Colossalcon East 2022 Water Park Anime Convention
Anime + water park = fun!
Colossalcon East is an anime convention held at the Kalahari resort and water park in the Pocono Mountains area of Pennsylvania. It's the second Colossalcon event in a growing list which now totals four. Having attended the 2019 event I was curious how many people would turn up this year. Conventions took a hit during the pandemic and some still haven’t recovered. The main Colossalcon event in Ohio hasn't returned to pre-pandemic attendance numbers, but that may be due to a number of reasons other than COVID.
As far as I could tell, attendance numbers for Colossalcon East were at or below 2019 numbers (I didn't attend the 2021 event). Colossalcon staff usually don't share official attendance counts, so this is just an estimation based on how crowded it was. It's possible that there were just as many, but maybe less people were cosplaying. The convention center did seem quite busy throughout the weekend. The water park was much less crowded than I had hoped for and it's the main area where I record my videos. I recorded just 30 people the entire weekend, which is about as few as any convention I attend. For comparison, I recorded over 100 people at Colossalcon in Ohio. This might be bad for my videos, but it's kind of a good thing for attendees.
With low attendance numbers there's no need to wait in long lines. The vendor hall and artist alley aren't jam packed. You can expect to get into any event your heart is set on and maybe even sit in the front row. That guest you've been dying to meet - why not have a conversation with them? I saw a number of guests just hanging out at their tables with no one in line. This included Steve Blum and Beau Billingslea, the voice actors of the lead characters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black in "Cowboy Bebop". This isn't to say that there were no lines at all. The Otaku flea market had a line for a good part of Sunday. The concerts featured some very entertaining musical guests and there was plenty of room to move around or mosh. I caught all of Lex the Lexicon's set and had a good laugh at her lyrics. While I wish this convention healthy attendance growth, I understand how challenging this would be for staff to manage it. It's not easy running a convention and the more people there are, the more difficult it is.
The Kalahari Resort
The Kalahari resort and water park in the Pocono Mountains follows the same successful formula of large resort with a large indoor water park. It's three sister resorts, located in Ohio, Minnesota, and Texas, offer more or less the same experience. As the Kalahari name implies, there's an African them throughout the resort. While there are differences in the layout and design or each resort, they are mostly awash in tan and brown paint schemes, African decorations, and papyrus font type. The lobby shops have African names and are styled with adobe construction, straw thatched roofs, and rusty tin metal decor. There are faux rocks with African animal statues and there's even a large metal "Ndoto Kujenga Tree" sculpture made by in-house artists that stands 41 feet tall.
If I had to rate the resort I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. It's better than a Quality Inn, but not as nice as a Marriott. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but they lack the luxury of a higher-end resort. There's no fancy wallpaper, modern furniture, or expensive custom drapes. The bedding and towels are comfortable. The lobby doesn't have mahogany paneling, a massive atrium, or marble floors, but it does have terrazzo floors. The grounds of the resort are quite well kept. The lawns are green and cleanly edged. Flowers and plants are everywhere. Leaves are raked and the walkways are clean.
The target demographic is squarely families with young kids and not business professionals. It's the place where you'll find the average American family spending a fun weekend. The kids are entertained with the pools and arcade and mom and dad can relax in the spa or enjoy a nice meal at one of the many restaurants. There's a burger joint, a breakfast buffet, an Italian restaurant, an expensive steak house, and then the general pizza and ice cream shops. I personally had a number of delicious meals, but I know that attendees always complain about the pricing. The burgers at B-Lux are tasty, the pasta at Sortino's delicious, and the Double Cut steak house.... Well, I haven't spent $70 on a steak there yet, but I'm sure it's also delicious. Considering this is a destination resort without a Taco Bell within walking distance, just know that you're going to pay a bit more than normal. One thing the Kalahari did this year was they themed each restaurant after a video game or animated series. B-Lux had "Mario Bros" decorations allover. Sortino's was "Avatar The Last Airbender" themed, Double Cut was "Pokemon", and Cinco Ninos was "One Piece". The menu items were also themed and staff were allowed to cosplay as well, which was a lot of fun. People will sometimes say that hotels hate anime conventions, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The Kalahari welcomed Colossalcon attendees in so many ways. There's a nice BBQ area around the back that doubles as a fun photo shoot area. The resort put together an anime themed reception there on Thursday evening just for Colossalcon. How nice!
The ease of attending Colossalcon East greatly depends on where you live. Many attendees simply drive there. New York and Philadelphia are two hours away by car and most of the people I know who attended came from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. If you have to fly in as I do, your journey becomes a lot more expensive and difficult. The demand for airline travel is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels and the airlines simply aren't prepared to handle it. Add in inflation and you have a recipe for expensive airline tickets. Flights from where I live in Washington State were around $800 and I even saw flights from Boston around that price! That's crazy given how close it is. Unless you live near a major airline hub like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, or Chicago, you'll likely pay a lot more than normal to get there.
Flying is just the beginning. Remember that the resort is relatively remote. Unless you can catch a ride with someone, you'll have to rent a car. This puts the cost to attend close to $1,000. For a convention of this size and stature, that's probably asking too much. There are other conventions of equal or greater size that are closer and much more affordable. The draw of the water park is likely negligible since water parks aren't hard to come by and it wasn't very well-attended that I could see. I'm not trying to reduce the attractiveness of this convention, but these are things that attendees consider. I recommend going to a Colossalcon convention because they're a ton of fun, but definitely look at all four and consider which one makes the most sense for you to attend. It seemed to me that most people attended with a group of friends and treated it like a fun weekend getaway, with cosplay. The unique location and water park are perks, but they aren't the main draw. Creating memories and having fun are. Going solo to a convention like this can be a pretty lonely experience. That's not to say you can't meet new friends. I've definitely travelled alone to a number of conventions and have met a lot of people along the way. It just helps a lot when you have someone to hang out with. It also helps to split the cost of a room, which isn't very cheap.
Given the relatively small size of the convention, I'm not surprised that I only filmed around 30 cosplayers. Not everyone takes cosplay serious, or cosplays at all. This probably isn't the event where you want to bring your best cosplay to show off - save that for a convention like Katsucon. At a Colossalcon convention you can bring your fun, sexy, comfortable, funny, or just plain silly cosplay. Heck, this is the convention where people are dress up in ridiculous cow themed outfits, so feel free to do whatever. Just make sure to have fun and stay safe. Big thanks to everyone who filmed with me. I was happy to see familiar faces, but also meet some new folks. Be sure the check them out on Instagram. Their accounts are linked below.