Newbie Guide

Here are some tips for newcomers or returning guests to have a safe and enjoyable convention experience. This guide was lovingly put together by members of the Otafest community!

What is Otafest?

Otafest is an annual 3-day Japanese Animation Festival (colloquially referred to as a "convention") hosted at the University of Calgary that gives fans of Japanese culture and animation an opportunity to meet similar-minded people and enjoy panels, presentations, anime showings, concerts, dances, celebrity and industry guest autograph sessions, and other events related to their interests. Otafest also hosts a Vendor Hall and an Artists' Alley where we invite external vendors and independent artists to showcase and sell their products. Many of our attendees cosplay (dress up as their favourite characters from a show, game, or other media) while at the convention and enjoy taking pictures of others who are cosplaying characters they like. Otafest values expressionism and encourages attendees to express themselves in a family-friendly way.

Each year, Otafest hosts charity events and fundraisers during the convention to be donated to that year's selected charity. Dedicated rooms such as the Maid Cafe donate their proceeds to the charity as well.

Otafest takes patron safety seriously. Our Policy Enforcement, Emergency Management, and Internal Operations teams work with Campus Security at the University of Calgary to proactively create safety procedures and create a low-risk environment for everybody at the convention. Our teams are able to respond to any situation in which they are required and we have trained medical responders on staff.

Otafest hosts two conventions each year. Otafest occurs in the spring on the Victoria Day long weekend, and Otafest Aurora occurs in the winter around the holiday season.

If you have any questions, e-mail us at info@otafest.com

Planning your Otafest experience

  • Plan how to get there. Are you taking transit or driving? Find out where bus stops and parking lots are beforehand. Give yourself plenty of time to get there. You can find maps of the venue here.
  • Ask for help. If you get lost taking transit or driving, ask for help! Friendly cosplayers are always willing to help!
  • Pre-Register. It costs less, you will get access to early pick-up, exclusive Otafest merchandise, and other perks. Take advantage of this by purchasing your tickets now!
  • Stay at Hotel Alma. Hotel Alma is located on campus and is less than a 10 minute walk from the convention and offer discounted rates to Otafest patrons (see the Hotel Alma page for details). Split the room with your friends to save more money! Hotel Alma has limited capacity and rooms are reserved on a first come, first served basis. Ensure you have a place to stay by reserving your room early on. Avoid having to look for accommodations after getting to Calgary.
  • Read the schedule. Plan what you want to see ahead of time. This will help you allocate time for what you want to do. When the programming schedule becomes available online, print a copy and highlight events that interest you. Make sure that you budget extra time for standing in lines. Some rooms have limited capacity so ensure your favorite events do not fill up! Note that the schedule may change!
  • Bring Photo ID for 18+ events. You will be turned away if you do not have photo ID. No exceptions!
  • Bring comfortable shoes! If you are cosplaying, consider bringing a comfortable change of clothes.
  • Have a Budget. Include money for food, merchandise, art, bus fare, etc. Consider leaving your credit and debit cards at home to avoid overspending! Tip: Try separating money into different envelopes to keep you from temptation
  • Charge all of your electronics! You will likely be using them more than on any regular day so make sure they're charged and ready!
  • Make a cosplay repair kit in case your cosplay fails during the con. There is a Cosplay Repair Room at the convention with basic materials to fix your cosplay, but they do not have everything!

Attending Otafest

  • Listen to Staff and Volunteers. Otafest staff and volunteers exist to make everyone's experience safe and enjoyable. If one of these people ask you to do something, it is with the best intentions in mind so please comply, especially if an emergency arises. Failure to comply with a request made by a staff member or volunteer is grounds to have you removed from the convention.
  • Take care of yourself. Get sleep, hydrate, eat, and take breaks. Running around all day is tiring! Set aside time to take a break, eat, have some water, and just relax. Otafest does not like having to call EMS, so please do not force us to!
  • If you need any help, look for a staff member or a volunteer
    • Directions
    • Harassment
    • Emergency situations
    • Lost children
  • Arrive early, especially if you have not pre-registered. Otafest has a fast moving admissions line, but it still takes time to get to the front! Be there early so you do not miss anything in the schedule! Admissions takes cash and credit - no debit.
  • Keep track of your belongings. Otafest gets many wallets and cell phones in the lost and found. Make sure you are aware of where your possessions are to avoid an unnecessary panic attack!
  • Step aside. Hallways are narrow in parts of the university. If you need to stop to talk with your friends, please step aside so you are not blocking traffic flow.
  • Shower. Every. Day. Hours in cosplay, in a building with 8000 other people, gets hot and humid- the perfect conditions for bacterial growth! There is explosive population increase of bacteria in your armpits, resulting in body odor! Showers and deodorant protect you from the nefarious and noxious effects of your armpit bacteria.
  • Be ready for lines. Main events, guest panels/autograph sessions, Artists' Alley, and the Vendor Hall all draw a crowd. Lines will form before the event starts, so bring manga, music, Nintendo DS, or friends to pass the time.
  • Shop smart. A good rule of thumb is to browse the entire Vendor Hall / Artist Alley before spending any money.
  • Ask for a receipt. Otafest cannot provide refunds for merchandise sold in the vendor hall. Vendors are independent third parties so make sure you ask for a receipt in case you're hit by a spell of buyer's remorse.
  • Be polite. Cosplayers are humans and deserve respect. Remember that Cosplay does not equal consent. You must ask for permission before taking photos and you should keep in mind that the photos you take are for your personal use only. They should not be sold unless you have the express consent of the person in the photo and Otafest.
  • Respect the space. Put your garbage in the garbage bins, put desks and chairs back the way they were when you are done with a room.
  • Down time. Make sure you have some during the day! Use it to relax at the convention, and to help navigate your way around the convention. You will find that if you give yourself time to get familiar with the layout, you will feel less stressed about getting to places on time, will not get disoriented as quickly (or easily) and you will know where great spots are to take a breather!
  • Bring an 'emergency kit'. Your local dollar store usually stocks a base emergency kit for about $2.50. This kit contains bandages, gauze, medical tape, alcohol pads, etc. which will go a long way throughout the weekend if you get any minor injuries during the con (especially if you are outside in the photo area, grass burns happen too). If any serious injuries occur seek a staff member or volunteer immediately, please do not try to handle it on your own.
  • Bring your medication. If you have any medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, low blood pressure, etc.) bring your prescriptions with you. Make sure you have your ID and your Provincial/State Health Care card with you. If something does happen, EMS needs to have the ability to identify you and look up information on your medical profile to ensure you get the proper treatment.
  • Hydrate. We cannot stress this enough. A large amount of convention injuries are the result of people being caught up in the convention and forgetting to hydrate. Carry a water bottle with you at all times.
  • Plan a day off after the con. Give yourself time to rest up and recover. Treat the day after like a con, minus the costumes and panels. Relax, keep yourself hydrated and well fed! Most people forget to do this after a convention, and end up getting sick!