We had the good fortune of connecting with Dee Astell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dee, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
When organizing an event like a convention, you have to sign a contract with your chosen venue. One of the biggest things I noticed during this year when so many conventions cancelled due to Covid concerns, was that the general public seemed unaware that you couldn’t just cancel an event without working out a satisfactory conclusion with the venue, that involved a mutual decision to either cancel without penalty or to pay a monetary fee, sometimes a token amount, sometimes a very large amount, which can make or break a convention budget, especially smaller conventions.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I Chair and or run programming for several non profit conventions, as well as being the Fashion Manager for WWWC (Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention), coordinating the fashion show and costume contest. I’m proud that people believe in my skills enough to let me sit in the captains seat and steer the way an event will be run. I started small, doing a show here and there at various cons, then one day, here I am, running lead on programming tracks for big and small events, moving up to being in charge. I remember my first time Chairing a convention, it was WesterCon70 (A Western Regional Sci-Fi Convention), I was like a deer staring in headlights, wondering how the heck I had gotten there. I’ve learned a lot since that day, especially about building trust and good working relationships with local fan groups, they can have lasting results. In my case, the WSFA (Western Science Fiction Association) and CASFS (Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society) became sponsors for WesterCon70 and my husband and I went on to become members of both groups. We ended up working together with both groups and they now co-sponsor a local non profit sci-fi/fantasy convention: CoKoCon, which my husband and I take turns co-chairing. It’s been a fun and exciting ride learning to build a convention from scratch and giving it sustainability for years to come. http://www.cokocon.org/
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It feels weird answering this question during 2020, but if asked prior to Covid, I’d say I’d take them out to eat at Rula Bula in Tempe, on their first night out, good food, drink and sometimes a live band on hand. Indoor and outdoor dining patios to enjoy. Day 2 OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, is a marine aquarium, the largest in the Southwest United States, would be on the agenda for sure, all kinds of interesting things to see and do. We’ll follow up with shopping and dinner at Arizona Boardwalk, the complex where OdySea is located. Day 3 We’d spend the day at the Phoenix Zoo, enjoying the animals, shopping and lunch on site. Dinner on the way home at the Keg, fantastic steaks to be had there. Day 4 would see us having a nice picnic and tour of the grounds and 1800 structures at Sahuaro Ranch Park. We’d finish off with dinner and drinks at the George & Dragon, my favorite English pub. Day 5 we’d spend walking around Heritage Square, visiting the Rosson House Museum and Arizona Science Center. We’d have dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory, one of my favorite places to eat since I was a kid. Day 6 We’d take a drive up to Jerome, sight seeing and shopping a plenty. Lunch at the Haunted Hamburger and a little wine sampling at Caduceus Cellers. Day 7 We’d enjoy a relaxing and breathtaking afternoon cruise on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake. A delicious dinner at Los Olivos Mexican patio to finish out the evening.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Hal deserves a big shoutout for all the things he does to support and help me when it comes to events I Chair or organize. He does publications and websites for my conventions and lets me put him in front of audiences to MC for various Steampunk fashion shows and costume contests. He’s a good sport and helps keep me sane when i’m on deadlines. We work together in harmony on many projects and I couldn’t imagine being the out going, confident event coordinator I am without knowing I have a loving support system in my husband. I try to repay that support and trust in kind by running the registration operations for his annual film festival: Apocalypse Later International Fantastic Film Festival. https://www.alfilmfest.com/
CoKoCon Photos by Bill Mullins