4th Street Fantasy is held in St. Louis Park, just to the west of Minneapolis. The hotel has plenty of parking, and the space designated for the con is about the perfect size and arrangement for the roughly 200-person event. The programming room has enough seats and doesn’t feel crowded when nearly everyone is there. The con suite was stocked with a nice mix of treats and healthy food. There’s nice space to take a moment out for yourself, visit with others, or hold a meetup. There are a number of restaurants within close walking distance.
This was very different from any other convention I’ve attended in that it only has one track of programming. It’s common for convention programming to have time slots that don’t have anything of interest to me, and I worried I’d feel cheated out of opportunity if I wasn’t interested in the one panel running at a given time. This ended up not being so much of an issue, and I ended up attending every panel. The programming tends to be much more academic and intellectual than you’ll find at other conventions, even when covering the same topics. With this setup, it was more like the entire convention was sharing a unified dialogue, focused and directed by the programming.
During panels, volunteers ran microphones to audience members with questions, comments, and asterisks. An asterisk is the opportunity to interrupt an entire panel to make a factual correction or request clarification. There are also volunteers who document all the panelist- and audience-referenced books, television shows, and films on a giant flip-chart. There’s a second flip-chart for comments or tangents deemed “that’s a different panel.” The last panel of the convention is taken from this list, either based on frequency of appearance or how well it fits with the overall conversation of the convention.
4th Street schedules generous meal breaks, great for meetups and to let the brain chill after an hour or two of intensity. The con features a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, a communal feel, and a healthy dose of spontaneity. This convention takes inclusion and accommodating to a level I’ve not seen before.
This was my first 4th Street, and I’m definitely planning on returning in 2020.
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