Conventions are a big endeavor, so people weren’t surprised when con chair James Alsup announced Reactor 2008 would be canceled. Some think it was a poor decision to move to the new Weston in Wheeling for 2007, noting that con-goers are often unpleasant for regular hotel guests, tend to trash rooms, require the occasional ambulance, and break an elevator or two throughout the weekend. The Weston offered a swanky ballroom, but it may have been too high-end, which stifled the energy of the convention. Personally, it was a welcome contrast to the dismal state of the Purple Hotel.
In many respects, it was nice to have a second local convention, offering a mid-year rest stop of sorts between one Anime Central and the next; some believe Reactor offers nothing new beyond the usual. Attendance suffered last year due to scheduling conflicts with Youmacon. Half of Reactor’s usual attendees actually flocked all the way out to Michigan to try out this small convention. After attending Youmacon this year, it’s easy to see how the out-of-state convention has been giving Reactor (and in some respects, ACen itself) a run for its money in regards to organization, programming, guests and gaming. These are some big shoes to fill.
Many believe Reactor lacks a clear vision, including the con chairs themselves. They have reinvented their image annually, hoping to extend attendance to comic collectors and other geek enthusiasts. There’s always been a push on Reactor’s part to impress the crowd by showing “maturity” in programming, while still claiming a family atmosphere. However, those attempts have come off as blatant (and often unsuccessful) pandering to the 21+ crowd.
But there’s hope yet for the “little con that could.” Reactor 2009 has been scheduled for September 18-21 at the Wyndham O’Hare. With new enthusiasm and improved programming, this event could see record attendance and reassert its role within the local convention circuit.