I can’t believe it’s already that time of year! Well, not quite, but who doesn’t want to start early enjoying Hallmark during the the 10th anniversary of their “Countdown to Christmas” programming? Since it’s also the 40th anniversary of Hallmark, they’re airing a record 40 new holiday movies, which means even more time to celebrate. We’re already getting out the decorations, even though my husband wonders if we did enough for Halloween or Thanksgiving! Now, there’s a holiday convention for Hallmark fans held only a week after Halloween. I couldn’t wait to put away the Jack-o-Lanterns and find a cozy white sweater to wear.
Deck the Convention Halls: Hallmark’s Christmas Con is Coming to Town!
This is the first year of Christmas Con, a convention started by the four women who own That’s 4 Entertainment, Liliana Kligman, Alexandra Isaza, Trinh Ho and Christina Figliolia. As soon as it was announced that Hallmark Channel USA was sponsoring the event, tickets sold out. The big question was, would the inaugural event live up to the hype?
My daughter and I drove three hours to Edison, New Jersey to attend the special preview only open to media and VIP guests. Leaving the other guests waiting outside in line until doors opened at 10 am, we were inside by 9:20 am.
Immediately, we spotted Lacey Chabert recording promotional material for Hallmark. After a while, Jonathan Bennett joined her and they did fun poses inside the giant ornament photo prop.
This was all more exciting for me than it was for my daughter since she’s never seen Mean Girls and only casually glances up at the Hallmark shows that I always have playing in the background in our home. Enthusiastically, I made sure to get all the snapshots I could to send to family and friends.
When the celebrities came out for signings, we waited for Melissa Joan Hart. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was my childhood favorite, and my daughter had seen the cartoon. After doing a meet and greet photo, my daughter felt overwhelmingly enthusiastic. She insisted on an autograph of the Season 3 photo with the cat Salem from the show. Hart was really nice to take some time to talk to her, which made it all very exciting. She came home and watched re-runs of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and she is completely hooked on the show now.
While waiting in line for Hart, our media passes gave us access to the special VIP line, which was much shorter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear when the celebrities were coming out, so we waited an hour. Organization of the event could improve next year, but I don’t think the creators knew how big it was going to be when they initially announced it.
During our wait, Alicia Witt, who was there to do a concert that night, walked by us waving as she arrived. We also had a clear view of Jesse Metcalfe, who wore a chestnut brown sweater and enjoyed a coffee. When he held someone’s baby dressed in a red, Santa-inspired outfit, the whole crowd behind me swooned and leaned forward to try to get all the photos they could. Since not everyone in the crowd was paying for the photos, it was a bit overwhelming and crowded, but not as bad as I thought it might be.
The event brought 18 Hallmark Channel stars. Besides Chabert, Bennett, Wait, and Metcalfe, Rachel Boston, Holly Robinson Peete, Melissa Claire Egan, Cameron Mathison, Jack Wagner, Chad Michael Murray, Danica McKellar, Jackee Harry, Nikki DeLoach, Erin Krakow, Paul Greene, Ryan Paevey, Andrew Walker and Ashley Williams were all on schedule to appear. Bennett also served as the official Christmas Con host.
So besides the celebrity spottings, was the event worth it to attend? Let me walk you through all there was to do there beyond paying extra for the autographs and photos.
Walking into the convention center, the Christmas decorations immediately made me sentimental for the holidays. The center of the floor was set up as a Hallmark set with photo ops.
You could get your photos taken in front of the fireplace, which had stockings hung and festive mantle decorations. Staff were nearby to take photos so you could make sure to get everyone in the picture. We had wondered if it would seem silly to leave the comfort of our sofa and fireplace to see Hallmark’s very similar set up many hours away. However I thought it was very heartwarming to get into the holiday spirit with family.
There was also a Cider Bar with free apple cider that came with cinnamon sticks, an orange slice, and a free cookie. It was delicious!
We also sampled delicious cookies from Cook(y) Mix. I bought the Hot Chocolate mix, and I can’t wait to make it with my daughters as we watch movies this holiday season.
Other retailers were selling holiday decorations and gifts. You could also buy Christmas Con gear, including Santa hats, tee shirts, scarfs and more.
We stayed for a couple of hours shopping, taking photos, and meeting celebrities, and then we drove further north to check out NYC. Hopefully next year they have more activities for guests to do that are included in the cost of attending. After all, the longer you stick around, the more likely you are to keep spending money.
I would have liked to have seen Santa there the whole time, more vendors with a wider variety of gifts, and a crafting station since most Hallmarkies find decor-inspiration from the movies and would enjoy learning new DIY techniques. Some other ideas would be photo ops that provide short videos/.gifs with falling snowflakes, live music throughout the whole event, and a Virtual Reality Christmas wonderland experience.
Attending Christmas Con was an enjoyable way to get into the holiday spirit early. It had a festive atmosphere to inspire my future holiday occasions this year, and it was family friendly.
Disclosure: I received a free item, but it in no way influenced my opinion.