Anime Fargo: A experience of culture, color, and entertainment
If you entered the Ramada by Wyndham located off 13th Avenue in Fargo, ND on the weekend of September 15th to September 17th, you were greeted by an explosion of color, noise and smiling faces. From the large Tori gate spanning the hallway that symbolized entering a new world to the Japanese themed arcade room, the goal is to immerse attendees in a new experience to pull them away from their worries for a day. I am thrilled, as a long-term staff member of the convention, to share with you some of the history and goals of Anime Fargo.
Anime Fargo is one of three local conventions held by the 501(c)(3), Digital Grail, a local non-profit with the mission statement of:
“…striving to provide a safe and inviting environment for all to be their authentic selves while experiencing exciting events to connect, enhance, and support our diverse community. We inspire each other through empathy, inclusion, and service.”1 Anime Fargo was created to focus on the love of Anime and Manga industries versus the more generalized pop-culture approach of Digital Grail’s first convention, CoreCon.
Anime Fargo celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2023 with the theme of Enter the Ninja. Each year staff vote on the annual theme, with previous themes including:
- Kawaii Invasion.
- Magical Transformations.
- Digital Breakdown.
- Festival of Spirits; and
- Anime Fargo Online and Anime Fargo Online 2.0 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the staff dedicated their time and efforts in their specific departments to make the convention a success for attendees, whether they are regular faces or brand new to Anime Fargo.
Behind the scenes, before prior to the convention and during the event, staff are working diligently to make the convention a fun, exciting and safe space for adults, children, and families to experience a taste of Anime culture. Currently Anime Fargo boasts of three convention heads, who are voted in by the staff of Anime Fargo. These heads are responsible for overseeing the financial success of the convention to ensure more years of fun can be had, logistical planning and handling emergencies during the convention. 2023’s elected heads were Adam Helsene, Lisa Romano, and Doug Beierle, each of these heads have held the title previously and work tirelessly to provide a safe environment for attendees.
Other than the heads, Anime Fargo has numerous other staff, including department heads that run individual departments of the convention to plan a weekend full of experiences for attendees. Departments include:
- Guests, who are responsible for selecting and handling the voice actors, cosplayers and other guests Anime Fargo brings to the convention.
- Special Events, which is responsible for planning events throughout the weekend to keep attendees engaged and exploring the convention spaces.
- Charity Auction, which works non-stop to contact businesses for donations for the annual charity auction held at Anime Fargo.
- eGaming, who provide their own equipment and arcade machines for attendees to experience.
- Tabletop, which has been run faithfully by Stan Kwiecien since the founding of Anime Fargo, is the only department who has remained solely under the same staff member since the beginning. Stan brings his impressive tabletop knowledge and collection for everyone to enjoy.
- and the Kids Room, the newest department which aims to provide a specific and safe space for children under the age of 12 to enjoy specific activities designed just for them.
Conventions like Anime Fargo rely on the volunteer efforts of their local community not only to staff the convention, but also to sponsor and provide donations for charity auctions, in addition to prizes for Cosplay Contest and other events. Anime Fargo is lucky to have a large group of committed staff who return year after year to dedicate their time and efforts to provide an enjoyable event for the Fargo/Moorhead area. The staff commit to monthly meetings, head by Lisa R. who never lets our meetings run too long, in addition to set up Thursday before con and tear down Sunday after closing ceremonies is done. Staff haul arcade machines, large props, equipment and hundreds of totes, TVs, and other necessities from storage to a moving truck to the hotel and then repeat the process all over again just a few days later just for the opportunity to see the smiles on a young person’s face as they marvel at the work this unique experience they can enjoy.
However, COVID-19 has had its effect on the convention scene as well, as our volunteer staff are facing burnout much like the rest of the world. During the first two years of COVID-19, we were faced with the difficult decision to not host an in-person convention and instead hold a virtual one through the Discord platform. In 2022, when we returned to the in-person format as the COVID numbers began to dwindle, we were faced with differing opinions on the requirements for health and safety we put into place along with a smaller staff force as some were not comfortable with large groups or some getting a positive result just days before the convention began. In 2023 Anime Fargo has begun to see a bounce back of the staff and attendee numbers from previous years and got multiple feedback from staff and attendees unlike that 2023 was the smoothest convention they have attended in years! However, Anime Fargo’s work is never over, not as long as we continue to promise a new experience each year and are always looking for new staff and volunteers to help make 2024 and the following years an even better success!
Part of Anime Fargo’s mission is to give back to the community each year and the largest way we accomplish that is through our annual charity auction. Each year the staff suggest and vote on a local charity that aligns with our theme. In 2023, our selected charity was H.E.R.O2, an organization focusing on mental health and other support for North Dakota. Our dedicated Charity Auction head worked to contact multiple businesses to receive donations to auction off and even handcrafted some items to include. One of Anime Fargo’s founding traditions includes a charity auction item of a picture within a picture. During one of the early years a picture of the designer of Anime Fargo’s mascots was placed on auction as a gag idea and the winner took a picture holding it. This entry developed into a yearly tradition that is one of the highest bided items we have had in the past.
So how can you help? If you are interested in Anime Fargo and what we do, there’s multiple ways you can get involved or experience the convention environment for yourself! Anyone is open to apply to staff the convention or just volunteer which keeps your commitment to just the convention days itself and usually is only a few hours of your time! I’ve listed some excellent contacts below if you are interested in getting more information about any of the ways you can get involved:
- General Information/Staff Application: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Volunteers: email@example.com
- Charity Auction: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Registration for attending: https://www.animefargo.org/convention-registration/
I encourage you to reach out to any of the contacts above or even pre-register if you are really interested in experiencing Anime Fargo for yourself! We welcome you to experience That Time I Got Iskeai’d on September 27th through September 29th 2024 returning to the Ramada by Wyndham as we are planning new and exciting things to become an even more immersive experience, Anime Fargo thanks everyone who has attended, staff or volunteered at our convention in the past and look forward to seeing you again in the years to come!
Rose Zavislak wrote this for their Writing Intensive Course. Thanks for choosing Anime Fargo as your subject. We appreciate it.