Review: D-Lux Entertainment Expo 2014

Fandom is a very tricky thing.  Some fans are happy with just enjoying their world around them, other fans feel they need to compete with their fellow fans and a lot of fans want to reach out and do something great for the fandom.  Sometimes fans can make such a huge impact their names and faces are known all around, while many great fans do wonderful things for the fandom without receiving the credit they deserve.  The one thing I can truly say about this, it’s not easy being a fan who wants to do stuff for the fandom.  When someone does make that step, and watch things happen around them they can get lost in everything and not even realize all they did till the time has blown past them and they see the photos and stories of the people who got to take part.  Recently we’ve had two events like this happen for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fandom. This review is of “D-Lux Entertainment Expo” where a fan put everything he had into making an event many can enjoy.

Adam is a teacher in the Martial Arts.  He was inspired by TMNT when he was very young, love the movies and works hard for a living.  Even enjoys pizza everyday.  He came up with an idea to do an event for TMNT fans in Michigan, bringing in star names like Kevin Eastman and Ernie Reyes Jr.  And to top it off he wanted to attempt at breaking a World Record for TMNT.  This meant a lot of money, time and work.  His history is in Tournaments, though for an event like this he had a short time to start learning about conventions.  With plans coming sparking in June 2013, booking guests and a location by August, and starting to go to conventions and pass out flyers in October he had his work cut out for him.

March 28th 2014, the big weekend came.  The guests were coming in, fans were showing up, dealers had their tables up and running as people traveled in from out of state to take part.  Adam with the help of his friend, Dennis, had put together a convention, which had people smiling, laughing and meeting their heroes.  This is the event I want to share with everyone now.

Miki and I got to the convention to set up on Thursday, needing to learn how big my location was going to be I brought very little on our first run there.  My home only a 40 minute drive, it was easy to go back and forth to choose what items could be displayed.  The big surprise came when Adam showed us our corner, yes corner.  I loved it, the corner was big and we were told to take as many chairs and table that we needed to make this Cowabunga Corner. 

Miki and I gathered six tables, and brought seven chairs behind the tables.  I had borrowed the same display cases that we used at Michigan Action Figure Expo, though for the movie props to be brought in Adam promised us big display cases.  Which were not arriving until Friday.  We figured we needed some nice cloth to cover the table, so Miki and I did a store run picking up some black fabric and found some brand new Classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fabric.  We also stopped at the house and got a lot more Turtle stuff to place around the table. 

We got back to the convention center and started to unload to our booth.  The cloth fit the table perfect, if anything we could've used more for the other tables.  I came up with some of the layout ideas on where I wanted the new Nickelodeon toys displayed.  And we walked through how the booth was going to be fully set up.  Without the display cases we knew that not everything could be set up that night.  So we wrapped up for the evening and talked with some of the other workers at D-Lux Entertainment Expo.  The excitement was growing as we saw things coming together.  At this point Fugitoid and Leatherhead showed up, and got to see what the table was going to look like.  As we were heading out for the night, the Turtle van showed up.  Seeing that others were going to work into the night there.

Miki, Fugitoid, Leatherhead and myself had work to do as well.  We went back to my house and filled up one car with many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys, displays, posters, and more to set up on Friday.  While the movie props, original art, animation cels, scripts and more were placed in my living room to be packed into my car in the morning.  After hours of sorting through and packing, we called it a night.

Friday morning we got to the convention center and started to work at setting up.  When the display cases arrived they were big and just what we needed.  We got them set up with the tables around them.  Cleaned both display cases up before lining the bottoms with black plastic and starting to set them up.  One held my statues collection, while the other had movie props from both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and 3.  Once the displays were done, the booth fell all in order.  This is my third time displaying this collection for the public at a convention, and this by far has been the best display we have ever been able to set up.

People started to come to see the booth before the convention even opened.  With artists, dealers, and guests starting to walk around.  Friends faces were appearing out of the blue.  Artist alley was right next to us, with cool stickers, prints and more.  The artist that stood out the most to me this day was a man with balloons.  He was making a full body Michelangelo costume out of balloons!  This was a sight to see for anyone who came by.  We let him borrow one of the TMNT toys from our booth for reference. 

Once the doors open, people started to pour in.  Wearing TMNT shirts, hats, jackets and costumes.  Seeing all the homemade costumes made me even more excited for the day.  Our table got busy right away, with people coming up and asking questions.  We were not selling anything at the table, which was a surprise to most of the folks who came by.  Cowabunga Corner was only there to display and inform.  If people had questions I would do my best to answer them.  There was a lot of questions through the day, a lot of happy faces, and even people who watched Cowabunga Corner.

More friends came to help with the Cowabunga Corner booth.  Metalhead, Eclipse and Iruka from TMNT-L all showed up.  Each them are good friends whom I know and trust around the collection.  It was good to catch up with these friends who I’ve not had the chance to see in months.  They came and went from the booth, helping the rest of the crew take breaks.  Also around this time my folks showed up to take part in the evening. 

Stepping away from the booth became impossible.  As people would always come by.  I squeezed out a few times, once to say hi to Kevin and Courtney Eastman when they arrived.  I also managed to say hi to Ernie Reyes Jr.   And got excited when I met Greg Berg, one of the voices of Donatello for the original cartoon series.  A guest I was disappointed not to see arrive was Leif Tilden, the actor who wore the Donatello costume for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1 and 2. 

While things were great for the most part, there was one thing that did not work well for me.  Their two panel rooms did not have mics or speakers.  I was suppose to host a panel called ‘Being Donatello” with Ernie Reyes Jr, Greg Berg, and Leif Tilden.  Even though Leif was not there, Ernie, Greg and I could of done the panel.  Though not only would we have had to raise our voices, over the surrounding sounds of building, there was a DJ with music that made being heard even harder.  With these factors against us, I called off the panel.  Not sure how we could do any panels at all.

I heard over a mic that they were going to do my other panel at the stage, where the DJ was.  So we would have the mic and speakers.  So I made sure to get to the stage in time for the event.  With guests Greg Berg, Kevin Eastman, and Ernie Reyes Jr we got the panel started.  From time to time, Adam would come in and make announcements about the event.  This was a different type of panel for me, though we all had fun and everyone had a chance to talk.  I made sure to do a question and answer through the panel, to encourage the crowd to take part.  The panel ended as Richard from Partners in Kryme got there and everyone started to get ready to try and break the World Record.

While fun, with great people and guests, it was clear looking over the crowd that we were not as crowded as the 2012 attempt held at Mall of America.  Though in spirit of the event, I raced off and put on my old Turtle costume.  Which should remain retired as I could hear the foam crumbling between the fabric, see the tears through the costume, and feel where the glue was no longer attached to foam.  I came back and danced around with the crowd while waiting for the attempt to start.  I could barely see Richard as he sang TURTLE Power through the folded screen in the face of my costume, just listening to the song pumped me up to keep moving and enjoy the moment.

I overhead when the count came to Adam, and watched as he went up and sat on the stage waiting for the show to be over.  They were not near the number they needed, as we really could have used another 500 fans in the crowd.  He informed us all as soon as Richard was done.  With hopes to try again the next day.  Adam put his heart into trying to break this record, as I could see the disappointment and stress upon him, I also saw how many people there had a blast just taking part in the day.  So many new friendships were formed, dreams of meeting heroes met, and even finding those cool items people were looking for at the dealers booths.  This was not a failure, it was a memory of fans coming together and having a great time.

Soon after I went back to the Cowabunga Corner booth, where more fans were already there to talk with us.  I removed part of the costume, having conversations with each of the people who made their way to the table before we had to close down for the day.  I got dressed and decided to leave my costume there for the attempt on Saturday. 

Once done we went back to the hotel with Leatherhead, Metalhead and Fugitoid.  Only to find ourselves hanging out with Kevin, Courtney, Richard, Ernie, Jason and more.  We got to catch up with our friends while sitting around in the lobby.  This was nice, since at the convention we were not able to just get together and talk.  Really making for a nice closure for Friday night.

Saturday morning I showed up to convention with even more TMNT stuff to place on display at the table.  Including some of my Dark Horse miniatures which was put in the display case with the statues.  Right away people started to say hi as we were setting up.  And the doors opened. 

The difference between Saturday from Friday, is that there was a Tournament also going on attached to the convention.  We had a lot of new faces from Friday, as that side got really busy and most everyone who went to the  Tournament came for a walk through.  We got to see a lot of people with awards from forums and sparring.  A fun day that brought back a lot of memories for me.  As the day went on, I felt my voice slipping though.  Something that happens to me at almost any convention, even if I’m not talking a lot. 

I started to learn that a lot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles guests were not going to be back on Sunday. I asked Kevin if he could sign a stack of TMNT Comics to be given away through Cowabunga Corner, he agreed.  Signing the same stack that Tom Waltz signed for us last summer.  I got to talk both Ernie and Richard some more.  It’s always good to see them.  One funny moment of the day had Ernie laying down in the back of the Turtle van, all you could see was his shoes.  Jason picked on him, just mention his name and Ernie jumped to his feet as the van door swung open.  It got us all to laugh, within moments Ernie was back inside the van.

I made sure to ask everyone to stick around for the second attempt to break the World Record.  We promoted it all day long.  As the table stayed busy, we made new friends and met more fans.  Young and old were stopping at the booth.  This day we did a lot of TMNT Giveaways.  Answer a Turtle trivia right and get a free comic or coloring book.  I would ask trivia till people got the question right, and would try to do the questions for something they have shown interest in.  Some people got it on the first try.

To my surprise as the evening came we went from busy to closed.  I never heard anything about the attempt happening.  And with time flying from how busy the booth stayed, we were shocked when people came up asking if everyone at our booth was crew members.  Having those who were not, head out for the night.  This is when I remembered  a dinner to attend.  So we closed up the booth and headed out to the dinner.

Most everyone who knows me, knows that I do not dress up formal.  Never been a fan of dresses, so the best anyone gets from me is my over jacket I use for Toy Fair and a new pair of shoes. So it was a bit of a surprise to me and my crew when we saw the fancy dinner was a formal dinner.  With my good jacket being a good two hour drive away - not at my house.  I had to go in just wearing what I had from the convention.  Adam had put this nice dinner on for the guests, his students and anyone who paid extra to attend.  With awards for some of the people who attended the dinner.  All the guests from Convention got awards, along with many of Adam’s students.  There was a total of five of these nice trophies at my table. We put them on a back table during dinner so there would be room for the food. 

Sunday when we got in the place was a bit more empty with many of the weekend guests gone and no Tournament.  Our booth was too big to be moved, so we stayed in the back corner as all of the artist and other tables got moved closer to the front.  I thought for sure that our day was going to be slow, though to my surprise we were busy all day.

A new friend helped us run the booth, as one of our crew members had to catch his flight before the convention ended that day, Metalhead.  Knowing that he was leaving, we wanted to do something for him and decided to hold a pizza party at our booth.  I took a leave from the booth while the pizza was being picked up to say hi to Greg Berg one more time.  I brought over my autographed t-shirt to be signed.  We talked a little bit, as one of my facebook friends came up.

Eric introduced himself, this was our first time meeting in person.  Though I knew Eric was coming for Sunday only so I got one of the comic books signed by Ernie and Richard to sign since they were not going to be at the event for the day.  We went back to the Cowabunga Corner booth, his mother was there so I got to say hello to her.  The pizza was also there already.  I showed Eric around the booth and gave him the autographed comic that I had signed for him. 

Eric had questions written up to ask me, so I took time to do an interview for him.  He already has posted it on Facebook and youtube so I’m happy to share his interview here.  After he did an interview with me, I did an interview with him for a future Fan interview episode on Cowabunga Corner.  We did set up and do Fan interview questions daily at the booth.

During this time Metalhead had to catch his flight.  We wished him a safe trip and look forward to seeing him at more events in the future.  I spent a little bit more time with Eric talking.  He got to have his picture taken with the Michaelangelo head from TMNT III.  Once it was time for Eric to go, I said goodbye and realized that things were getting close to closing down.  So we took time to say goodbye to our new and old friends.

D-Lux Entertainment Expo was a great event.  We had a lot of fun and made a ton of new friends.  Many got to see things that are normally tucked away safely.  Meeting people who can mostly found out west.  And learn stuff they never knew before, but found interesting.  It’s not often that Michigan has an event that can mean so much to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans, making this a weekend to be remembered for years to come.

A big Thanks to Adam and Dennis for all the work they did in putting D-Lux Entertainment Expo together!   And another huge Thanks to all the guests and fans that attended helping make this a fun and memorable event!

Did you go to D-Lux Expo?  Want to share your memories?  Please share all reviews, comments and questions below!

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