This year, Fanfest is focused on live shows and experiences with the centerpiece being the premiere of the documentary "Mid-Atlantic Memories." This project has been years in the making and will tell the story of the fabled Mid-Atlantic Wrestling territory as remembered by the wrestlers and fans who lived it. The legendary Jim Ross will not only narrarate the film but also host the live premiere. In addition, "Good ol' J.R." will also hold his first "RINGSIDE With Jim Ross" show ever in the South as part of Fanfest. Those of you who listen to "The Ross Report" podcast have heard many glowing comments about the event from both Ross and Jim Cornette in a recent guest appearance.
If you've never attended Fanfest, now is the time. With so much going on and every sense of your wrestling fandom being appealed to, it's often hard to decide what to do next. As a longtime "veteran" of the event, I offer the following tips for you to get the most of your experience. All weekend you will be given the chance at once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that most wrestling fans only dream about. The following list is just a few helpful hints for first timers or for those who have already been and want to relive those great memories made over the past eleven years.
*Arrive early! The festivities begin on Thursday. The mad dash for the vendor room is usually rather peaceful, just keep your eyes open. You never know when that "Holy Grail" that you've been wanting for decades will be hiding in a corner or in a box under a table. Merchandise old and new will be available, with many of the names having new items not normally found in stores.
*Mingle! Rarely do so many fans of classic wrestling gather under one roof. Many have great stories from past Fanfests as well as the days of territorial wrestling, especially in the Mid-Atlantic area.
*Visit with The Louisville Lip himself, Jim Cornette. The legendary manager is one of the most accessible stars throughout the Fanfest weekend. Why? Because he's a fan, too! In addition to his live show, Cornette will have his "Cornette's Collectibles" booth in the vendor room all weekend. Mama Cornette's boy is always more than willing to chat, swap stories, give an autograph and photo, and sell you some wrestling treasures. Memphis historian and author Mark James will be by his side with all of his great book titles available, some co-authored with Cornette. My recommendations for a first-time Fanfest attendee? "The Midnight Express Scrapbook" and "Rags, Paper, & Pins: The Merchandising of Memphis Wrestling."
*Attend the Hall of Heroes banquet and ceremony. Some of my favorite moments as a fan have been at the HoH banquets. It's a special, intimate evening to celebrate many of the stars who have entertained you over the years.
*Keep one eye on the action at all times. You truly never know who is going to pop in throughout the weekend. Whether it's out of curiosity, to play some Cribbage, or just to say "hi" to old friends, many familiar faces from the world of wrestling are drawn to Fanfest. From referees like Charles Robinson and Mac McMurray to wrestlers like David Isley, Bill White, and Princess Victoria. Even former wrestling "royalty" like David and Jackie Crockett have shown up unannounced over the years, more than willing to meet their fans.
*Celebrate the past...and the future. Although Fanfest was built on the glory days of pro wrestling's past, promoter Greg Price has opened the doors to the future as well. Between a weekend-long training camp for indy wrestlers helmed by Dr. Tom Prichard and Les Thatcher to including many future talents on the live Fanfest cards (which are held on Saturday night and Sunday), you will get a chance to see many up-and-comers. With the rise and mass exposure of WWE NXT in the past year, you're sure to get another view of just how true the "Future is Now" catchphrase is.
*Take some time to enjoy Charlotte! This is one tip that I wish I had utilized more often on my various trips there. Friendly folks, great food, and an absolutely beautiful area. Explore!
Each year, I devote some blog space to Fanfest. It isn't a commercial, it's just something that I believe in. So often I am asked about the various conventions and wrestling related events that I attend, but I hesitate to discuss them too much. No one wants to read something that appears to be a shill, and this certainly isn't. It's a notice that if you have yet to go for the Fanfest experience, now is the time. I may never have gotten as deep as I have in the wrestling autograph and meeting scene if it weren't for Fanfest. I hope that some of the fun that I've had over the years comes through in my words, and the only way to experience it all for yourself is to make that trip to Charlotte. More information on how you can do that is at NWALegends.com.
They'll know I sent ya!