A dream weekend.
I had an absolute blast at Creation Entertainment’s Once Upon a Time Official Convention. I say this a lot, but this was a very different convention than any I had ever been to.
About the Con
This convention was specifically focused on the tv show ABC’s Once Upon a Time. The convention’s purpose was for attendees to meet and connect with the actors from that specific show.
There was only one panel option at a time, which is different from other cons I have attended. These panels were all Q&A sessions with the actors. Some of the panels were solo actors, while others involved groups.
The other attractions were autographs and photo ops with the actors, for an extra fee of course. Due to the simple format of the convention, it ran like a well oiled machine. Everything was timed almost to perfection. It was impressive to watch.
Minute by Minute
Here is the breakdown of the weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, though I doubt that very much.
I got to Chicago and checked into my hotel. I was followed shortly by my online friend, Blake. Blake and I started talking online 3 years ago by being in a chat group about Once Upon a Time. She lives about 800 miles from me. I met her once for breakfast about 2 years ago. We talk almost every day so we were really looking forward to getting a whole weekend together.
After the joyful reunion we ran to the hotel for a few Q&A’s.
The first panel was Chris G. Which was awesome! He was entertaining and funny but also very personable. My favorite question was when he was asked who Smee (his character on the show) would be in a relationship with and he answered “Granny”. And #GrannSmee was born.
Then it was time to see the panel of Blake’s long time crush, Jared Gilmore. She cried (see video) and it was awesome. Jared was very real and personable in the Q&A session. He had insightful answers and didn’t hesitate to express his gratitude for the people there.
I was also able to snap a few great pictures. But more about that later.
After the panel, the overwhelmed Blake and I decided to hit up dinner before the kareoke night and our greatly anticipated meet up with our friend Ash.
I introduced Blake to the wonder of Chili’s and then the wonderfulness of Coldstone Creamery. Both were delicious, though overshadowed by the previous emotion of meeting Blake’s longtime crush and our anticipation of meeting our longtime friend, Ash.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel and relaxed until we got the notification that Ash was in the parking lot. Like good friends, we creeped out the window, trying to get a glimpse. Then pretended to be all cool in the hotel room.
I’ve known Ash online a little longer than Blake, but the three of us make up the American part of our friend group. We had been anticipating the three of us together for months.
I filmed while Blake opened the door and the video should explain the rest. We spent the next little while getting ready for Karaoke, spam texting our group chat even though the European part of our group were well asleep, and just enjoying hearing each others voices and seeing each others faces instead of just seeing text.
The karaoke was fantastic. We didn’t get a chance to sing, but it was basically a sing along all night. The energy was awesome and I even ran into a lot of new online friends I was anticipating seeing at the convention. Diana and Justin to name a few.
It was a blast to sing along with Rose Reynolds, Gils McKinney, Beverley Elliott, Jared Gilmore, and more. All the actors were fun and personable. Dancing and singing along to the classics it was easy to wish the night wouldn’t end.
But alas, we had all had a really long day and had some fun plans for the weekend. Also, the kareoke show was over so we headed back to the hotel.
Saturday morning started early. We all were eager to get into cosplay. The morning was a flurry of transforming into our characters. We had Once Upon a Time playing in the background as I transformed into Hook, Blake transformed into Rumple, and Ash transformed into Tilly.
We started our panels on Saturday with “The Wild Crew”. This panel was hilarious and had us in stiches. Of course, Blake hung on Jared’s every word. And Lee had some great insightful comments. Chris’s enthusiasm was as infectious the second day as it was the first.
The next panel was greatly anticipated by Ash, who was a huge fan of Tilly in Once Upon a Time Season 7. Ash even dressed for the occasion (yup, this is why she was cosplaying Tilly). The adorable Rose Reynolds even complemented her on her outfit.
Rose was sweet and really down to earth. Her appreciation for everyone who made her job possible was inspiring. When someone complemented her hair, she launched on a monologue of how she is so well taken are of and her hairdressers on the show were regularly horrified by the damage she did to her hair on the weekends.
We ran to the photo Ops for Rose Rynolds (for Ash) and Lee Arenberg (for me). We skipped to the front of the lines because I was signed up for the costume contest. Lee was awesome. I have been a huge fan of his for years. It was so cool to actually meet him in person.
The next event of the day was the costume contest. I LOVED all the clever cosplays. There was a Belle/Rumple team that was absolutely stunning and they won. I love it when people who deserve it, win. And I got a cute mug for participating!
We had a bit of a break after that and got some food and did some shopping (and a few selfies).
I found some great scents and an adorable bag and some fabulous pins and jewelry. We also snagged some photos for our signing later.
The next event was Blake getting her photo signed by Jared. I actually was able to print out a photo I took of Jared Friday, and Blake had it signed. Jared was totally surprised!
Blake was super happy and it was awesome.
The next few hours were taken by more FABULOUS panels.
The first panel was with Emilie De Ravin and Giles Matthey. This duo who play mother and son on the show were so entertaining. They were constantly joking and teasing each other and the crowd.
They also were inspiring. This was one of the best parts of the panels. They were always entertaining, but they also had amazing themes of hope, reaching for your dreams, and valuing people in your life. It was so uplifting.
The next panel was Sean McGuire. He was worth waiting for. His dry sense of humor was engaging and his stories of backstage and the other actor were hilarious and insightful.
Once we finished hearing from Sean, we headed off to dinner. I gave myself a heart attack by temporarily losing my camera bag. But we enjoyed Chicago deep dish and our full crew.
When we got back to the convention, it was concert time!
Samurai Fish did a fabulous job as the band. Lee, Chris, Beverley, Gil, and Karen were a blast! The one sad part, we were a little late and missed Rebecca Madder. We sang and danced the night away and finally headed back to the hotel and dropped with anticipation of the next day.
Sunday morning started with a fury of getting ready. There was no being late today, we were packed to the brim and didn’t want to miss a thing.
Ash and I got ready in our cosplays while Blake opted for the cuter route for photo ops. Sunday was the day we had most of our photos scheduled. We got ready and a cute Blake, Genderbent Robin Hood, and Emma Swan headed out for what we refused to call the last day of the con.
Our first stop, Photo ops with Rebecca Madder and Sean McGuire. I was originally not keen on this photo op combination. While all three of us were big fans of both of the characters, we didn’t like when they were together (they weren’t really but it is long and complicated…watch the show). However, we had come up with a clever idea.
As you can see, we designed the picture to look like we were helping “Robin” (Sean) escape from “Zelena” (Bex). It turned out better than we had hoped, and Sean and Bex thought it was fun as well! Also, it was a little intimidating to be telling someone like Sean McGuire what to do…but he was totally awesome about it.
From there, both Rebecca Madder and our crew headed upstairs for her Question and Answer panel. It was absolutely delightful.
If you have never seen Bex Madder in person, you probably won’t understand. She is one of the most expressive and dynamic people I have ever seen. I got some fabulous photos of her (personal use only, thank you) and she really started the day off right.
Her personal stories were entertaining and delightful. She really took the time to relate to the people asking the question, but also was aware of the rest of us. Her panel was probably one of my favorites.
The next Question and Answer session was with Beverley Elliot. She plays Granny in the show and has been with it from the beginning. She has always been one of the most engaging characters for me.
As it so happened, she was also the one that I connected the most with during the convention. Her thoughtful insights impacted me in a way that was almost religious. She was inspirational and entertaining and has one of the most gorgeous voices I’ve ever heard. Throughout the convention she took the time to talk with people and really relate to the group.
After Beverley’s Q&A, we got our autographs with Sean McGuire. He remembered us from earlier in the day. He was super nice and was complementary of my Robin Hood outfit.
The next event was probably my most highly anticipated moment of the weekend. After meeting Ash and seeing Blake again, of course.
Lana had arrived the night before and we hadn’t seen her yet. For those that don’t know, Lana Parrilla plays Regina, the Evil Queen, on Once Upon a Time. Her character is my absolute favorite and that is due to Lana’s portrayal of her. The journey the character went through in 7 years was inspiring.
That said I was completely fangirling over meeting her. And the next thing that morning was Photo ops with Lana. Not only would I get to meet her in person, I would get to stand right next to her.
I like to think of myself as a rational person. I work in the entertainment industry and have my whole life, so in general don’t get starstruck that easily. I respect people for their amazing work and…Blah, blah, blah…I got totally starstruck.
When it was my turn to get photo ops with Lana, I’ll be honest, I got totally nervous and I’m not entirely sure what happened. She was super sweet and I believe I managed to squeak out something like “May I have a hug?”
As you can see, she obliged. And I think the look on my face says it all.
I never expected to react like that, but what else can you do when you meet one of your acting heros? It was absolutely amazing.
At this point in the con we were all in the middle of two emotions. We were looking forward to seeing Lana’s panel and we couldn’t wait to meet Bex for her signature (more on that later), but we knew our time was running out that we could all be together. We spent a lot of time talking online, but actually hanging out in person was amazing and we didn’t want it to end.
We went to the Q&A by Andrew West who plays grown up Henry in Season 7. It was really cool to hear about his processes and what it was like to join the show at the very end of the run as one of the main characters. He was charming and it was a great hour that went way too fast.
Once Andrew wrapped up and Samurai Fish took the stage, you could feel the electricity in the room. It was packed to the breaking point. Anticipation built and built until she finally appeared.
The Question and answer with Lana was worth the wait. She was hilarious and witty and entertaining. She told some absolutely fabulous stories about filming the show and her family.
She talked about transitioning to the character of Roni for season 7. She said the creative team loved her personal style so much they adopted it for Roni. She said she could have just worn her own clothes on set.
One of the other cool things was she demonstrated how they filmed her ripping hearts out. She demonstrated on Jared and it was really cute watching them interact.
Hearing her talk about Jared was absolutely adorable. They have a great relationship.
The last event of the day was the major autograph event. We were able to tell Lana how the three of us met through the show. We also met the actress who played Jasmine, Karen David. We had a wonderful conversation about Criminal Minds. And I was able to talk to Beverley and thank her for inspirational words the day before.
Then Blake and I had to say goodbye to Ash. It was really hard to say goodbye. Whoever says online friends aren’t real friends is missing out. We had an amazing weekend actually talking and hanging in person.
Once we all wiped our teary eyes, Blake and I had a mission to finish. Our online friend is a fabulous artist and a huge fan of Bex. So I printed her favorite picture she had ever drawn of the character of Zelena and we got it signed.
We were the last ones in line to talk to Rebecca Madder. Even after the long weekend, she took time to talk with us and she was super nice. We got to meet her husband as well.
And just like that, it was over. Blake and I stuck together as long as we could, but it finally ended and we went our separate ways.
We will never forget the amazing weekend provided by Creation Entertainment and the cast of Once Upon a Time.
All statements are my opinions. There are no affiliate links in this article and this post is strictly for my memories and people who went with me. Images are the rights of their owners and are not to be used for monetary gain.