Rating of C2E2 2017, Chicago, Illinois, McCormick Place
Exhibit Hall ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Program ⭐️ ⭐️
Cosplay ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Food ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Parking ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Location ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐
Organization ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is the relative new kid on the block of large comic and pop culture CONs, and with the exception of GenCon in Indianapolis—which focuses more on gaming than pop culture—the most prominent in the Midwest. It is run by the same company that puts on the New York Comic Con. First inaugurated at McCormick Place in 2010, it has grown steadily over the past several years to be now recognized as one of the more note-worthy cons in the country. I am somewhat embarrassed to say—since Chicago is my home turf—that this year marked my first attendance at the con. I didn’t know what to expect—I had heard some buzz, but hadn’t really spoken with anyone who’d gone before. I am very happy that I finally made it this year.
The show floor was C2E2’s primary focus, and everything seemed to be centered around the exhibit hall. The size of the hall was great, and it had nice wide aisles for easy traffic flow. The list of venders were of good quality with a large variety of merchandise to meet the interests of the attendees. The artist alley was an impressive size with a terrific array of talent, both seasoned and up and coming. A large portion of the back of the hall was dedicated to celebrity autograph corrals—which I’ll leave to you to decide whether that’s a positive or a negative.
More so than other cons, C2E2 had more programing right there on the show floor—cosplay demonstrations, live interviews, and an impressive selection of kid programs and activities. They also had a fun backdrop area for taking photos.
Entrance into the hall, especially on Saturday, was organized strangely. People entering the con were herded into the same location that was the primary traffic for those coming in and out of the panel discussion ballrooms. Everyone was funneled into the same aisle, causing ridiculous congestion. If you were trying to get to a session in the ballrooms upstairs, you had to fight your way upstream through a steady flow of in-coming guests to get to the escalators.
There tends to be plenty of parking at McCormick Place, however some of the lots are better than others. The parking is divided into three lots, A , B and C. Regardless of what lot you choose it will likely result in a bit of walking. Lot A is probably the closest, but it is the one that fills up the fastest. Lots A and C are covered multi-level lots and have a flat fee of $23/ day, whereas Lot B is an outside lot, and it has a flat fee of $15
If you’re looking for some cheaper options, there are a couple to choose from. First, there is street parking available around the convention hall, but they get taken up quickly—which means get there earlier. They also have a three hour time limit. If you have the Chicago parking app you can extend the time remotely from your phone, but after a full day at the con you aren’t really saving that much money. If you are staying closer to downtown, there is a shuttle service that will run you from Millennium Park to the convention center. There is also a GREEN line train stop that is an easy five minute walk away.
I honestly did not know what to expect for this show. I knew cosplayers would attend but, being a relatively newer con and located in the Midwest, I didn’t know if it would stand up to some of the other mores established cons with a long tradition of cosplay. I was pleasantly surprised. Phenomenally talented cosplayers were indeed in attendance. I was astounded by the level of craftsmanship and creativity that people showed up with. I will say that there weren’t quite as many high-level participants as I’ve seen in other shows, but the quality of those that were there was certainly top notch. But even more so, I was wildly impressed by the sheer number of casual cosplayers that attended. So many people—especially on Saturday-- joined in on the fun, parading their fandom. Of course, casual cosplayers are in abundance in other shows too, but there was something culturally different about the attendees of this show. It seemed more the norm to dress as something than not. It helped create a party like energy on the show floor. Attendees weren’t intimidated or daunted by the professionals—they embraced the spirit of cosplay with vigor. It was a wonderful thing to experience.
Panels and Programing
This was the weakest category for C2E2. Although there was certainty some quality panels, with topics that were both thought-provoking and current, the amount of offerings were frankly rather limited and not as varied as I would have expected or liked. Every panel I personally attended was literally in the same room. The program book was a bit deceiving too—they had more listings in the book (and the app) than was really offered as a true panel or session. Many presentations listed were on the exhibit hall floor—like a cosplay sewing demonstration, or an interview on the Twitch live stage. Granted the interviews included some colossal heroes —like Will Weaton and Stand Effing Lee—but the area around the stage was rather small and security chased people off if the crowd got too big. And I am not throwing shade on the cosplay tips—really good stuff, but on the show floor, it got lost in the noise. It deserved its own room.
The panels themselves were run less than smoothly than I’ve seen at other cons. Several ran over their allotted time, and there didn’t seem to be as many people around to make sure it ran smoothly as I would have expected. Although, I will say the tech was impressive and that ran quite well.
This is an area that C2E2 can really expand. There is no question that the thirst for quality panels was present at the con. Every session I attended was packed to capacity with people standing or sitting around the perimeter. The organizers need to bring in more professionals discussing more topics—especially concerning diversity and inclusion. There was some…but not nearly enough.
Inside the exhibit hall, the options were limited, with most of the available choices being served from carts located about the periphery of the exhibit hall. The food was standard fair for event such as this—hot dogs, nachos, and pizza—but they did have a beer and wine cart as well. Every cart had a significant line, no matter where you went, especially on Saturday. I waited twenty minutes in a line for slice of pizza. And there were no tables at all for people to eat their food. Everyone was forced to sit on the floor. The exhibit hall’s café is located in the middle of the hall and elevated up on a high mesa that overlooks the entire hall. They had a more substantial menu, but the crowds up there were insane—I can only imagine how long it would take to get a table to actually sit and eat. All of the food was priced rather high.
Outside the exhibit hall there were more and better options for food.
The location of C2E2 gets an added bump due to its home field advantage. I’m fully aware of my own bias here, but Chicago is an amazing city and, to anyone that’s not been here, it’s worth a visit. McCormick Place is a terrific facility, but I admit, it isn’t as conveniently located as some other convention centers in other cities. But it is close to downtown, and close to public transportation. The GREEN line EL train can have you walking about the loop in fifteen minutes.
Come a few days early or stay a few days longer to enjoy the city. There's plenty of other exciting things to do-- astounding museums, world class theater, excellent shopping, and some of the best restaurants in the world.