On TMP, there was a topic: "What was your favorite convention ever?" I obviously answered Lehicon IV, as I had previously documented here. That began a google search at work for new references to Lehicon in any form, and holy crap a new one appeared:
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the official site for the Garden State Games Faire 1997 (or GSGF II for those who prefer con numbering). I'm amazed this site is even up after 14 years, and it brings back memories, not necessarily all great ones.
First off, I'll start off with a mention of Wizard's Cove, a little dump of a store in Bangor, PA. Unlike others, I won't trash to place as a dive store full of derelicts... at least at the beginning. We all have dreams of running a store and Tony, the owner, was no different. And despite all his faults and poor decisions, he only made two serious disasterous decisions: he opened up a store in Bangor, PA, the pimple in the armpit of Pennsylvania, and he associated himself with a man I will only refer to as "Stinky Chris."
Before the fall of the "The Cove," we had a crazy idea to run our own con. A con that wouldn't focus on D&D and Magic, but intead focus on all the third-tier games we loved, with a healthy dose of Battletech and other games. We assembled our funds, rented the Blue Valley Farm Show building and began promoting CoveCon. We met some stiff resistance from stores who refused to post our fliers, stating they didn't want to promote a competitor in the stores. Fair enough, but who from Allentown would normally travel an hour to Bangor to regularly buy gaming, when Cap's, Comic Masters, Comic Vault, heck even Dreamscape had vastly superior selection and turnaround time for orders. Again, I digress...
The full story of the con day I'll leave to another post, but needless to say my friend Andy Dawson had approached me about a dealer who wanted to come up last second. I said sure and I met Ron Meischker.
Ron owned the Game Trader in Hightstown, New Jersey. He was a shrewd businessman, a cheap businessman, and most people could tolerate his presence for only short periods of time, but by God, did he have store stock that made even Crazy Egor's look twice. Plus the games auctions he ran at the cons "everything starting at a buck!" were legendary.
CoveCon broke even, Andy and his cohort ran a Lehigh Valley Games Faire which did quite well, and then Andy and Ron truly joined forces to form the Garden State Games Faire '96 in Princeton.
Short-short story: the con was a blast and I ran an epic Illuminati University LARP that deserves its own post.
After all this, what does this have to do with GSGF II? Well, for starters, up until google discovered the site this afternoon, I had completely forgotten it had even existed!
It should have been a memorable con, just look at the events. Raven's Bluff. Multiple 40k and Magic tournaments. Role-playing games that would make me drool if they were in a con listing today, AD&D Land of the Exotic and Erotic notwithstanding. There were multiple Galactic Empires tournaments fer chrissakes, and people who wanted to come to just play Galactic Empires!
The Lehigh Valley had been tapped for GMs and they were all good: Kris Kunkel, Scott Lesher, Bob Bednar, Joe Ward, Mike Griffith, Ed Guerrero, Jen Bullwinkel, Jack Mishko, Phil Carson, Eric Pierson, Todd Furler, Ed Karl for Battletech, Larry Lewis running Magic. If I only had those people available to run events at a con, I would put even more of my own money into it, because I could guarantee that it would rock. Even I was scheduled to run Illuminati: New World Order tourneys and a sequel to my epic GURPS: IOU game that had the Village People in it.
It had all the internal factors for a fantastic con.
The external forces made it implode.
My memories after 14 years of forgetfulness are sketchy, but the first two issues: it was a con on Thanksgiving weekend and I believe it snowed. Then there were the no-shows. I hadn't shown up because 1997 sucked. I had lost the girl, the car, the apartment, and the dog too if we had had one, and was adrift in a sea of suck until the Spring semester at ESU started. I had no funds to get down there, no arrangements for lodging, and I failed to professionally bail out. And apparently I wasn't the only one. I remember this feeling of nastiness from the con staff and other gamers from those who actually made the trip. Anyone with better memories, please fill me in. But I do believe that that officially killed any future GSGFs.
That, and Ron going to jail for mail fraud, my recollections of that are even fuzzier (probably a lot like his books).