said “Grandpa” and made me laugh. I printed three different colored ribbons with different words to help promote my book and YouTube channel (I am a fantasy author, after all). My quotes were also related to Hogwarts, just as my books are, indirectly (I’ve written a real potions textbook which probably escaped the Restricted Section at Hogwarts…)
Tidbit #2: Bring a water bottle
Even more awesome if you have a Hogwarts water bottle or one in your house colors. Yes I know I live in Colorado, and everyone in Colorado always carries around a water bottle. But I was going to be in a hotel the whole time, and who wants to carry one when they’re cosplaying? (I cosplayed Professor Trelawney.) I discovered that most attendees knew this tidbit and carried water bottles. And that the hotel was sometimes lagging in refilling water coolers in the rooms, and not all the rooms had water. I was so busy running from one session or panel to another, that it was challenging finding time to go look for liquid sustenance. I sat through the Hufflepuff meetup very thirsty. I even tried using my wand, shouting “Aquamenti!” at the water cooler several times, to no avail. The cooler suddenly refilled just as the session ended, though I didn’t see anyone fill it, so maybe my spell decided to work after all.
Tidbit #3: Remember to always carry your wand
Speaking of wands, whether you bring one or buy one there (so many cool wand shops!), be prepared to always have it on you, just like at Hogwarts. There are merchants selling wand sheaths, too. This was one of my favorite things about LeakyCon! Finally being somewhere where it’s normal to always have your wand on you! (I kept forgetting and having to run back to my room again.)
Tidbit #4: You’re on your own for meals
I was used to the writer’s conference where meals are a part of the ticket and everyone eats together. I searched and searched online, but could find no information on meals at LeakyCon. That’s because there is none. Everyone is completely on their own for all meals and snacks. At the hotel in Denver, they offered a breakfast for pay (not included with the room) and there was a pub restaurant for supper. They had wonderful service, but such limited staff at the pub that everyone had to wait 45 minutes to an hour to finally get their food. For lunch, the hotel offered several offerings in the merchants hall, for cash only (see Tidbit #4). There were a few places to eat nearby, but not very many, and I heard attendees complaining at the lack of local options. One couple ordered pizza delivery, and waited at least two hours to get it! (I’m not sure how long because I left to get ready for the Esther Earl Ball.)
Tidbit #5: Cash is king
I ended up having to retrieve cash from the hotel ATM (paying a nice fee) twice. Not only were the lunch foods cash-only, but I needed cash to leave a room tip. And it does help the merchants to pay with cash. Most merchants accepted cards, but you never know who might not. I ended up having to run to the ATM to get cash so I could buy a book from one of the presentor’s. Thank goodness he waited for me while selling and signing books to others. Next time I’ll bring cash for all my shopping.
Tidbit #6: Prepare for some culture shock, especially if alone
If you go with friends you might not deal with this so much, but I often find myself trying out new experiences, countries and groups solo. And just like in the SCA, with larping, and with international travel, I experienced bodily fatigue and feeling “out of it” just from culture shock, especially on the first day. It’s okay, just stay hydrated, try new things, take breaks and power naps if you can, make sure you eat. By the end of the weekend I was adjusted and didn’t want it to end.
Tidbit #7: How to dress for the Esther Earl Ball
One fun thing about LeakyCon’s Saturday night ball is that you can dress however you want. There were people in the same casual or house clothes from the day. Some wore modern ball gowns, some wore medieval gowns like me, and some wore Victorian-era ball gowns. Several cosplayers came right in their cosplay, allowing us to dance with Molly Weasley, Ginny Weasley, a couple of Hagrids, a glowing Patronus, and Bellatrix LeStrange. I found myself wishing I’d done the same. I even almost ran back up to my room to change out of my medieval gown and back into my Trelanwey cosplay. They were giving and having so much fun! But I didn’t. I’ll simply stay in cosplay next time.
Tidbit #8: The sessions are more fun that you think
When I was planning ahead, the panels and sessions only sounded “okay” to me, and I chose just a smattering of them to attend. But when I actually tried them, I discovered they were more fun than I expected. I ended up wishing my broken Time-Turner actually worked so I could attend a couple of them at the same time. Make sure not to miss the Wizard Rock Cafe.
Tidbit #9: Every LeakyCon is a little bit different – plan for the littles
I learned several things about LeakyCon. One is that it is a traveling con, and attendees go to wherever it is being held each year. Two is that each venue and event will be a little bit different. I heard that the one in Dallas has the four house common rooms to relax and hang out in. In Denver one “Quiet Room” was available, but no comfy chairs in there. Also, there wasn’t much for the littles to do in Denver, I noticed. There was a little craft area with two self-directed fun crafts in the merchant’s room, and that was about it. Most of the littles wouldn’t enjoy the sessions. If you’re bringing littles with you, search the panels ahead of time — they might enjoy the cosplay contest — and make a plan of what they might like to do. (I have some awesome creative ideas for sessions I want to present, and if they choose me going forward, we will have some rocking activities which even the littles will go crazy over.)
You will have fun
Everyone is so friendly, the wares so unique, the panels and sessions suprisingly interesting, the cosplay delightful, the Wizard Rock rocks, and the Esther Earl Ball is a blast. No matter what, have fun! I know you will. It turns out that attending LeakyCon is addicting. I’m alread planning on next year. (And FYI, they are going to be expanding to add more fandom things, like elves and dwarves, hobbits, D&D, and more!)