This is going to be a super long post. My feelings won't be hurt (too much) if you just skim it, but I wanted to record EVERYTHING that happened so I could remember every detail years down the road from now (like I will ever forget it though. Lol.)
I'm sure it's no secret to anyone reading this post that I'm a HUGE FAN of actor and national treasure, Dick Van Dyke. He has been my favorite actor since I was four years old and I first saw Mary Poppins.
The number one item on my LIFE bucket list has been to meet him (yes, it's also the number one item on my 40 by 40 list). In 2011 I got to see Mr. Van Dyke and his brother Jerry perform on stage in The Sunshine Boys. There was actually supposed to have been a meet and greet after the show, but it got canceled for some reason. I was super bummed but still enjoyed being on the second row for the performance (read my recap here). In 2012 I saw a musical performance with Mr. Van Dyke and the group The Vantastix. Again, there was no meet and greet afterward, but I was still happy I got to see him sing in person. Last summer I made a trip to Danville, Illinois, the hometown of Mr. Van Dyke, mainly just to say I had been to his hometown (I love that town by the way). I think deep down, I never dreamed I would actually get a chance to meet him in person (as much as I wanted to). Well, this all changed last Saturday.
A few weeks ago I saw on Facebook that Dick Van Dyke was going to make his first ever comic con appearance....in Phoenix. I don't live in Phoenix. I don't even live close to Phoenix. As much as I wanted to go, it just wasn't going to be a possibility since I had just spent money on two trips I'm taking in June. A friend of mine saw this same Facebook post and told me that he wanted to give me that trip for my birthday. Plane ticket, photo op, the whole thing. I thought he was kidding. I told him not to joke like that. Believe it or not, it took him three days to convince me that he really wanted to do this for me, especially since this had been a dream of mine basically my whole life. So yeah, before I knew it, the photo op and plane ticket were bought- THIS WAS REALLY GOING TO HAPPEN.
I had to fly out early Saturday morning (my flight left at 7am, so they started boarding at 6:30am). Fun side note, the night before I had driven to and from Waco for my niece's high school graduation (that's about two hours each way, for those not familiar with Texas geography). I was afraid I would oversleep and miss my flight, so I didn't sleep the night before. So yeah, I went on NO SLEEP on this trip. My emotions were all over the place, so adrenaline kept me going. My flight landed about 8am Phoenix time and I went straight to the convention center. I had read online some horror stories from Phoenix Comic Con goers from the previous day saying that the convention was so unorganized and it took them five hours just to get inside. I started to get nervous I would get delayed and wouldn't make it inside in time for Dick Van Dyke's panel or my photo op (YES I WAS FRETTING).
When I got to the convention center, I went to one entrance (that had no line) and asked where I needed to go to pick up my day pass badge that I had ordered online. The nice security guard told me the registration door was around the corner, but I could go through the door he was standing by and walk down a hallway inside to registration. When I got to the registration line, I could see it was going outside the convention center door and well around the outside of the building. I told another security guard I was told to come in that way and asked if I needed to go back outside. He was so nice and said he would find a spot for me to jump in the line (that way I didn't have to go back OUTSIDE to stand in line). I probably cut in front of about 1000 people, but you know what, I didn't care. Lol. I will not confirm or deny that I blew kisses to this security guard when he let me in the line.
Registration went smoothly. Once the doors opened at 9am, it took maybe twenty minutes for me to get through the line. I had a "front of house" ticket to Dick Van Dyke's panel, which was at 12:15. It was only 9:30 when I finally got my badge, so I walked around for a while. I did see some awesome cosplay costumes, these two were my favorite.
I was told when I picked up my ticket for the panel that I could sit in any seat on rows two through five. They opened the doors an hour before the panel started, so I went inside and got a seat on the second row.
I will not confirm or deny that I teared up when he came out on stage. He got a standing ovation when he came out on stage and when he left. His panel was fantastic. He answered a lot of fan questions and said he wanted to stay all day and talk (he only got about 40 minutes). He said he was enjoying his first comic con (maybe he will come to the Dallas Comic Con in October?). He even sang a little and as he was leaving the stage, did a little dance move. Be. Still. My. Fan. Heart.
I totally stole the following pictures from the Phoenix Comic Con Facebook page, so I wanted to make sure I gave them photo credit. The only part of it that is mine is the collage, I designed that. Lol.
Okay, so the next part is where I was convinced everything was going to fall apart. My photo op was right after the panel (at 1pm). It took about 15 minutes to get through the crowds, so I got there about 1:15. It was pure chaos. No one knew where to go. The volunteers and staff weren't sure what to tell people. I found one volunteer who told me to go over to what was basically a "corale" type area and that they would lead us to the photo line once the first group of people got through. I stood in line about 20 minutes not moving at all. I am not over exaggerating when I say at least 600 people were in front of me. I will say that people started getting testy and upset (because no one would give us a straight answer). We found out that the convention oversold the photo ops (this was all the fault of the comic con, not Dick Van Dyke). I finally found a volunteer and told her I knew everyone was frustrated and that they were doing the best that they could, but that I had to leave at 5pm to catch a flight. She was kinda rude when she said, "we are going to do our best to get through everyone but I can't guarantee you will get in." I'm sure she probably didn't believe me, I can't say I blame her, everyone had their own sob story, but still, no need to be THAT RUDE. I started to have an internal meltdown (outside I'm sure I looked fine but inside I was dying and convinced I was gonna lose it).
My friend had traveled with me to the convention (just to make sure I didn't pass out or have a break down or something. Lol). He was walking around the convention looking at booths so I texted him that I was being told they couldn't guarantee me a photo. He said he would take care of it. There was a second photo op at 3pm. I told the person next to me if the con could guarantee me a photo then, I would gladly wait in line for two hours for a picture and go to that one. A lot of people were tired of standing and some people had small children who did not like having to wait so long. I can't blame them. It was no fun, but I wasn't going to not wait for my photo.
My friend talked to seven different convention staff members explaining that I had flown in specifically for that picture and I had to catch a flight back to Dallas that evening. He asked if there was anything they could do to make sure I got a photo before I had to leave. One volunteer took pity on me and told him I could go on through for my picture. Like, right then. I honestly just wanted a guarantee, I didn't expect to be moved up in the line. They actually bumped me to the "fast pass" line so I only had to wait maybe another minute for my photo op. I was so close. I could see him around the corner taking photos with other fans. I was nervous and excited all at the same time.
I've been to other comic cons, so I knew it was going to be a quick picture and that I wouldn't have time to just chat with him (although I think Mr. Van Dyke would have wanted more time with each fan- he's so nice). It was almost my turn and Mr. Van Dyke's assistant saw the look on my face and told me to take a breath and let it out. He's like, don't pass out. Lol. I nervously asked him if I could ask Mr. Van Dyke for a hug. He said yes I could ask (I think he was laughing at me for wanting a hug so badly). When it was finally my turn, Mr. Van Dyke shook my hand and I introduced myself. I then asked for a hug. He smiled and enthusiastically said "sure!" As I was hugging him I told him he has meant so much to me my whole life. He squeezed me a little when I said that. We then took the picture, I said thank you so much, he said you're welcome, and that was that. My 20 seconds with Dick Van Dyke, but y'all- IT WAS WORTH IT AND EVERYTHING I WANTED IT TO BE.
They printed the pictures on site, so less than a minute after my photo op, I had my picture. I possibly had to sit down for a while in a corner because I was shaking a little and on the verge of sobbing. I don't care if y'all think I'm crazy for that. Lol. This was a dream come true.
We left the con to get something to eat and then headed to the airport. 10 hours after landing in Phoenix, I was heading back home to Dallas. The trip was physically and emotionally exhausting, but worth every minute. Best day of my life.
I read online that some people left without getting a photo because the wait just got to be too long, BUT that Dick Van Dyke stayed until everyone who was still there got a photo. THE MAN IS A SAINT. It wasn't his fault that the con oversold but he made sure no fan still there left disappointed.
For those asking where I got my shirt, I ordered it on Etsy at this shop- they were SUPER HELPFUL when I placed my order. I highly recommend them!