The fallout from Flugtag

It's been two weeks since the Red Bull Flugtag rolled up its runway and left the Tampa Convention Center and more than 100,000 (mostly) happy, (mostly) drunken spectators behind. Except for the folks at the sixth annual Metrocon, who recently e-mailed CL to complain about the Flugtaggers who wandered into their event.

Attendees at Metrocon — Florida's largest anime convention held inside the convention center as people were attempting to fly unflyable homemade vehicles — were repeatedly harassed by crowds of rowdy flugtaggers who made catcalls at young girls and tried slipping cameras up their skirts. The Red Bull fans shouted "freak" and "fag"at participants, ruined artwork and spilled beer on costumes, said Allison Rexrode, who attended the event for the sixth year in a row.

The convention is normally a family-friendly celebration of Japanese culture where fans can come dressed in homemade costumes, participate in skits and contests and meet fellow anime-lovers.

"It was completely different (this year)," Allison said. "It was a constant hassle... a constant influx of people coming in and out, and there was no way to control it."

The convention center double-booked the Red Bull and Metrocon events, assuming Flugtaggers would stay outside on the Riverwalk while Metrocon carried on inside. But security was unprepared for the number of people and the amount of drunken stupidity.

"I just think it was a really bad decision for the convention center to book both events at the same time," Allison said, "especially a family-friendly event and [another] event where they were selling (alcohol)."

Her mother, Bonnie Rizzo, was equally disappointed with the double-booking. Bonnie, who has attended numerous anime conventions with Allison, said "It's a really wholesome event that these kids look forward to every year. As far as the way the convention center and Red Bull handled it, I think it's appaling that they would jeopardize people's kids like this."

Metrocon 2008's Director of Operations Alex Craddock issued this apology on its website last week:

I have received countless emails detailing reasons that people were displeased with METROCON, or this weekend in any capacity, and I personally would like to address the big one: Red Bull Flugtag.

... It's unfortunate that there wasn't more we could do to prevent some of the incidents that occurred, but at this juncture, I feel my best course of action is to apologize. The staff of METROCON (and those of you that saw us on Saturday will more than agree) did everything short of miracle-working to stop the multitude of disrespectful and irritating things that many of you saw or unfortunately, were involved with. Please keep in mind that the METROCON staff places your interests and well being above all else, and are doing everything we can to make right every single act of injustice that we saw taking place this past weekend.

Do not misunderstand what happened this weekend, however. I have spoken with several individuals from the Red Bull Corporation, who had worked so well with us prior to the event, and they are just as unhappy with everything that happened the way it did as we are. They have asked that I pass on their apologies to our convention-goers as well, and to let it be known they are also currently pursuing a course of action that will prevent anything (and I do mean anything) like this from ever happening to our valued attendees ever again so long as we are in this venue. Please trust in the fact that we at METROCON did everything we could. We are continuing to do everything we can to right these wrongs, and to make sure that you know it will never happen again. METROCON will continue to be a safe, fun, exciting place for the die-hard fan or casual anime watcher, and for parent and child, alike

Christine Pena, who dressed in a Parasite Eve costume at this year's Metrocon, detailed her experience in an e-mail:

The costume contest pre-judging was held in a room close to the riverwalk. After pre-judging, I was trying to make my way back when a group of about 5 guys passed me, bopping my wig ... When I went to grab a snack in the food line, I felt my wig get tapped again. The guy who did it ran away, to which I heard, 'GET A TAN!' He looked familiar.

The third time it happened, I was standing relatively close to the information desk. The same group of guys were lined up to walk by. They each bopped one my wig's horns. I was not about to walk onstage with a broken wig; after all, presentation is a big part of the costume contest and I had worked very hard. I yelled quite a few profanities at them as they walked away. I hated to be so nasty, but from that moment on, no one else bothered me the rest of the convention. Despite there being so many jerks, there were also a lot of (nicer) Flugtag people asking me for photos.

It was unfortunate that these events happened to so many other cosplayers and that TCC Security, from what I observed, did nothing to stop it.

John Moors, administrator for the convention center, said that "coinciding events happen all the time, and with the number of people in attendance (at Flugtag), it put pressure on all the downtown facilities.

"It was a great event," he continued. "It was great to see people out and enjoying the day. Maybe some people enjoyed their day more than others, but there was 100,000 people there. There's always going to be a few that stick out."

(Photo credit: rcmaclean via flickr)

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