Massive Detroit anime convention Youmacon is moving forward with 2020 event despite coronavirus

click to enlarge Massive Detroit anime convention Youmacon is moving forward with 2020 event despite coronavirus
Megan Matelonek

Updated Saturday, Aug. 15:

Youmacon has released a statement explaining its side of the situation. You can read it here.

Originally posted at 12:10 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 11:

Amid a pandemic, one of the largest cosplay conventions in the country is getting Spirited Away and proceeding with its 2020 plans.

Youmacon — Detroit's annual celebration of Japanese anime, cosplay, comics, pop culture, and video games — has been known to draw more than 20,000 people over the three-day event that hosts dozens of panels, workshops, and shopping opportunities, and interactive events like Live Action Mario Party, Clara Cow’s Cosplay Cup, late-night video- and tabletop-gaming rooms, dance parties, and a Maid Cafe.

For now, the convention is still slated to take place Oct. 29-Nov.1 at Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and TCF Center, so as long as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer does not issue additional COVID-19 restrictions and precautions.

“We are contractually required to meet certain longstanding obligations to our venues, partners, and other businesses that heavily depend on the convention running,” Youmacon spokesman Trevor Cuba told The Detroit Free Press.

Though representatives of Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and TCF Center say the venues intend to follow through with their contracts with Youmacon, both facilities say they will abide by whatever state-implemented public gathering limitations may be in effect come November. According to Whitmer's recent revision to the MI Safe Start Plan, indoor gatherings are limited to just 10 people.

Cuba told the Free Press that organizers are looking to enforce social distancing and strict room/area capacity limits instead of reducing the event's overall number of attendees. For those unable to attend, organizers are also plotting a virtual component.

On a July 16 post made by Youmacon's Facebook page, cosplayers had a lot of questions and concerns about whether holding an event of this size is responsible amid a global pandemic. Organizers say masks will be mandatory as will social distancing, though they're not quite sure what that will look like, including which type of tape can be used as social distancing markers.

“...Masking tape breaks up and is nearly impossible to remove from carpet, and duct tape leaves a nasty residue,” they wrote. “We're working to find the best medium that will be visible and not mess up the carpets.”

Attendees are also asking Youmacon to address issues pertaining to personal hygiene, which has been a growing concern among Youmacon staff and cosplayers for years. Many cosplayers complain of body odor and lack of bathing due to many people forgoing freshening up so as to attend the event's many back-to-back events and gaming.

“You can’t even get some people to wear deodorant, what makes us think continuing this would make us feel safe?” one user wrote.

Youmacon says they will be enforcing hygiene by turning people away who exhibit poor hygiene:

“Showering and deodorant will not be optional. If attendees cannot fulfill these basic functions, then for general welfare we will turn people away. In the best of times it's a level of discomfort for those around that isn't really acceptable. With our current climate, if someone can't keep themselves clean, we aren't going to trust them to do their part to keep others safe. If someone can afford to attend, they can afford to bathe and wear deodorant.”

Many people who posted on the thread are still planning on attending, even if that means the event will look, feel, and smell a bit different than years previous. But many others are also calling Youmacon to scrap its 2020 plans and focus on a bigger and better event next year. Some are demanding more detailed transparency on safety measures, like temperature checks, sanitation, and controlling group sizes in elevators, on the riverwalk, and People Mover:

“...Can you promise to have the manpower to enforce these policies throughout the entire venue? What about temperature checks for all of these con-goers and staffers? How will you differentiate between those checked and those who still need to be? How many sanitizing stations will be around each part of the venue for use by attendees and staff? How often will those be checked and filled? How often will staffers be cleaning every single high touch area that attendees will touch during the course of the weekend? What will be done to ensure the safety of the staff already working in the hotel?”

Another commenter called Youmacon's choice to move forward as being “grossly irresponsible” and noted that TCF Center was outfitted as a field hospital during the peak of Detroit's COVID-19 battle.

“You are going to be directly responsible for hosting the spread of illness and death and I really hope the paycheck makes up for it,” they wrote.

“Youma staff can't even manage a coherent badge pick-up line, what makes you trust they'll be able to enforce a bunch of ahegao-hoodie NEETS not wearing masks?” another user wrote.

Others say that should Youmacon hold a 2020 event, they may not come back next year on principal.

“why tf is this still happening?”

“'If y’all die...y’all die' - Youmacon,” someone posted.

Three-day event badges are currently available for $65 and platinum admission goes for $200 via the Youmacon website. Organizers recognize that there are many people who may opt-out of this year's celebration so should Youmacon get canceled, tickets purchased may be rolled over to 2021. Currently, there is not an active link for attendees to purchase hotel room accommodations.

A representative from Youmacon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The organizers put up a statement here.

You can read the Facebook post below.

Hello everyone, it's time for a quick update. We have heard back from the hotel and the room link for the Renaissance Center will be available next Wednesday. Please stay tuned, more updates are on the way.

Posted by Youmacon on Thursday, July 16, 2020

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