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Universal FanCon abruptly postponed, a week before planned debut in Baltimore, organizers say

A week before crowds of self-proclaimed proud geeks were scheduled to gather at Universal FanCon in the Baltimore Convention Center, organizers abruptly postponed the event.

Billed as the “first multi-fandom Con dedicated to inclusion, highlighting Women, LGBTQ, the Disabled and Persons of Color,” the event was supposed to run from April 27 to April 29.

But organizers announced Friday on Twitter they couldn’t secure enough financial backing to hold the convention. They said they hope to reschedule eventually and “put forward the type of event our fans deserve.”

Update: After Universal FanCon abruptly postponed, community members rally to host Baltimore pop-up convention. »

“As we built out our floorplan, invited guests, figured out lodging/travel arrangements, and confirmed activities, our costs started to grow exponentially,” organizers wrote in a statement posted on the convention’s website. “Unfortunately, the support we were anticipating in terms of ticket sales and sponsorships did not materialize.”

Before the announcement, the convention had planned guests such as Kristian Nairn, a.k.a. Hodor from “Game of Thrones,” actor Mehcad Brooks of “Supergirl,” and more.

The last-minute announcement left fans scrambling to cancel flights and hotel rooms and recoup the money they’d spent to prepare for the convention. Many said they were frustrated and angry — not just because the event was canceled, but because of the lack of communication from event planners.

It also means lost business for Baltimore hotels and restaurants and a large weekend vacancy at the city’s convention center on a prime spring weekend. Officials from Visit Baltimore could not be reached for comment Saturday.

The convention organizers did not respond to a request for comment, but apologized on Twitter to the people who were looking forward to the event, particularly those who already booked flights and rooms, and requested time off from work.

“We deeply apologize for the disappointment, anger and feelings of lost trust due to this decision,” organizers tweeted Friday. “We are taking the steps to reschedule the convention & will provide an update.”

In their statement, organizers said they tried to supplement the insufficient funds by making “significant personal investments” and scaling back the convention to “create a leaner and more efficient show.” They also raised more than $56,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the show.

“Sadly, this was not enough,” they wrote. “If we were to have moved forward, the event would have been significantly diminished.”

The convention has been two years in the making, with the stated goal of providing an event that “fosters true inclusion, diversity, and safety,” organizers wrote on their website.

It was supposed to have been a star-studded event, with planned appearances from Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor from HBO’s “Game of Thrones;” actor Mehcad Brooks of “Supergirl;” actor and comedian Orlando Jones of “American Gods;” “Star Wars” actor Billy Dee Williams; Grammy-winning artist Big Daddy Kane; and Kim Chi, a former contestant of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” according to a news release.

In response to frequent questions about refunds, organizers said they will honor people’s tickets whenever the convention is rescheduled.

“This statement is bewildering,” author Roxane Gay posted on Twitter, replying to a tweet from the main FanCon account. “I cannot believe you would put this up. To tell people who have bought non refundable tickets that the organizers did too... is flippant, at best. And to offer no refunds... wow.”

Many on Twitter complained that organizers bungled the announcement about the postponement. People who had made hotel reservations within a specific block of rooms received room cancellation emails from the hotel before organizers put out any official information.

Sandy Rosenblatt of Rockville bought a ticket to the Universal FanCon as a 44th birthday present to herself. She found out via Twitter on Friday that the event she was looking forward to — and had spent $300 on — was canceled. She said she didn’t get an official confirmation from the event organizers until Saturday afternoon.

“There was a professional way to have done this and I don’t think that’s what they did,” Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt said she’s left thinking about how the $300 she used on FanCon could have been better spent on groceries, rent or paying back debt.

“It’s a lot to me, and it’s not even close to what other people are losing out on,” she said.

Carrie Tupper, 32, estimated that she and her partners spent more than $1,000 to come to FanCon, between plane tickets, convention passes and lodging. Because the announcement was made so last minute, they only expect to get about $50 back.

When she first heard the news, Tupper thought it must be some cruel joke. Now, she’s left feeling numb and disappointed that she won’t be able to market the diverse comic series she works on, called Kamikaze.

“Marginalized communities need a space like this to geek out and know that no one will judge them, where they can share their passions and their projects,” said Tupper, of Atlanta, Ga. “When something like this gets taken away, it’s not only a blow for the people attending but for the community as a whole. They don’t get to shine.”

Many artists who had anticipated selling their work at the convention said an abrupt postponement translates into a big financial hit. Tupper and her husband put together a Tumblr page where people can find the work of vendors who planned to show at FanCon. They hope fans still might purchase merchandise and support the authors and artists.

trichman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/TaliRichman

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