An accurate portrayal of Unicon

Oh, Las Pegasus. You’ve met a terrible fate, haven’t you? You can find DHN’s take on the greatest convention disaster in pony fandom history after the break! Las Pegasus Unicon appeared on the surface to be a contender for one of the best pony conventions this year. An incredible VIP lineup, plenty of fandom artists and musicians, some interesting and varied panels (this reporter personally enjoyed the brony psychology panels) and three days to enjoy pony in the world’s greatest adult playground, Las Vegas. Gambling, booze and colorful cartoon horses; what could go wrong?

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Everything, apparently. So much, in fact, that even the news crews that were present (and there were many) are struggling to come to terms with the catastrophe. A fun weekend in the desert has turned into massive headaches and financial losses for all parties involved: VIPs and special guests, musicians, vendors and even the regular convention attendee. Too many people were affected by this for a single article to tell the full story of the tragedies that transpired. DHN will be working on getting first hand accounts and expert opinions on the convention. But for now, an overview and concluding analysis of the convention will suffice.

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The first of the many problems that led to the fall of Unicon was the dismal attendance. The convention (and the vendors) were expecting a repertoire of about two thousand pony fans to attend the event. The actual number of attendees were no where near that lofty mark. This led to low sales for the vendors, much lower then expected income for the convention.

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Inexperience of the lead staff played a major role in Unicon’s downfall. Making promises their wallets couldn’t keep is the obvious complaint, but there were also little things that brought down the convention experience. Not enough convention books were made to supply the few people who actually attended the con, much less the two thousand they were hoping for. There was also a massive wall separating the artist alley into two separate rooms. Attendees had no idea the second room existed, and many of the vendors behind the wall had incredibly low traffic on the first day of the convention.  The wall was removed on the second day, but it should have never been there in the first place.

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The handling of the VIPs and the special guests was especially poor. Some guests were never picked up at the airport by the convention staff, and had to find alternative ways to get to the event. At the event, VIPs were seen walking to events and panels without even so much as an escort. It was rare to see the VIPs out at any point during the convention though, as they spent most of their time shackled to autograph booths. The general feel that was given off was that these guests were treated less as the honored, respected talent that we have come to love and more like Sharpie wielding autograph factories. It could not have been any fun for these guests, and really adds on top of the fact that they’ll probably never see a penny of all the hard work they did at the convention.

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The location and timing of the event were also not ideal. For many, this convention came at the same time college finals were going on. And for those too young to be in college, Las Vegas doesn’t have much to offer due to the over-twenty-one nature of the town. Then there’s the hotel choice: the Riviera. The Riviera is one of the older, lower end casinos on the strip, and it’s age and quality shows. Paper thin walls, mediocre food, and smutty show advertisements bring down the living experience for attendees. Worse still is the absence of banking establishments near the hotel, forcing denizens to face hefty withdrawal fees from the casino’s ATM machine.

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The con was riddled with enough small problems to warrant a poor report had the con succeeded. However, Las Pegasus Unicon went above and beyond the call of failure. The convention was shut down early on the final day. Guests hit with massive hotel bills and kicked out of their rooms. VIPs not getting payed. Charity money disappearing. Now the community waits in anticipation to see what the consequences of these events are. To conclude this article, I’d like to speak directly to some groups of people directly effected by the aftermath of this convention:

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To the Laspegassist charity organizers and backers, a thank you is in order. These individuals have come together to help the people negatively effected by this disaster, donating their time, money, and in some cases personal items. Every one of these people has shown great character in the face of disaster, and deserves high praise for their efforts, big and small.

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To the VIPs of this event, an apology. Las Pegasus Unicon is not the kind of impression that we’d like to leave as a fandom. Though I wouldn’t blame you for turning away from fandom activities as a whole, please know that Unicon is a singularity amongst the fun times you can have within the fandom. For those who do decide to stay, I hope we can make your future visits as much fun for you as it normally is for us.

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To those planning on running conventions this year, a word of caution. The tragedy of Unicon must not be repeated. You must know what you are doing, and plan accordingly. This may mean being conservative with guests and how many promises you make. It may also lead to adjusting expectations on how many people will attend your events. You may even want to consider scrapping your event if you are not prepared to handle these kinds of responsibilities and compromises. Now is the time you must prove yourselves, not only to those burned by this convention, but to yourselves and your staffs. Be prepared.

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And finally, for the people in charge of Las Pegasus Unicon, a word of advice. You screwed up, and no amount of finger pointing and blame shifting is going to change that fact. In fact, while you were busy trying to pass off blame upon others, a motley crew of internet strangers have gotten together and done a thousand times over more than you to fix the mess that you are responsible for. Harsh words and anger towards you has not relieved you of your duty to help these people. The choice is now in your hands: whether to go down with your ship, or become the brony version of Captain Francesco Schettino. The choice is yours and yours alone, but there is one path I’d clearly rather be on.

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DHN will be continuing Las Pegasus aftermath coverage, including firsthand interviews and experts on what consequences the disaster will have on the community. Until then, though, let’s play the Song of Healing and hope we never have to go through this again. Though if you don’t like Zelda music, I’d recommend some CCR.

  • StatManDan

    For those who do not get the Francesco Schettino reference:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Costa_Concordia_disaster

  • This is what happens when people don’t plan ahead properly and just jump in thinking things will turn out okay. I do feel sorry for those involved and hope the VIPs don’t have this as an impression on every other convention from then on. If you don’t think you can do things completely and effectively then hold of until you do or pass it to someone who can.
    Good work on the coverage DHN.

    • StatManDan

      I believe the VIPs likely do not have that impression and are willing to write this one as a one-off. Many of them have been to cons before this one and had a fantastic experience and are willing to go to more (e.g. Peter New). That said, I think some more vetting of the newer cons this year would not hurt.

  • jakowako

    does this mean the number of bronys is going down

    • Anonymous

      ahaha
      no

      • Anonymous

        did anyone leave cause of alicorn twilight

        • Jody Morgan

          Please tell me you’re kidding…

          • Anonymous

            If anyone actually left because of Twilicorn without wanting to see what the S4 two-part opener has in store for her, then I’m kind of glad they did.

          • jakowako

            ikr. when do you think season 4 is?

  • HJ

    This is the stuff Equestria Daily should be doing but don’t.

    Can’t stand their complacency.

  • Bart

    An anticipated 2000 attendees for a first year con? That was pretty damn stupid.

  • I’m glad I didn’t go now. I wouldn’t had any fun AT ALL! Hopefully, this sort of thing never happens agan.

  • I’m sorry to hear that this event did not turn out well. This was an event that i wanted to get out to, but i was unable to due to conflicts with ECCC in Seattle. Convention planning is a tough business, as i know first hand. We have put in several shows over the last 3 years include the Amazing Arizona Comic Con in Phoenix, and the Image Comic Expo in Oakland California…

    For Pony fans living in Las Vegas though, there is another upcoming event you may be interested in-
    Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. The event is happening June 14-15-16 at the South Point Casino. One of our top guests include MLP: Friendship is Magic Comic artist Tony Fleecs. be sure to check out http://amazinglasvegascomiccon.com/2013/03/my-little-pony-artist-coming-to-vegas/

    I’m posting this hear not to shill another event, but many of the concerns of the timing and venue voiced factored HEAVILY in our venue choice.
    Also I wanted to solicit advice on the types of panels and programs you would like to see at our our event. Any advice to avoid any pitfalls would be a huge plus.

    thanks!
    Jimmy S. Jay…
    Convention organizer/Promoter
    http://www.AmazingLasVegasComicCon.com
    twitter.com/AmazingComicCon

    • ED

      Ironically, Las Vegas had a comic convention a few months ago…at the Riviera. Whoever plans future conventions NEEDS to leave the Riviera out of their potential list of convention centers if LSU wasn’t all proof of that; they’re probably the next casino to kiss the dirt anyways.
      South Point on the other hand is new and has great convention space. Unfortunately the only bronies you might get at that event are the local Las Vegas bronies.
      If you’re looking for advice, two complaints I heard about Riviera’s comic convention was that the press wasn’t accommodated very well (which they should be when they’re the ones writing about the cons, case and point this website) and wi-fi was lacking.

  • Justice

    There’s so much speculation going on about this… Sandi really hasn’t helped by failing to release a REAL statement about what happened.

    IMO the community is wasting time. The only way to prove once and for all whether this was a scam or a tragic case of stupid naivete, is to see the ACTUAL FINANCIAL RECORDS for the convention. All the paypal accounts, all bank accounts, all records for cash takings, all the signed contracts, all the emails. Unfortunately, Sandi has been so reluctant to come forth with even a real statement, that I doubt she’ll provide this info willingly.

    I think it’s time to get the authorities (police or FBI) involved to investigate this, because as Anonymous pointed out, IF there is ****evidence**** for it, Sandi could be looking at MULTIPLE FELONY and MISDEMEANOR charges. This is SERIOUS. This is not something that “love and tolerate” can take care of, it’s something that needs to be firmly and conclusively addressed. Until we have proof of what happened one way or another, Sandi’s name can NEVER be cleared completely and she’ll always have these whispers and accusations following her around, OR she is a scammer that made bank and is still free to scam again. It’s time to stop the speculation once and for all, and figure out what REALLY happened. If we need the authorities to force the issue on her, then so be it.

    IF she’s a scammer, any unrecorded cash takings that she had when the convention ended are probably long, LONG gone, and the more time she has, the easier it is to hide money/evidence. This needs to happen SOON.

    And I should point out that personal responsibility is as much a virtue as friendship. Sandi has sadly not demonstrated much of this particular virtue (especially with the way she basically abandoned the con and then insulted the people who did the most to help out), so it’s up to us to make sure she behaves responsibly in this matter. If bringing the authorities into it is what it takes, then so be it.

    Come on guys. Anon can’t possibly hack all her accounts and that’s illegal anyway. We need people involved who have the power to legally subpoena this information so that it can be sorted through properly. Then, IF there’s evidence for it, a legal case can be built against her… they definitely won’t bother with criminal charges if there isn’t enough evidence to support it, that would be a waste of a court’s time. If there is NOT evidence of a scam, then she can be declared clear of all that speculation once and for all, and the community can decide if they want to class-action sue for the the contracts that were broken (again, personal responsibility.)

    • ED

      Considering she’s been getting death threats I can see why Sandi hasn’t come forth with a statement of her own.
      In case you didn’t know, there was a statement on the Las Pegasus Unicon’s website before the website went down, which had info on the agents taking money from cash registers without signing for the amount, Riviera closing down the con early even though their contract said until midnight of the last day, and that the charity was in charge of keeping track of it’s own money – though being that the website itself is no longer available, I don’t know how relevant the removed statement is at this present point in time.
      Did they screw up how a con is supposed to be run? Heck yes, but regardless of what’s true or false, if Sandi is receiving death threats from angry bronies then its just going to be all the more difficult to get the truth. Whatever you’re hoping to happen be it she get hacked or thrown into prison isn’t going to turn out the way you want. If they do take this to court it’ll most likely be closed to the public on the basis of an issue of safety, and aside from being required by the courts to pay the Riviera and everyone who went into the red in full, there will probably be no other punishment.
      Considering there has been no solid proof that Sandi was indeed a scammer – with some saying she fled town, while others as well as the LPU’s website’s statement stating they did not leave town and requested help from EFNW – and she could’ve indeed just been a person that had the sad fate of an ill-planned con blowing up on her, then the scenario of paying everyone back would be the ‘happy medium’ as it were. And if the death threats to her stop we could eventually get the truth as to what went wrong as well.

      • Justice

        Clearly you missed the whole point of my post.

        The authorities should be involved to help sort this out. The authorities are an IMPARTIAL THIRD PARTY who were neither financially harmed nor hurt-in-the-ego about this, and have no stake in it, so they have a much better chance at a real resolution than the lynch mob does.

        Incidentally, they’re also capable of giving her protection in case someone tries to follow through with a threat.

        I DID point out, too that hacking her accounts, besides being unlikely and infeasible, WAS ILLEGAL. I don’t WANT anyone to do that. If they do, they should go to jail for it.

        I don’t have all the answers, and I am not passing judgment on her. I just want to see this thing sorted out. If she’s innocent, she deserves to have her name cleared once and for all, and if she’s guilty, then she belongs in jail. And I don’t believe that the Brony community is in any condition to be giving a verdict on this, which is WHY we need help with it. End of story.

        • ED

          No, I got it.
          I agree with you actually on authorities getting involved, but like I said it’s a matter of IF the authorities get involved and this goes to court. Unfortunate to say neither of which moves very quickly in this country when it comes to so many issues. :/

          • Justice

            How unfortunate that over a month since we last discussed this, Sandi still has not made any sort of statement nor produced any financial records of her own accord.

            I truly hope this doesn’t get swept under the rug and forgotten.

            Tick, tock…..

          • AnonyPony

            Despite having enough time to clear her name or explain her side of the situation, nothing has happened.

            It’s more likely that she has walked away with her cool 150k by now.

  • Sarah Jane

    On a brighter note, Cloudsdale Congress, held the very next weekend, and hosted by inexperienced brony fans, went smoothly and with little complaint. Most everyone agreed they had a wonderful time and everyone went home happy. The pony cons are not dead folks!

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  • Midak Skymaster

    Call me what you will, but I think that every fandom needs a Unicon.