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Chibi Con 2K3 is a success

By Staff
Amy Montgomery Special to the Record
Japanese animation has swept across the nation and recently settled in Madison for the city's first Chibi Con 2K3 anime convention.
Anime is a term that refers to Japanese animation or cartoons. An anime convention, or con, is gathering of anime fans that meet to dress like their favorite anime characters, buy and sell anime comic books, trading cards, and other anime paraphernalia.
According to Chibi Con 2K3 organizer Lauren Cullen of Madison, the anime convention she organized and named was more successful than she had expected.
Cullen expected about 100 people to attend the event. As it turned out, some 300 anime fans attended her three-day convention held May 3-5.
Cullen, a 16-year-old Bob Jones High School student, can take almost all of the credit for making it happen, according to her mom Bonnie Auten.
Cullen said that she attended a couple of anime conventions, which lead her to think about organizing one for the Madison area. Cullen discussed her idea with her mother, who Cullen said gave her full support.
Cullen explained that market research was done by putting out feelers in the area to see what the reaction might be if an anime convention were to be held in Madison.
The reaction was positive.
So, a post office box was rented and Cullen said that she and her mom began the search for a place to hold the event. They chose the Madison Radisson Inn.
Cullen said they advertised by word of mouth, with fliers and on the Internet. Cullen found sponsors through anime websites that agreed to donate prizes to be given away at the convention.
Cullen contacted the directors of conventions that she had attended to question them about convention activities and anime convention personalities that should be invited to participate.
Johnny Otaku, who hosts an anime radio show, was recruited by Cullen, as was Stephanie Chateau, an Orlando, Fla. anime artist.
Otaku's radio program "Sushi Bar" airs Tuesday and Thursday mornings on WAWL Rock 91 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
In addition to card trading and anime paraphernalia browsing, dance contests were held and costume plays or cosplays, as an anime conventioneer would say, were acted out. Anime cartoon movies were shown continuously throughout the convention.
Cullen said that she has been a fan of anime for a couple of years. She said she first started watching the television cartoon "Sailor Moon" and an acquaintance of hers from school introduced her to other anime cartoons.
Cullen said that she was drawn to anime because the anime cartoons are not like cartoons as you normally think of them.
"Anime cartoons have drama and action and romance," Cullen said.
"When Lauren saw the sign outside, she cried because it was finally real. This con tripled her expectations," Auten said.
Steve Lin, one of the vendors that came to Cullen's convention, spoke highly of Cullen's production.
"I think Lauren has broken a record of being the youngest con director. She is the youngest that I know of, at least," Lin said.
Lin came to Madison from Falls Church, Va., where he is involved with Anime Pavilion. Lin said that he attends between 30 and 40 anime conventions each year.
Robert Mackie came to Madison from St Louis, Mo., where he is part owner of Mecha Punch, a Japanese import candy shop.
Mackie said that he was very surprised to find out that Cullen was only 16 and that he was amazed by how well the convention turned out.
Mackie, who is only 19 himself, said that he and business partner Mike Eberett will definitely plan on being back next year.
A father, who wished to remain anonymous, brought his daughter and her friends from Boaz to the convention. He commented that the con definitely has the potential of being something great. He felt like it would definitely be in Madison's interest to keep this event going.
The largest anime convention around, Amine Weekend Atlanta, was said to average some 4,500 anime fans each year.
Cullen said that she is already planning next year's convention.

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