UsukiCon Planning 101
Squees of joy fill the air. Neopets in brightly-coloured costumes flood the streets. Owners frantically check with the National Neopian to see how much they have to spend. Across Neopia, every Neopet with a sense of wonder in their heart knows that the 20th day of Hiding brings the most frenzied convention on the Neopian calendar – Usukicon. Each year it brings an excitement that leaves even those with non-Usuki galleries wondering if they can find one that fits their theme, just to have an excuse to go.
But unless you want to spend the day in lineups so long you start to forget what you're waiting for, buy what you later realize is a double of a Usuki you already own (and see it on the Trading Post the next week for half of what you paid), and in your exhausted confusion blow your savings on a Usuki paint brush despite owning neither a Usul nor Quiggle, you'll need to plan ahead.
One Month Pre-Usukicon
* First things first: head to the Usuki Shop and pre-order the Deluxe Pass for you and your Usuki-loving pet. Submitting your payment in advance(ideally the first day they're available) ensures you'll get one of the limited number released each year. The subtle gold border and personalized nametag (the reason they need to be ordered so early) are the only visual differences from the standard Usukicon day pass, but it comes with certain advantages. Access to VIP events, meet-and-greets with convention guests, and a sneak peek of this year's newest Usukis a full hour before everyone else gets to see them are rather nice; but after prior years where the first panels of the day went by while I was waiting in line, simply getting your pass early makes the few extra neopoints worthwhile.
* Are you going with a group of friends or on your own? Either can be fun; a group of friends can help build up each other's enthusiasm, but it's easier to manage the crowds without having to maneuver multiple owners and their pets. Make your decision now, and if applicable remind your friends to get their tickets too.
* Make the decision - Cosplay or standard clothing? Cosplay, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is the hobby some con attendants have of dressing up as their favourite Usuki. This can be a fun way to add to the day, but is entirely optional. I love to admire the work everyone puts into their outfits (and take pictures, if they don’t seem to be in a rush), but since the wide skirts on many outfits make it difficult to move through the crowd and bags of con swag ruin the image (save for Usuki Frenzy Usuki or Collectible Usuki Enthusiast Usuki costumes), I choose a more subtle outfit for myself.
If you are planning to cosplay, you’ll want to get started now. Gather materials, select accessories, find a pattern, build the structure to support the ears and tail if applicable to your species . . . I hope you’re good at sewing already.
* Finally, start saving your neopoints – you're going to need them.
Three Weeks Pre-Usukicon
* Go over the latest edition of the Usuki Collectors Guide with your pet, with a notebook and pen on hand (I like my Usukicon Y17 Pen and use Official Usuki Pens to highlight). Double-check the cover date to make sure it’s the latest edition – outdated information isn't as helpful. Read it cover to cover, taking notes of which Usukis your pet has their heart set on and compare this to their current collection. This is the rough copy of your wishlist.
I am not advising you of any 'Must Have' Usukis, however. Any such list would only inspire debate; everyone has different tastes – Millicent's beloved Paleontologist Usuki might be overlooked by those who prefer more fashionable models, but she wouldn't trade it for one hundred Magical Hair Usukis. Besides, even if I did manage to convince everyone how great the Usukis I'm looking for are, there would only be more demand for them and thus make them harder for me to find.
* Something many don't think about until after the convention: decide now how your new Usukis will be displayed. Some insist in getting Usuki Display Cases in both red and blue. Some just pick a shelf they think the Usukis might look nice on. Some realize their home is packed to the rafters with Usukis and they'll either need to add an extra room to their house or narrow down their wishlist.
Two Weeks Pre-Usukicon
* Check at the Usuki Shop for the posters advertising this year's Usukicon contests. There's something different every year – you might be challenged to write a Usuki-related story, or set up a diorama on a certain theme with your Usukis, or craft a Usuki-sized outfit during a set time limit with provided materials. Decide if this year’s contest is something you’d like to try out, and (if applicable) sign up!
* Grab the latest edition of the Usuki Value Guide and determine what a reasonable current price is for the items on your wishlist. Once you have the data, copy everything down in something you can take with you. I prefer to use my Fuzzy Notebook. It's cute, and the texture makes it easy to find when rifling through a bag full of flyers from the con.
One Week Pre-Usukicon
* Pick up your deluxe pass at the Usuki Shop. It comes with a lanyard, map of the convention centre, and a pile of Usuki flyers. This bundle comes with the regular pass as well, but there's an advantage in being able to go through it early.
* Flip through the flyers to learn about the latest deals on Usuki goodies or hints about new releases; update your wishlist if required.
* Play a few rounds of Usuki Frenzy to help build the anticipation; this also helps make some much-needed extra NP.
One Day Pre-Usukicon
* If you live outside of Neopia Central, you’ll want to spend the night before in the Neolodge – it might take a few NP from your careful savings, but it’s best to minimize your travel time in getting to the con.
* While some camp outside the Neopia Central Convention Centre the night – or even week – before to ensure their place in line, this isn’t needed for those who pre-order. Sure, you might not be the first through the door, but there's a shorter line and you'll be well-rested for the day of the convention.
* Pack your bag (the Usukicon Y11 Messenger Bag or Altador Courier Bag is the most convenient, in my experience) for the con. A watch, Deluxe Pass, con map, wishlist, neopoints, snacks (e.g.: Usuki Box-o-Biscuits, Protein Bar or Cherry Granola Bar), bottle of water, and a pack of Mint Usuki Gum (trust me).
I'd advise Usukicon Y12 Hand Sanitizer, but even if you already had it in your collection, you might have trouble with someone worried you broke the seal on a limited-edition collectible. Just make sure to wash your hands/paws/hooves/etc. regularly.
* Get to bed at a reasonable time. I know you might be too excited to sleep, but a cup of Chamomile Tea and a good book will have you drifting off in no time. Try Angelic Usukis or The Grumpy Acara.
* Set your alarm early and start the day off right with a mug of Rainbow Coffee – you'll need lots of energy to get you through the con.
* Shower. If you didn’t spend the week camping out in line, you have no excuse to look like you did. Besides, using Usuki Magical Shampoo and conditioner will help you get in the spirit of things.
* Wear comfortable shoes. Cosplay or not, this is vital since you’ll be on your feet all day.
* Double-check you have your wishlist, Deluxe Pass, and neopoints in your bag.
* To save time, drink a Bacon Eggs and Toast Smoothie on the way to NCCC – even when you've pre-ordered a ticket, the lines form quickly. You'll want to arrive at least one hour prior to the doors opening.
* Double-check that the line you got in is the one for those who’ve already gotten their Deluxe Passes. Sometimes long lines mixed with a group of people who are somewhere between exhausted and excited can result in spending two hours in the wrong line and half a dozen confused people behind you that you accidentally misled. Not that I’d know anything about that.
* Instead of worrying about your wait time, consider the line a part of the Usukicon experience! Remember, the people with you in line are all as excited about Usukis as you are, so take the opportunity to make some friends!
* While waiting, you can look over the event guide. There’s usually someone handing out copies to badge-holders in line, but a stack of them can be found just inside the door if you’re missed. Relax, you have time to read it cover-to-cover, familiarizing yourself with everything from the layout to panel descriptions, times for celebrity autograph signings, and what artists have their works on display this year. Highlight your can’t-miss items on the schedule (and keep an eye on your watch through the day!).
* The moment has arrived! Try not to rush the doors; it actually slows things down.
* Be respectful of younger fans; they attend out of the pure love for all things Usuki and likely haven’t prepared with the same degree of strategy as you.
* As a disclaimer, I can’t say for certain what this year’s convention will involve, as this article was written well before the release of the Event Guide, so it’s my best guess based on previous years’ Usukicons and rumours in the fandom.
* This year’s guest panels (possibly) include:
- Official Usuki artists, discussing what it’s like to design your favourite toys.
- Lucie, star of Usuki Frenzy and owner of the Plushie Shop, who intends to discuss her years-long fight for the right to sell plushie Usukis in her shop. This one is mostly confirmed – I heard it from Lucie herself! Though it’s possible she won’t be an official guest, I expect she’ll attend either way and you can probably hear her thoughts if you ask.
* When there’s a break in your schedule, don’t miss the Dealers’ Den, Artists’ Alley, and Crafters’ Corner. For the unfamiliar:
- The Dealers’ Den is where you find sellers of brand-new Official Usuki merchandise, frequently displaying rare finds with correspondingly high price tags.
- Artists’ Alley offers a number of artists displaying their prints of gorgeous Usuki fan art – drawings that even the most skilled playset arrangement couldn’t replicate. You’ll also find Usuki fan comics, with adorable art and creative story lines.
- Crafters’ Corner is the home of custom-made Usuki plushies and accessories; unofficial but made with care, and offering things you won’t find in official sets. I’m hoping to get a tiny quiver of arrows to go with my Usuki Forest Hunter Set, and Usuki-size copies of some of Millicent’s favourite books.
* Take a break for lunch. You need to eat to keep up your energy. Grab something handheld and quick, like a Pizza Pasty, sandwich, or muffin. Wash it down with your favourite flavour of Neocola, Krawkade, or Achyfi and you’ll still be going strong when they close and push you out the door!
* Despite not being the most popular event of the day, I still advise you to check out the Quiguki minicon in Hall C. These fans are no less dedicated to their favourite toys than anyone else attending, and make an admirable effort every year.
* The diorama contest is an annual tradition, and one I never miss – be sure not to touch the hand-painted displays featuring custom Usukis reenacting scenes from Neopia’s past or beloved works of fiction.
* The Usuki Frenzy LARP is a fun activity if you have time to spare. LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, and the room is set up to perfectly replicate the layout of the con’s favourite game. Participants must don a Prissy Miss Usuki Collector Dress (provided, one size fits all species) and race to grab all the Usuki playsets on their list (and bonus Usukis, if you can find them!) before time runs out. The player with the best time will be announced at the end of the con, and will win an exclusive prize! Having volunteered my time with the group prior years, I will suggest you offer your assistance in resetting the playsets for the next player – it helps keep the game running smoothly so everyone gets a chance to play.
The most vital thing to remember at Usukicon: Have fun! Relax and enjoy yourself, this event comes only once a year.