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For Hallmark and the Season They So Vigorously Promote: “Christmas Con”

Do you love Hallmark? 

Do you love Christmas movies? 

Than boy do I have an event for you! It is called Christmas Con.

During the first week of October I was scrolling through Instagram in the middle of the day, as one does, and I stumbled upon an ad on People Magazine’s site. It was describing the first ever Christmas Con. I immediately flagged all the info as I knew my mother would love to go. 

My mother, bless her heart, is a die hard fan of the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies. After all, she is a part of their target audience. I, on the other hand, cannot stand those movies. They are so cloaked in fantasy and you can predict the romantic, unrealistic ending after the first five minutes. However, I know I am in the minority of this opinion. Many, many people find these stories heart warming and a nice distraction from real life. While, I prefer to watch Criminal Minds to unwind. 

This was to be the first ever Christmas Con and I knew tickets were going to go fast. I snagged two and was able to surprise my mother with an early Christmas present. 

Tickets were relatively cheap and I found that to be refreshing. There were going to be LOTS of stars there and I knew we were in for a treat. The one thing I knew ahead of time that bothered me was that Christmas Con was charging forty dollars a piece for selfies and thirty dollars for autographs, which were both available for purchase ahead of time. I found that odd and to be honest quite ballsy. Never-the-less I figured I would wing the photos I needed. 

The event was held in a convention center in Edison, New Jersey, which was luckily only a forty minute drive for me. 

Once I arrived and walked in, some of the tinsel had lost its luster. 

For starters (mistake number one) was that the folks behind Christmas Con (aka “That’s4Entertainment”- it was not a Hallmark event they were just a sponsor) did not rent out the entire convention center. That was too bad because it made the space they did have feel like a congested parking lot. 

Mistake two: Hiring staff that was either poorly trained or ignorant, who thought it was appropriate to scream at those of us trying to take pictures of the celebrities who were three feet in front of us. Just because we weren’t paying for selfies, they thought we had no right to take any photographs as all. Somehow it didn’t dawn on them that we were paying customers who purchased tickets to their event and that we were also in a public space. 

Mistake three: Relates back to mistake number one. Because there was a lack of space and poor planning, every time there was a panel discussion with the stars (ie. Lacy Chabert and Jonathan Bennett) you had to wait on a tremendously long line and they pray for a seat. But once that talk was over you had to get up and start the process over. 

Mistake four: Picking a venue where there was only one bathroom for over four thousand people and no where to sit besides the sacred panel section.

Mistake five: Selling only subpar souvenirs for purchase and hosting an even poorer selection of holiday related vendors. 

Mistake six: Aside from the Hallmark photo centers, there were no Christmas decorations to be found. For an event that celebrates Christmas and those who want to celebrate it year round, I would have thought they could have done a much better job. I could have done a much better job. 

I found myself constantly referring to the only other “Con” I have ever been to: IDCon. As a true crime fan, this was a glorious day for me, but that was largely due to how it was run. For seventy-five dollars (which went to the Silver Shield Foundation) you got to meet and take selfies with all of your favorite stars from ID Discovery. There were plenty of places to sit, more than one bathroom, and even free lunch. It was basically the anti-Christmas Con, though this was year four of this event so perhaps they had already worked out their kinks. 

Despite these criticisms, my mother and I managed to have a magical day largely due to two significant things that happened. 

The first occurred after the first panel discussion, which featured former “All My Children” stars Melissa Claire Egan and Cameron Mathison. While my mother loves them both, getting to be in the same room with “Ryan Lavery” nearly caused her to faint. 

Though that was exciting, it wasn’t enough. She managed the courage to stand and ask a question. Then we got to meet them both!! 

Thanks to a prior connection, we were able to chat them up and take a few photos - sans paying or waiting in line. I have to say Cameron is the nicest man on the planet!! And not only to us.  

A man I met there told me that he was trying to get a picture of Cameron from afar and an employee started screaming at him. But when Cameron saw that he corrected the employee and then stood and posed for that man’s photo. This story made us love Cameron even more. 

With my mother’s dream meeting achieved, it was my turn.

As we walked around we found ourselves right in front of Melissa Joan Hart’s booth. What you need to know before I go any further is that when I was about ten years old, I missed out on my chance to meet her and get her autograph. That was way back before I meet celebrities for a living. Back then I was embarrassed but ALWAYS regretted that missed opportunity. 

A few years ago I read Melissa’s autobiography and wrote a blog telling that story in detail. To my complete shock, Melissa answered me on social media and told me to send her my copy and she would sign it for me!! While it took over a year to get it back, I did. It remains one of my most prized possessions. 

Now I was standing five feet from her and thanks to my mother’s urging, I decided to splurge and pay to meet her once and for all. There were only a handful of people on line and I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity I would regret it more than the last. 

When it came to be my turn, it took every fiber of my being not to burst into tears. I explained, briefly, about my blog and she seemed to remember me. Whether she actually did or was just being nice, I have no idea. But it didn’t matter. These few minutes and the photo I now have to go along with my personally signed book, is ironically something that I cannot put a price on. Long story short: I did end up crying and might still be right now.

With these intense moments of joy, my mother and I were on a high. We stayed for a bit longer taking photo ops and chatting with some really nice people we met there. Then we decided to pack it in. For us, no matter the problems we encountered, this day was tremendously worth it. 

While the Hallmark Channel might have been the first to create the Christmas movie phenomenon, there certainly are no longer alone. This year Lifetime premiered “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime”, while Oprah’s channel now has “OWN for Christmas”. 

If you missed out on the first annual Christmas Con event, do not fret. There already seem to be plans underway for next year’s Christmas Con to be held in both New Jersey and Los Angeles.

But if you cannot wait that long to engage with your favorite Hallmarks movies and television shows, Hallmark is releasing its very own Monopoly game at the end of this month! 

You can take a ride on the “When Calls The Heart” railroad or “Chesapeake Shores” ferry. Instead of “Chance” and “Community Chest” cards there will be “Home” and “Family” cards. In this version you don’t buy hotels or houses but rather cottages and inns.

Check out Hallmark’s website to find this gift for the Hallmark fan in your life.

For those interested in next year’s Christmas Con, I recommend you follow “That’s4Entertainment” on their social media and check out the first link below.

As for me, I will be more than happy staying home watching reruns of “Clarissa Explains It All” and every so often glancing at the picture of me and my childhood idol.

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