Convention Logbook of the Real Shaggy|
FACTS 2003 - Belgium
by Joris De Smet
Oct. 11, 2003
Saturday 11 October, a miracle happened in my Oudegem homestead. The radio clock rang and I actually managed to get out of bed immediately! On a Saturday! I never thought I could do that! But of course, there was a good reason to it; Ghent, the infamous Belgian student city, hosted the FACTS convention starting that day. After the necessary morning rituals, my wife and I set off to "DA place".
When we arrived, 10.00 AM clock, the time the doors were supposed to open, a long, loooong, looooooong line of visitors was already waiting outside the ICC building. Considering the fact that a number of the people already lining up were bigger than me and that it consequently would be unwise to try and pass them, I just queued up and gave my buddy Arne aka Iradonian a call to tell him that I arrived. A split second later he and Steven aka Rancisis came rushing out, pinned a BeJedi.com badge on my chest and guided us past security and the people waiting in line to enter free of charge. I felt that it was going to be a great day...
When I came in I was overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of the convention. I had attended only one other convention in Belgium before, but it didn't even start to compare with this one. Close to one hundred toy retailers had set up shop inside three large halls and were ready to feed the toy-hungry multitudes with whatever toy they may have liked. Not just the latest Star Wars toys as you could of course expect, but I also saw the latest of the Muppets, Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings, Spawn and Transformers lines to name just a few. For a Belgian toy collector seeing so many toys was
a rare but yet extremely welcome view.
Contrarily to what I expected, prices were not so bad either. Some stuff just cost "the price", but there were numerous good deals to be made. Only some Dutch retailers still overcharged their goodies, thinking that they had arrived in a primitive place where people couldn't tell repro from real. I guess they didn't sell a lot ... That one fellow didn't manage to sell me a boxed vintage one-person Sandskimmer for 70€ anyway, even if I wanted it badly...Booh Dutch retailer!
But of course we did do some buys. I couldn't resist buying the Don Post Boba Fett helmet as soon as I saw it; I wanted that bugger in my collection already for so long and the price was just right this time ... My fellow mates went into an incredible buying frenzy. After a matter of minutes, they looked like Santa Claus' assistants, carrying large bags of toys on their backs...
To my amazement and I have to admit, also a bit embarrassment, I learned that Belgium hosts part of the well-known 501st Legion. Numerous members of the 501st were present and wandered about in their custom-made suits. I couldn't help taking a picture of a suit that I thought was really well-done ... join me in admiring an incredible Zuckuss look-alike!
They also set up a number of scale models from the Star Wars movies that were most impressive; the towering AT-AT, the Snowspeeder and X-wing all added to giving the convention a very distinct Star Wars feel. I'm just wondering where the heck the fan who built that AT-AT is putting it when it's not being shown at a Convention. A garage is pretty much out of the question...
The Convention organisation also managed to get a number of guests to this show. The Star Wars Stars would be the most numerous: Dave Prowse (Darth Vader), Kenny Baker (R2-D2, Paploo), Femi Taylor (Oola) and Mike Carter (Bib Fortuna) attended the Convention. Unfortunately for them the prices they charged were sky-high (20€ for an autographed picture, 15€ to sign an item you brought yourself) and as a result the expected long lines of fans pushing an pulling to get to the table stayed away. Only the occasional fan would cough up the cash...
Quite surprisingly, John Rhys-Davies, who played the role of the foul-mouthed Dwarf Gimli in the Lord of the Rings, attracted a long line of fans willing to pay the handsome price of 25€ for an autographed item. Maybe everybody was just saving the money for his autograph?
Also the Star Trek fans could score an autograph. A particularly charming Mark Allen Sheperd who played the role of Morn in the Star Trek universe was ready to flash his smile to anybody looking his way. A very smooth-talking guy, that Mark...too bad for him I'm not a Trekkie.
I have to add a profound apology to all attending guest stars here too. We, Belgian fans, are really sorry that you had to suffer in the hands of that balding incompetent fatso that local television channel Kanaal 2 unleashed for the occasion. It may mend a couple of mental wounds knowing that we kidnapped him after the Convention, shaved all his hair and tied him up naked in front of a hungry calf. It was a painful but well-deserved experience for the dude.
The day ended for me about 1 hour before closing time and we hiked the train back home. It had been quite the event and we were exhausted from all the running we did. We'll certainly do it again next year.
But now, read on for the report of my good friend Arne aka Iradonian!
FACTS 2003 ... The Iradonian file
Not so long ago, in a city about an hour and a half away...
After receiving an e-mail telling me that I was on the TK-421 (the Belgian fan club) guest-list, the decision was made very quickly: Saturday October 11th 2003 I would be in Ghent from 9 am! Free entry while everything was still being set up? Who would hesitate?
When I arrived there, the atmosphere was already there...as far as I could see movie-merchandise filled the tables. Action figures, statues, comics, DVDs and some rare items you only come about once a year. At FACTS, to be precise.
As soon as the doors opened, the impressive AT-AT and (almost) full-scale Snowspeeder set the mood immediately. Smoke and lighting effects underlined with John Williams' immortal score completed a great introduction for the convention.
After helping out the guys at the TK-stand, I strolled around the convention with my friends. I must have left a drool-trail. So much fine merchandise! To see the Master Replica's displayed in real life is quite a sight, certainly the autographed ones! FACTS is one of those conventions where you are glad you have only so much money in your wallet; you lose it in no time! Without noticing it too!
I made a quick chat with some of the actors who were on signing-duty during the convention. Michael Carter (Jabba's Palace Bib Fortuna) came across as a rather quiet person, but Femi Taylor (Twilek dancing beauty Oola) was very open and Syrse (BeJedi.com crew member Yveline) and I had a nice long conversation with her. In the end, she didn't even charge Syrse for the autograph she got!
After a few hours of wandering through the three halls and after taking a picture of a friend posing next to John Rhys Davies, we decided to return home.
I packed the stuff I had bought (mostly comics and novels) and waved goodbye to my good friends from the BeJedi.com crew and the TK-421 fan club.
Visiting FACTS has become a yearly habit of mine and will remain so in the near future.
Hopefully I will keep meeting more and more of my fellow Star Wars fans there...