I was going to wait until I had fully recovered from Daisho Con before writing my review, but I’ve decided I can’t waste any more time before I preach the glory of this convention. If you’re a 21+ American con-goer who enjoys a good party, do yourself a favor and block off November 16th-18th, 2018 on your calendar, because you’re gonna want to go to Daisho after you read this article.
Daisho Con is held every November at the Wisconsin Dells (aka the “waterpark capitol of the world”) Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center, which boasts an enormous indoor water park and theme park in addition to the usual anime convention fare. Daisho’s attendance has spiked from about 1,500 in 2011 to 4,500 in 2015 as its amenities have become known to the Midwest con scene. The lax public alcohol policy, older attendee demographic, and rowdy villa parties have given Daisho a notable reputation as a “party con,” attracting thousands of out-of-towners to the Wisconsin Dells during its quietest months.
What makes Daisho Con fantastic is the overwhelming variety of activities available at the Kalahari. Once one tires from the convention itself, con-goers can swap their cosplays for swimsuits to enjoy the indoor waterpark, heated to a comfortable temperature and equipped with rows of lockers, changing rooms, and showers. Weekend-long waterpark passes are included if one stays at the Kalahari hotel and includes access to a wave pool, lazy river, numerous water slides of variable thrill (I rode one called the “Toilet Bowl” and screamed the whole way down), an outdoor heated pool with a swim up bar, and many other features I didn’t even have time to explore. With additional purchase, attendees can also choose to enjoy the indoor theme park with a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, mini golf, go-carts, and laser tag. An arcade and movie theatre (great for those who couldn’t wait to see Justice League) were also available on site. The best part? I waited in maybe one short line over the course of the entire weekend for these attractions. Despite Daisho’s recent spike in popularity, it’s still not crowded enough to make things unpleasant…. yet.
If you couldn’t tell from the article so far, I loved this convention, but I could definitely see how Daisho isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The actual convention part of the Daisho experience is a low priority for most attendees, which may become irritating to those more interested in the convention itself. Although the Artists’ Alley was surprisingly well-curated, the convention spaces seemed narrow and cramped, especially the Dealers’ Room, where the merchandise selection was particularly underwhelming. In the evenings, the convention center emptied like a ghost town as the resort areas became populated by a rowdier crowd, many people with drinks in hand—the environment may not be suitable for non-partiers or younger attendees.
Waterpark conventions are not a new concept. ColossalCon, Daisho’s “sister con” at the Kalahari waterpark in Sandusky, OH, has capped its own growth through exorbitant crowds, scarce parking, and a notorious hotel booking bloodbath. ColossalCon East recently had its inaugural year at the Great Wolf Lodge in Pennsylvania to decent success, and now Daisho Con offers another good option for those in the Midwest. Unfortunately, I’ve already heard rumors of some behavior issues among con attendees this year, including a villa destroyed during a party to the point where its residents had to find other accommodations. I’m both excited and nervous to see how Daisho grows, and can only hope that it will be in a positive and productive direction. I know that I, for one, will be making every effort to return next year.
Cosplayer photos courtesy of Evan Miller.