☆ CICAF 2017 - Part 2: Awards & Shopping ☆
Day Two of CICAF was mostly a Free Day at the convention. We woke up around 6:30 AM with no alarm. A solid 10 hours of sleep was exactly what we needed. Just like the day before, we got dressed and went down to get breakfast with Indra. Breakfast was one of my favorite parts of the day, because it was a nice chance to just sit and chat with Indra. For day two we had planned to wear our new Card Captor Sakura costumes! Once we got to the venue we had a little free time in the morning, but we were scheduled to meet in our back room around noon. We’d have the Awards Ceremony, and then the rest of the day we would be free to wander. Rather than wandering the much-more-crowded exhibit halls in our costumes, we decided to just get a few photos in a back corner near the performance building, and hang out before Awards. It was really hot that day, and I was wearing so many layers in Syaoran, the idea of walking around a lot wasn’t very appealing.
Awards for this contest are very interesting, and different from any competition I’ve been in before. Something worth noting is that, in general, the costumes from all of the teams weren’t particularly elaborate, with the exception of The Netherlands, Hungary, and France. CICAF’s judges have a strong preference to performance quality over costume complexity, which was really refreshing! Just like in the early days of WCS, there was no up-close costume evaluation at this competition; all they cared about was whether or not it looked good from stage. Because of how short the show was, we didn’t really get to see the other team’s performances, so we couldn’t even begin to speculate who we thought would be the front-runners. There’s almost ZERO pomp and pageantry over the whole thing. I know in Europe at least, it’s quite common to announce winners much later than the end of the show, so having to wait until the next day to see who came out on top wasn’t a totally foreign concept to us, but it’s definitely unusual by USA standards. Even in Europe, there is usually a surprise to the winners during an on-stage announcement, but for CICAF, finding out who won was actually very low key. We were standing in our back area with all our sets and tables and stuff, and across the room we noticed a very emotional reaction happening with the girls from Spain. They weren’t speaking English, but there were a lot of tears and freaking out, and phone calls happening, which lead us to determine that they had placed 1st. There was no grand announcement, no surprise on stage in front of an audience, just a quiet reveal to the specific team backstage. We knew they had done Spirited Away and we were really happy for them (and we obviously both adore Spirited Away, so that made us really happy too.), but we still didn’t know where everyone else ranked. Since we had a little bit of time before actual award presenting, we went out to watch some of the Chinese performances.
We only ended up watching one group. In China, performances are VERY long, ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. I had seen a few Chinese performances online, but it was really great to get to see one in person, and also get to wander back stage and see how their sets are built. It was really inspiring! Some of their set pieces though are absolutely INSANE, built on site, and then completely ditched at the venue. After watching the Chinese group performance, we headed back to the waiting room to re-group. Somewhere in all of this, Indra and I got split up from Rynn, I think she went to the bathroom or something. As it was getting close to the presentation time, Rynn still hadn’t come back, so I went to the door to see if I could find her anywhere, and then she was LITERALLY bouncing toward me. Apparently she’d been running around trying to find me, because someone had posted Top 3 Rankings for the contest in our WeChat group, and we came in Second! That was like a huge spike of adrenaline, and we ran over to tell Indra, who also hadn’t heard the news. I have to say, we were WAY more excited by this than either of us had expected to be. We go into large competitions like this taking everything with a grain of salt, but when it hits you, the hype is definitely real. We got pictures with Team Spain and Denmark (who came in third).
Awards themselves were a little odd, as none of us spoke Chinese and didn’t really know what we were doing. They had us select one person per team to go up on stage as representative, and each of us were presented with a participation plaque. They didn’t even call Spain forward as the top winners. I wish we could have understood what they were saying. After that, we all shuffled off stage, laughed a little bit, then went into our back room again. Rynn and I decided we wanted to change into normal clothes to break down our sets, and then go shopping. Since I didn’t want to pay $100 to bring home our set pieces again (for that price, I could just buy new materials), we got the OK to just dump the pieces in the garbage cans at the venue. We did break down and keep our ladders though, for sentimental reasons. After we got changed, it was off to the B Hall for some serious shopping! Something I didn’t really get into on the Day One report, is how MASSIVE these halls were. For the general attendee, the event just consisted of 2 halls: Hall A, which was all Industry-Run displays and promotion for new products, and was about 2-3 floors. Then, there was Hall B, which was roughly 4 floors, with the ground floor being some more industry promotional booths, and then the top 3 floors were ALL shopping, and some art exhibits. We had already seen a fair amount of the second floor, so we went all the way up to the top floor and decided to work our way down. We started out wandering with the team and organizer from Spain, but wound up getting separated pretty quickly. I normally don’t shop a lot at conventions, but I have to say if you ever get a chance to go to CICAF -- PREPARE TO SHOP. The prices are UNREAL, and yes there’s quite a bit of cheap knockoff merch, but there’s tons of NICE cheap knock offs, and legit stuff too. I was tuned in pretty much 100% looking for Digimon Merchandise, and I had this crazy way of like, just HONING IN on it like I had built in radar or something. I’d just walk RIGHT to the one figure or item they had that was Digimon. They had some pieces that were Japanese exclusives, but I just didn’t have enough money for them. But! At the very last booth we stopped at, I basically struck gold. They had several of the Digimon figures I’d been eyeballing, and they happened to ALSO have the Daisuke that I 100% had planned on ordering online when I got home. I snagged him for about $36 USD (360 Yuan). AWESOME Deal, since I’ve never seen him for less than $50 (and significantly more than that since this trip), and that’s on the cheap end of things. I was STOKED, I couldn’t stop jumping and squealing. Rynn laughed at me, but I totally deserved it. We also found some cheap keychains, and other little bits and bobbles. And of course, Rynn found tons of Yuri on Ice stuff. It was awesome!
We were scheduled to meet back with everyone else at around 4:30, so we packed up our stuff and went to the bus. When we got back to the hotel we washed up a bit, then it was off to dinner with the rest of the teams. That night they took us out for Hot Pot, which I had never had before, and it was AWESOME. We ended up sitting with Marlies and Lidy from the Netherlands, which was great fun, and lots of bonding happened. Rynn also severely over-estimated her ability to make/eat a certain amount of noodles, which was hilarious. Because of the set-up of the restaurant we were sort of broken up into smaller groups, so we didn’t really get to socialize a whole lot but it was still fun. After dinner, we walked back to the Hotel, and Rynn and I went to hang out with the girls from Spain, France, and Switzerland plus Morten (an old acquaintance from Denmark who we met in 2010 WCS!) and Niels (the Dutch organizer), in Morten’s hotel room. It only lasted for about an hour and a half since we were all pretty tired, but there were snacks, and people passed around Rynn’s giant flower hat for funny pictures. We all made sure to get a good night’s sleep, because the next morning was Site Seeing Day! Day Two, overall, was a total blast. As I mentioned before, I pretty much NEVER shop at conventions, but that was the main draw at CICAF, and I am surprised at how much I enjoyed it there. It probably helped that there were SO many vendors, and not all of it was the same stuff I’m used to seeing at American Cons. Also, with American cons it never feels like you’re getting a particularly good deal and can often find the stuff online for cheaper. At CICAF, I definitely felt like I was usually getting a Fair or AWESOME price. I kinda wish I could go back, just for the shopping opportunities.
Coming in Second Place was about the best thing we could ever have hoped for -- we went into this competition uncertain that a Chinese audience/judging panel would like what we did, and after the unexpected on-stage critiques at the end of our performance, we worried that no one had liked our performance, and it was amazing to find the exact opposite. Ranking second was also great because it meant we ranked high, but we also didn’t have the extra burden of performing again for Closing Ceremonies on Monday. Best of both worlds, for us. :)
Next Time: Day Three - Site Seeing in Hangzhou!