Last updated on August 22, 2021
I now return to the scheduled DC Pen Show Programming.
As I mentioned in my experience post, I’m also reviewing the 2021 DC Pen Show. I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed it before. For those unaware, Bob Johnson passed away, and his sister has taken over the show organization. She appears to be more willing to bring in additional help.
Of note, I won’t be as “harsh” as I general would be. With the combo platter of minimal planning time due to COVID uncertainties, a new person running it, and the limitations due to COVID, the show deserves some leeway. Because of that, I’ll likely review it again, next year (or whenever COVID restrictions have been completely lifted).
About The Show
I heard from many vendors that the DC Show was significantly better organized this year. And, from an attendee’s point of view, I have to agree. The weekend registration desk was across the lobby from the show entrances, so people weren’t blocking the space. There were ropes to contain the waiting line in small space. And, while there was a long line to get in, it seemed to move fairly quickly.
It would have been nice to have some of the Weekend Trading Pass benefits better advertised. As I mentioned in my last post, it included a spouse pass, but it didn’t say that anywhere that I saw. I only found out because a couple of people mentioned it on a DC Pen Crew Zoom call. I also remember reading on the website (it’s no longer up, the site having been updated for the 2022 show) that there would be two parties that the Weekend pass holders could attend. However, there wasn’t anything about that (that I saw) at the show, and I completely forgot about them until Sunday evening.
The layout seemed more spacious than previous years, but I’m fairly certain that was due to less tables and attendees than previous years. It would be nice, once the show is back to “normal,” to find a good medium between the standard “packed in” feel that has characterized the DC Show in the past and what we had this year.
The only issue I had with the physical layout of the rooms was the way the rows were staggered. The “center line” where the staggering happened, wasn’t in the center of the room, which was odd, but I don’t think there should have been staggered rows at all. It halted the flow of traffic, and several times I found myself almost walking down the vendor sitting area instead of the attendee walking area. The tables should align all the way across the main ballroom to avoid confusion and stagnation of crowd movement.
The addition of the map this year was a great leap forward, and I hope it’s continued in future years. I have a thought for additions, but more on that in a bit.
This year’s selection seemed more vintage-heavy than previous years. I have a strong feeling that it was due to COVID, though. I know many domestic and international vendors didn’t make it for COVID-related reasons.
The variety of Indie makers was great. And it was nice how many “peripheral” venders there were, selling things like pen sleeves and cases, stationery, wax stamps, etc.
The workshops are the only other area I feel need some work. They need better promotion. My suggestions are:
- Have a separate page on the website with a schedule of all of the workshops and where they will be held
- Have a poster board facing the line at the registration table and another facing the smaller ballroom with the other poster boards that lists the full schedule of workshops and where they will be held.
- Include flyers around the show areas with listings of the workshops and a link to the website for more information.
- Add the workshop schedule to the map. It already included the lower level meeting rooms. It shouldn’t be too much extra work to include a schedule of workshops for each room.
I based my suggestions on my and my husband’s experiences. I was scheduled for an 11am class on Sunday, but I had to ask what room I’d be in. When I got to it, someone was already using the room. So I was advised to use the empty room next door. But no one showed up. I gave it 15 minutes then headed back up to the show floor.
Jim was scheduled for 1pm on Sunday. He also had to ask what room he was in. His class was in the correct room and he had three attendees. All three had difficulties figuring out where to go for the class and ended up having to ask where it was being held.
The paid classes were, of course, better attended because you’re going to seek out something you’ve paid for. But I’m guessing few of the independent, free workshops (I don’t count those run by Kenro, for example) were well attended.
The classes were, apparently, announced in the mornings, but I didn’t hear them. And anyway, it’s always hard to hear and understand intercom announcements.
Overall Score: 4.6 / 5
Organization: 3.75 / 5 – Everything seemed pretty well organized except for the workshops and pass perks. Something to work on for next year.
Layout: 4.5 / 5 – If the tables had been aligned across the entire ballroom, I’d give this a 5.
Price: 5 / 5 – At $10 a day, I think it’s well-priced. Even the $50 for the Weekend Trader Pass, when you throw in a spouse pass, is well worth it.
Selection: 5 / 5 – There was a good variety, despite the change from COVID. I didn’t feel like much was missing, per say. Ink and paper may have been a bit underrepresented, though.