Colossalcon Texas 2021 Swimsuit Anime Convention
Even the fun is bigger in Texas
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If there’s anything I learned from attending Colossalcon Texas it’s that the amount of fun you can have is not proportional to the size of the convention. For a first year convention, and a relatively small one at that, I had an enormously fun time.
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Ohio based ColossalCon is an established organization. They’ve been running events since 2002 and this is now their third distinct convention. They have the original Colossalcon, which is often called “Prime”, at the Kalahari resort in Sandusky, Ohio. There’s Colossalcon East at the Pocono Mountains Pennsylvania Kalahari resort. There’s even a Colossalcon Caribbean cruise 🛳. You could call this Texas convention “South”. This was the first Colossalcon Texas, having been delayed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
I was going to say that I suspect that ColossalCon would have had a convention at the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari resort if Daisho Con didn’t already have their con there. However, as I was writing this article Daisho Con announced that they will not be reopening. Having been out of operation for the past two events due to covid, they won’t be back again. They are sadly another victim of the Coronavirus 😢. ColossalCon, if you’re listening, please feel free to start a fourth convention (ColossalCon North 😊).
In the role of journalist I write articles about the events like Colossalcon Texas from the perspective of a content creator. I’m there to capture content for my articles and to make cosplay music videos. I attend a lot of conventions, but the Colossalcon events always stand out to me. In the first place they are held at luxury water park destination resorts. That makes them much more interesting locations compared to boring civic convention centers. In the second place you get the fun and sometimes spicy 🌶 swimsuit cosplay. Oo la la. Colossalcon Texas staff were gracious to give me a press badge for the inaugural event, for which I am truly thankful. While I wasn’t able to interview staff to ask detailed questions about the organization, I have the impression that they are totally cool with people coming just for the fun of it. As long as you support the organization through registration and hotel bookings, maybe they don’t even mind if you don’t attend a single panel. I’m sure they would like you to, but there seems to be no pretense of Colossalcon being all about cultural appreciation and education. Those are of course respectable things that other conventions hold in high regard, but don’t try to tell me that’s why we attend. We are there to have fun, whatever that means for you. Perhaps you enjoy attending panels about topics that interest you, getting autographs from voice actors and celebrities, and perusing the vendor hall and artist alley. Or maybe you like getting into costume and posing for photographers the entire weekend. These are all valid ways of enjoying your convention
Everything Really is Bigger in Texas
The Kalahari resort in Round Rock, Texas is an impressive facility. It boasts the second largest indoor water park in America, 975 hotel rooms, a large and well-appointed lobby, multiple restaurants, terrazzo floors throughout, and a 200,000 sq ft convention center. By the numbers it’s not actually that different in size or scale than their other resorts, it’s just done better.
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions established their first resort in 2000 with the Wisconsin Dells location. All of their resort destinations have an African theme that includes animal statues, authentic African art, and African motifs. Depending on your perspective it can be interesting or cheesy. The inspiration to theme them in this way is uncertain, but they’ve really hit their stride at the Texas resort.
After attending events at the Ohio and Pennsylvania resorts it becomes apparent that the company has become more sophisticated and experienced when it comes to resort design. The somewhat older resorts have darker earth tones and rather unimpressive suites that are starting to feel dated. Some of the layouts feel awkward and some walkways are cramped for space. The Round Rock resort by contrast is thoughtfully laid out, spacious, modern, fresh, and professional. It is by far the best looking Kalahari resort. Instead of brown and tan colors everywhere there are brighter, lighter colors. The furniture and decor are less tacky. Rooms are likewise bright, clean, and modern with grey tones and white linens. African art is still present throughout the resort, but it’s presented in a way that feels more like an art museum rather than a collection of cheap prints. It wouldn’t surprise me if they hired professional designers for this resort. It easily rivals hotels built by established companies such as Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt.
The level of care for this new resort was apparent and deserves to be noted. Even though the resort is already one year old, it still looks new. I spotted staff washing windows multiple times and even saw someone wiping dust from lighting fixtures in the hotel hallways. It’s apparent that the Kalahari intends to keep this resort looking good for years to come.
On Friday and Saturday evenings there was live music at an outdoor venue. There’s a large gas-lit fireplace at the center and it was surrounded by local vendors who set up shop for the night. On Sunday there was a farmers market type setup in the same area. This kind of community connection was nice to see and is a consequence of being near a large metropolitan area as opposed to a somewhat remote resort destination.
The water park is technically only 3,000 sq ft larger than the next largest one in Pennsylvania. It’s laid out well with a seemingly smaller wave pool, which isn’t a bad thing. There’s ample seating and the pathways are easy to navigate. There are plenty of slides, both individual and raft types. There are kids areas and the wave surfer thing. The adult grotto is particularly well-themed with moody lighting and faux rocks surrounding the swim up bar. It connects to an outside hot tub area and outdoor pool which was open. This is separate from another large outdoor pool area which was closed.
The arcade is called "Tom Foolery's" and it's on a whole other level from the other resorts. It is at least four times the size and has theme park type rides including two small roller coasters. The ropes course is inside as well and they’ve added a full-sized 12 lane bowling alley. The arcade is situated between the hotel and the water park, so you have to walk through it every time you want to get in the water.
As mentioned, there’s an outdoor pool area that was already closed for the winter. It’s a bummer from a photography perspective since outdoor shots are preferred over indoor shots. Certainly Colossalcon has spaced out their events so as to not compete with one another. Prime is in June, East in September, and South in November (the cruise is in February). If there’s any way to have it a little sooner, perhaps in October, that would be nice. It’s understandable that having two conventions in two consecutive months would be a lot of work. The choice of when these events take place is also affected by when the resorts choose to allow them. These resorts can fill up without the added boost of a convention. Summer is naturally a busy time for water parks and it doesn’t make sense for the Kalahari to book a convention that fills up the hotel at discounted rates when they can charge full price to regular vacationers. For November, the Texas resort was actually quite busy with many families enjoying the indoor water park and arcade. Thankfully Colossalcon Texas had a private late night swim event on Saturday, which was very well attended.
From the perspective of an experienced convention attendee it looked like the average small convention and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Smaller conventions have their perks and can be just as enjoyable, or even moreso, than larger conventions.
Colossalcon Texas was never crowded. The wait for badge pickup was minutes or less. Event rooms were never at capacity. If there was an event I wanted to attend, I could just walk in. I could probably have sat down with some of the guests and had casual conversations. For contrast, Anime NYC was happening on the same weekend. It’s a much larger convention held in a much larger city and convention center. Several people posted to social media about the long queues in the cold outdoors which took hours to get through. Covid checks at the door were a joke with staff barely glancing at documents and just passing out bracelets. It’s as if they had to do it just to satisfy NYC’s vaccine passport rules. After getting in the door there was yet another long line to enter the vendor hall. The experience was so bad that many people regretted going and said they wouldn’t return.
Estimating the number of attendees is difficult given the size of the resort. The convention space is approximately a 1,500 ft walk (nearly ⅓ of a mile) from the water park on the opposite side of the resort. Attendees were spread out all over the place, but they tended to congregate at either end. There was a pre-event estimate of 2,000-3,000, which is believable. Trying to predict attendance numbers for a new event is difficult enough without the influence of a global pandemic. It takes some kind of courage and determination to see an event like this through in these challenging and unique times. Congratulations to Colossalcon staff for making it happen. I suspect that Colossalcon struggled a bit with this convention. It was of course delayed one year due to the pandemic, but there were other indications. There was a sign at the convention looking for volunteers. This doesn’t mean that the convention was disorganized or understaffed. Even Denny’s is having a hard time finding employees right now. I didn’t see any major complaints online, just the usual positives and negatives. Attendees are also still uncertain about going to large gatherings. Conventions continue to face issues like these twenty months into the pandemic. Some are even completely calling it like poor Daisho Con. It’s only been six months or so since conventions like this have started back up. Hopefully things will continue to improve, but with so much uncertainty surrounding coronavirus the future of conventions is still unknown.
Colossalcon only made use of roughly half of the convention space. There are two floors and only the lower half was used. The convention center is bright and clean and well laid out, just like the rest of the resort. The artist alley was quite small with not more than 18 or 20 tables. The vendor hall wasn’t much larger, but still had a decent selection of goods. I attended the cosplay contest and a concert by Japanese rock band Kazha. I think some people missed out on an opportunity to show off their cosplay because there were maybe just 10 contestants. The chances of winning an award were very high.
It’s not a stretch to say that Colossalcon Texas could possibly become the largest Colossalcon. It’s close to multiple large metropolitan cities. Some people can just drive to it from their home each day, which isn’t something many can say about the Sandusky location. It occurs in the usually slow month of November, so there’s less competition and perhaps it’s easier for people to get time off. It has room to grow. The one thing it doesn’t have is Colossalcon Prime’s June weather. The weather was actually quite good for November. It was floating around 70 on Friday and Saturday and reached a pleasant 75 degrees on Sunday. It dipped in the 50’s at night, but was still bearable with a jacket. It was a little overcast and windy, but it sure beats the snow I had in my hometown. UPDATE: The convention is now scheduled to take place perpetually in August.
Getting There and Costs
Texas is a big state. Depending on where you live you might be able to just drive there. Round Rock sits just North of Austin, which isn’t too far from San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas. The parking lot is very large and wraps half-way around the resort. I estimate that they allowed for more parking space compared to the Ohio and Pennsylvania resorts. Those resorts’ parking lots quickly fill to capacity during Colossalcon. The Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is 28 miles away, which can make for an expensive Uber ride. There were estimates of around $60, but on the day the actual cost for a Lyft ended up being $92 😲. The airport is large enough to host many flights at relatively affordable prices. Just be sure to buy in advance.
|Late night swim
People often complain about the cost of food at these resorts. While I found the other Kahalari resorts to be reasonable, this one seemed to be more expensive. Bottled water is $3.50. Restaurant meals start in the teens and quickly go into the 20s and 30s. The luxury steak house Double Cut Grill has prices over $70! I typically like to visit one of the restaurants once, but instead I shared delivery pizza with my roommates. Fortunately there is a Walmart nearby and the rooms all have mini refrigerators.
As I’ve written in my other articles about Colossalcon and Colossalcon East, the nature of cosplay at Colossalcon makes it stand out. I met many cosplayers who were local to the area, but this event drew cosplayers from all over the country. I appreciate the cosplayers who can make a swimsuit cosplay where the character is still recognizable. That can be difficult to do when all you have is a two piece bathing suit and a wig. Many of the cosplays were certainly more “spicy”, and by that I mean sexy. Perhaps it’s due to the growth of the OnlyFans type of platforms, but it seems like people are getting bolder in what they will wear, or won’t wear. That’s not to suggest that there is lewd content at Colossalcon. That’s certainly not something to be expected. There are other conventions that cater to that type of content. Attendees thankfully still respect the limits of what is proper attire for this kind of convention, but a number of the cosplayers I met have OnlyFans accounts or something similar. Say what you want about this type of content, but there’s no denying it’s attractive to many people.