Holiday Matsuri 2022
Florida’s Best Anime Convention
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In the run-up to Holiday Matsuri, it looked like it was going to be a banner year. There was lots of chatter about it online - everyone wanted to go. COVID was almost completely gone, and it seemed like it would be the last big get-together of the year. And it was, with some minor setbacks.
When you think of Florida you think of warm weather and sunshine. What we got was warm... ish. Compared to everywhere else in the country that was covered in snow, it was warm. But mid 60’s just isn’t the Florida we’re used to. We want 70’s and 80’s. In addition, it rained a little, which isn’t unusual I suppose. Overall, it could have been worse. A week later it was near freezing 🥶. Rain and cooler weather wasn’t enough to keep people out of the pool. It’s a heated pool, so it probably felt warmer than being outside of the pool. The Marriott remodeled the pool area during the pandemic and it’s in top form. There are plenty of lounge chairs and the nearby Falls restaurant sells food and beverages. My only complaint about the outdoor pool area is the tiny hot tub. In a resort this size, you would think they would have more than one hot tub which holds just 13 people .
A Holiday Playground
Holiday Matsuri is a convention that isn’t afraid to have fun. I’ve said that before and it thankfully still holds true. The con runners give people fun events and they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s okay to hang out at the pool all day, spend all your money in the vendor hall and artists alley, or attend panel after panel. There’s a lot to do and there’s no one to tell you how to do it. They aren't afraid of adult content and events, as evidenced by the involvement of Cosplay Deviants. In fact, the late night 18+ events are some of the most popular at the convention. My choice of activity is, of course, to walk around with heavy camera equipment recording video of cosplayers 😄. We all have our interests and mine is squarely centered around video. Whether you do video or photography, there is plenty to capture at Holiday Matsuri. The Orlando World Center Marriott is large, versatile and well-kept. The landscaping is fresh, the pools are sparkling, and when the sun is out, you’re guaranteed some great shots.
One of the aforementioned setbacks was the closure of the Hycube area. The Hycube is an on-site hydroponic garden where they grow some of the greens used in the hotel restaurants. They used these very purple colored lights to grow the veg and it makes for a cool shooting location at night. This year the patio around it was under construction – completely torn up. This was a pretty big bummer.
The Orlando World Center Marriott (OWCM) had recently opened a new waterpark area, which triggered thoughts of this con becoming a Colossalcon south. It has some slides, a lazy river, and kids splash pads. It wasn’t anywhere near close to being Colossalcon though. The waterpark cost extra unless you bought a package tied to your room. It was pretty small compared to the Kalahari resort water parks. Also, the staff said there was absolutely no photography allowed. I didn’t even bother to question why. I just marked it off my list permanently. Sigh 😞.
There were rumors that the hotel had reached the final straw with Holmat attendees. Apparently there was some damage to the pool last year and some overcrowded room party that resulted in the sheriff kicking out some attendees. You could say we’ve worn out our welcome. Another rumor is there will be just one more Holmat held at the Orlando World Center Marriott. It would then move to the Orange County Convention Center. No, not that Orange County. Orange County Florida. It’s the same building where Megacon is held. A big, boring, ugly civic convention center 😭. If the rumors are true, then the 2023 event will truly be the last party at the OWCM resort. It might also be my last Holmat.
I really don’t like boring convention centers. Given the choice, I would choose a smaller and lesser-known convention held at an interesting location over a large one (Weebcon is a good example). I make pretty videos and I want the location to be pretty too. I don’t like having to go through metal detectors every time I enter the building. I don’t like being told I can’t set up my light stand by convention center staff. Plus, cons held at civic convention centers don’t have a night life. They have a very different feel compared to hotel cons. If you’ve ever been to Dragon Con you’ll understand why they squeeze 80,000 attendees into five hotels rather than use the nearby Georgia World Congress Center. It’s more fun. People stay up late and talk and party. They do things they probably shouldn’t, but that’s how memories are made. Take that away and it feels more like a school field trip with chaperones.
These are just rumors of course. I could verify them with my contacts, but does it matter? Things were going to change eventually. With the obvious rise in attendance, Holiday Matsuri is outgrowing the OWCM. Even with its 2,000 rooms and massive convention space, it’s just not large enough to hold Holmat much longer. If the convention wants to grow, it needs a larger space. I’m generally all for cons growing larger. It affords them greater options as far as guests and events. They can bring in more foreign guests, host premiere releases of anime and merchandise, put on large concerts, and so much more. It also feels better with lots of people in attendance. It’s full of life and energy, even if it’s at a boring convention center.
Thanks to everyone who recorded a video with me. I met a lot of new people and was able to spend some extra time shooting with some of them. It’s a great opportunity for me to improve my skills as well as for the cosplayers to gain experience making vidoes. Special thanks to @images_by_jc for letting me tag along on his photoshoots.