WSC Invades NY/NJ & Infects City With a Wave of Smiles
Forget Florida… whatever city the Walker Stalker Convention is currently hanging their banners in, is the happiest place on earth! For three days fans of The Walking Dead, The Vampire Diaries, Gotham, and more, arrived in droves to see their favorite actors, listen to panels, buy cool merchandise and have an overall great time.
Events like this are no small feat to make happen. When I went to my cover first Walker Stalker Con as Press back in 2014, I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of the convention that I traveled all the way to Atlanta for. With huge convention center with three floors of fangirl goodness to explore, I had been far too busy to even consider how it all came to be. It was one of the best weekends I had ever had, and I knew that I had to find a way to experience another one.
This year, knowing funds were tight, I applied to volunteer instead. I had such a wonderful experience in Atlanta, I wanted to give the same good time to the fans that had been prepping and saving for WSC NY/NJ in December of 2015. Once my application had been approved, I made the arrangements and waiting with baited breath for the weekend to arrive.
Following the Rules: Have Fun and Make Sure Others Have Fun!
I woke up around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning anxious, excited and curious about what the day would bring. By 7 a.m. I was sitting in orientation, in desperate need of coffee and chatting with my new friend Feliza about our mutual love for The Walking Dead and our ‘nervouscited’ anticipation for first day as a volunteer. We were briefed on some of the policies for Disabilities services, line control and the two very basic rules of the weekend: Have Fun and Make Sure Others Are Having Fun. The last one being a rule that all of us volunteers really took to heart.
After I found my place on the convention floor, the first attendees were herded through in numbers that would make Alexandria’s walker problem look like an intimate dinner party. I quickly realized that we were in for a long day ahead. But it didn’t take more than an hour for us to find our footing with the lines, and we were watching as each attendee left the table with a huge grin and starry-eyed expression.
Everywhere you looked, a bright blue shirt was assisting one of the attendees with questions, showing them where to go, helping them meet their favorite celebrity, or even just keeping them entertained while waiting in line. There was a very palpable vibe radiating throughout the Meadowlands Expo Center that helped to keep that generous, happy-go-lucky feeling going.
Highlights From the Volunteers:
By the end of the weekend, I don’t believe there was one blue shirt that didn’t have a story to tell, or a moment they wanted to share. For me, it was when I was able to help a family who had been having a hard time finding the right photo op location get to where they needed to go. When I got back to my room at the end of the first day, with my feet screaming and my knees whining, the only thought I had was, ‘I cannot wait to go back and do it again tomorrow.’
Do yourself a favor and read through these weekend highlights. It will make you want to get your own blue shirt and not only make some memories, but new friends that I guarantee you will have for a lifetime! Thanks for an amazing weekend #WSCFamily, see you again next year!
These are just a few of the amazing memories of the Volunteer Team at Walker Stalker Con NY/NJ
Nathan White: This one time a lady in “loud” clothing (bright neon colors) had a sign that read something along the lines of ‘Rooker I want a hug!’ and, it worked! He walked from his table out the exit lane & across over to her to give her a hug. Also, Norman slowed down when seeing a group of kids to give one a high five & notice the rest while he was being rushed off. Those were just a few of the ones I witnessed over the weekend.
Gene Grasso Jr.: This little girl, has a condition that causes her bones to be very brittle, and if she gets bumped into by someone, she could be seriously injured or die.
I had met them the day before, and just happened to see them again on the show floor as I was going to eat. I stopped and asked them how the show was going for them, and they said it was great, but due to the amount of people that were in the photo op area, they couldn’t risk bringing her down there for fear she would be hurt.
Her photo op was with Norman Reedus and I felt horrible knowing she was going to miss her chance to meet him, and asked if they knew Fear the Walking Dead. They said they did, and that they love it. Well, as volunteers for this show, we are told in orientation to treat the fans like celebrities and the celebrities like fans. We are also told not to bother the celebrities, however I felt I had to do something for her.
Having met Lincoln Castellanos the night before, I let them know that I was going to try and do something special for her, but that I was probably breaking every rule the show staff had. I made my way down to Lincoln, explained the situation and he was on board immediately.
I got him upstairs, and the family had a special photo op with him, and a one on one meet and greet. He hung out for about ten minutes, and they let me know it was the absolute highlight of the entire weekend. I want to add though, she did get down to see Norman and get her picture thanks to the awesome volunteers and staff of Walker Stalker!
Chris Kowalski: This is an example of why I love being a WSC volunteer. While working line control for Emily Kinney, I see a family just beyond the line area, and they have some little kids with them maybe 7-10 years old. They are looking at Emily in awe, like “they cannot believe it is her” look that little kids get. They are about to walk away, and I tell them to wait.
I walked over to Emily knowing that she had not been doing meet & greets, so I simply asked her if she could wave to the family. She said, “Have them come over and see me.” I asked her if she was sure, and she said “absolutely”. I told them to go ahead. They did, and Emily was so nice to them and gave the kids candy canes.
As they walked out, the mother turned to me and said “Thank you soooo much!” You could see the kids were so happy. That in turn, made me happy, because I made a family’s day. What a great feeling!
Sarah Fenton: We all sang happy birthday to Steven while the hospitality team gave him a really cool pizza birthday cake!
Robert Testa: My best memory is seeing a family that had touched my heart in Philly, again. I’ve been attached to them ever since! The fact that they come to see me and sincerely care, brings a tear to my eye every time I think about them. If it wasn’t for this con, I would’ve never met such a great family. I was able to get them a photo op for their daughter and she wouldn’t go to the photo op without me and another volunteer (Sumayyah Mz Unique Llr Krepps-Mines). Absolutely love this family!!!
Alma Brizio: Mine was when a little girl with down syndrome went to talk to Emily and was so happy and reassured when she saw Beth thinking she was actually dead. Emily kept telling her that it was all pretend and that she completely fine.
Virginia Rose: We were working the gaming area, next to the photo ops and therefore got a LOT of questions and complaints about the photo lines. One mother and daughter were asking us about the time for their Steven Yuen photo op and we realized they had missed it – it was at 11:30 and it was now after 1 p.m. The little girl started to cry, so we went over to Steven’s table, where he had a long line of attendees waiting, and we told him what happened. He said to bring the pair right over. He ended up giving them autographs and taking selfies with them. The mother was so happy for her daughter that she started crying happy tears. We also helped quite a few disabled people get to the front of the photo op line and gave them a place to sit and rest, as we had chairs in our area. It was truly an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again.
Kimberly Dombrowski: Lincoln kept getting photo ops with other celebrities so I’d hand them to him and talk with him each time. He insisted on taking pictures with me and giving me hugs. He was so nice.
Susan Calderone DeSena: I was only able to volunteer on Sunday but I was so impressed with the celebs and how they went above and beyond to make each person’s experience special. I specifically got to see Sonequa Martin-Green and IronE Singleton in action. Taking extra time with each person means something to them. Everyone walked away happy after meeting them.
Allie Punch: I worked with Kyla Kenedy and she noticed I was a big Norman Reedus fan. She took me herself to meet him and even got us in a photo op with him and Michael Rooker! Kyla and her mother were amazing and so much fun to work with. I hope the other volunteers and I made her last con as great as they made my first one! I already signed up to volunteer at two more! Seriously the best experience of my life.
Kerri Solitro: I worked covering breaks for Steven’s line on Sunday and a man came up to me and said he had diabetes. He really wanted to meet Steven but due to the length of his line he couldn’t wait in it for that long because of his diabetes. So, I put him at the back of the regular line and not the one that went all the way around the black curtain where they had about 100 people waiting in his line. He seemed really happy and said thank you. Steven was super nice he took pics with all the volunteers that helped him for the day and signed our shirts.
Julie Solitro Pallante: I worked Steven’s line yesterday. I was supposed to be relief team but they grabbed me because they really needed help. I was happy that I got to use my knowledge from volunteering so many times to help fans and other volunteers throughout the day. Many people thanked me for all my help and I felt I made a difference for attendees and my fellow volunteers. It was probably the most fun I have ever had at a convention because it was very rewarding.
Meghan Nicole: Amazing staff, amazing volunteers, kind guests, and cool attendees. One of my favorite personal moments is when this couple waited for 3 hours in the General Admission line to meet and take a photo with Steven Yeun. By the time they got to me in the front, BOTH their phones had died and they were devastated. I felt for them so I sent them ahead to pay for the photo with Steven and I used my phone to take their picture and sent it to them after I asked the women for her phone number. She was so happy she kissed me! It wasn’t anything too big but being able to make their day like that felt pretty good, and it was really nice to see. Despite the craziness and the longer wait times, it was really cool to see the exhausted attendees change their expressions and overall mood when it was time to meet their favorite Walking Dead actor.
Nay McFox: We had a teenage boy super fan of Ben McKenzie. He came to the line 6 or 7 times screaming “I love you Ben!” and we finally were able to get him to talk to him. The young man was so nervous. He spoke to Ben for a minute or so and walked away with I swear tears in his eyes and said “Thank you so much. He’s my hero. You don’t know how much this means to me.” That’s what it’s all about.
Feliza Monaliza: Some great moments I had: 1) having one attendee tell me that their family goes to a bunch of Cons for The Walking Dead, but that they love Walker Stalker Con because it’s much better organized. 2) Meeting one of the volunteers who came all the way from Australia and hearing how they don’t do any Cons just for The Walking Dead in or anywhere near Australia, so she and her friend made the effort to try and get a volunteer position with Walker Stalker Con. 3) I chipped in half the cost for an attendee to get an autograph from Sonequa Martin-Green because the attendee was a nurse and came on behalf of her patient, who’s a big fan of TWD and of Sasha in particular. She was so excited to be able to bring back a signed photo with a personal message from Sonequa to her patient, she was crying! Truly a wonderful feeling!
Rosa Michelle: A man was with a lady in a wheelchair and they were a family of about 5. He came to Steven’s line to ask how to see Steven. I asked him for their disability card but he didn’t know they needed one. So I explained to him how it works and that if they have the card it’ll be easier for them with the lines but I told him not to move and had another volunteer help me to escort them up to Steven first before he goes up to the disabilities booth. He was so happy and thanked me so much for the help and letting them see Steven instead of having them go upstairs then back down again. It’s just one of many stories that made their day & my day better.
My overall favorite moment was after the crazy busy weekend Steven Yeun had with his super long lines and staying after hours he took the time to take a photo with each of his line volunteers and signed our shirts. I thought it was super sweet of him.
Amanda Perez: I worked panels with an amazing team of people! We worked our butts off but it was great. Everyone got to enjoy their convention and I know we were able to make a few people feel super special. The Vampire Diaries panel was a little insane but everyone was cooperative and I like to think that all of the attendees had a good time!
Meghan Nicole: A group of 3 teenagers arrived to the front of Steven Yeun’s line with a TON of merch and items they purchased upstairs by the vendors because they were excited to be at such an amazing con. But they were super upset when they realized they miscalculated their money that they budgeted and between them only had 71 dollars left for a photo with the actor. I felt for them because I was once that age and didn’t have a penny to my name and would’ve probably done the same thing.
I pitched in a couple bucks so that they could get their picture and it was worth every penny to see how relieved and happy they were to get their chance with Steven. My two good deeds for the weekend happened because of all the positivity I felt with this group and with the walker stalker family. So much fun!
Robin Edinger: On Friday I got to the center early so I wanted some coffee. I walked to the hotel and sitting on the bench outside was this bearded guy talking to a girl and both had coffee. I asked if the hotel was still serving and he said no, you have to go to Starbucks. He pointed the way and I left. I got my coffee and went back to sit on the bench by the hotel and I saw he was still there, drinking his coffee and smoking a cigarette, still talking to the girl. So I sat down next to him to drink my coffee and we all started talking. I said btw, my name is Robin. He said his was Dave and the girl gave her name.
Thinking he was a volunteer, I asked him as he was leaving where he was going to be-he said “you’ll find me – I’ll be wearing a thong”. I laughed, thought he was funny and finished my coffee. I did not see him the rest of the day. The next day, I was behind the curtains at the Photo Op area and he is walking in with two volunteers. Then it struck me – he must be a celebrity! “Dave” was David Della Rocco!!! I was floored.
Later that day as I passed his booth he yelled out Hey Robin! I said hi and waved back. Then on Sunday I asked him if he would be around at 4 as I wanted his autograph, He said no, but took a picture, autographed it for me and gave me a hug! Love that man!!!
Casi Magz: I loved all of the girls (and guy!) who worked with me in merch! Michelle Olson was a great boss and everyone was so dedicated to helping each other out, especially when our systems went down at our busiest and we were stuck doing cash only transactions with a pen and paper. Also, after my photo op with Alexandra, my brother took it to go get signed by her for me since I wasn’t able to, and I got it back signed like this haha.
Samantha Velazquez: I worked Ben McKenzie’s booth as his tally girl and other than being the sweetest guy, the line control volunteers were amazing! This vendor’s little girl was so impressed that Ben actually voiced Batman in Batman: Year One. He was adorable and so shy to talk to him, but it was the cutest! He was so good with kids and so open and honest so many girls were so nervous. I heard one tell him his eyes were even more beautiful in person and he said I like my eyes too. He was just the nicest when people congratulated him and asked about his baby and his girlfriend.
I have say, I was so terrified that first day because I didn’t know what to expect, but he was the absolute sweetest down to earth guy and his manager Zach was the bomb as well. Best experience ever!
Sharon Alexander: We had just closed down Katelyn Nacon’s booth for lunch & I saw a young man and his family being escorted around with a Disabilities Team Volunteer. I quickly called the volunteer over and told Katelyn’s dad about this family. He let Katelyn know she had one very special meet & greet. The whole family came over & spent about 10 minutes with Katelyn. The volunteer gave me the big (mouthed) “thank you so much!” That alone made me feel like a hero.
Rebecca Vonderchek: I have several stories about volunteers (myself included) who used their own funds to make a fan’s day for a Selfie or an autograph. The reward is far greater than the cost. Also sent several people to disability services for a card and stickers. One man in a wheelchair actually tracked me down on his way out, hugged me and thanked me for making this his best day ever. I have had some of the most amazing experiences this weekend and have to say it was the best decision ever to give myself this 50th birthday gift! Thank you everyone!
Jenese Caraballo: Awesome time working with this sweetheart RJ Mitte. I was very excited with these two!!! #DIXONBROS
Jennifer Jasinski Leitke: Working Merch is always busy and always moving. But sometimes you get a visit!!!