Thanks to Mark Evanier, I'm going to add this link to a video on the 1st San Diego Comic Fest which was held last weekend. What you see in the video will give you a good feeling of what the convention was like and some of the folks who spent time there.
As I have said before, while my first 'convention' experience was a small one held in a high school in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego, about two months later I found myself at the El Cortez Hotel with hundreds of other fans for the 1975 SDCC. In some ways those two very different experiences match the difference between what the current SDCC is to what was held at the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center the past weekend.
The utter size and overwhelming experience of SDCC is hard to imagine for anyone who has not gone to one. I've been to dozens of cons around the country the past few decades but even the larger ones in NY, Philadelphia and Chicago could not match what you get when you enter the SDCC as it is now. The sounds, sights, cos-players, famous actors and all the media crammed into that building for four-days is just way too much for me now. I think my experience this year on Sunday was enough to prove that I am not able to deal with these events very well. I'm pretty sure that the one-day pass I already have for 2013 (Friday) will be even more tiring and may be the last time I go through the hassle and aggravation of even trying to get a ticket.
As Mark says in his post, Comic Fest was more about the feelings and nostalgia of those El Cortez days than a recreation of that era. While those early SDCC's were smaller they were still all about the future of comics, film and entertainment. Fans wanted to see the hot new talent, get the new titles and find out what the publishers were going to bring out in the coming year. If there were panels on the Golden Age (and a number of the folks who created those books were still active at the time), more were about the current crop of creators or those trying to break in.
The contemporary SDCC continues that, with those panels that do deal with the older stuff becoming a smaller part of the overall picture. While Comic Con has always been about more than comics, the modern event really is about the entertainment media beyond the four-color pages that fewer and fewer seem to care about.
For me Comic Fest was a chance to see some of the folks who made my early convention experiences so special. It was the opportunity to hear others talk about what those events meant to them and how special they were. While there was some sadness when people talked about those who were no longer with us, there were also a lot of laughs when those still here told stories of their lost friends.
Panels covered the anniversaries of BLADE RUNNER, ROBOCOP and STORM TROOPERS. Creators talked about working on the 'underground' comix that had to be bought in headshops, adult stores and small bookstores in college communities. People who had not seen each other in decades were reunited on stage or in the halls, some discovered things that had happened years before that they had never known about. While some friendships were renewed, some old animosities were also brought out into the open.
Bottom line is I'm really glad that I went. It was fun and I had some laughs, which is what you really want from any convention.