Over the weekend, while VidCon — a massive, yearly gathering for creators and fans — unfolded in Anaheim, California, YouTuber Tana Mongeau attempted to hold her own convention nearby. It did not go as planned. The two-day “free” event was set to open June 22nd, and it promised concerts, talks, and meet-up opportunities featuring the likes of Shane Dawson, Bella Thorne, Casey Neistat, and many more. Instead, TanaCon was shut down on its first day after a reported 20,000 people showed up, before being canceled outright. Online, angry fans have branded the con the new Fyre Fest, evoking Ja Rule’s disastrous 1-percenter music festival.
TanaCon began as Mongeau’s response to her own negative experiences with VidCon. In a nearly 80-minute video posted to her YouTube channel called “Why I Won’t Be Attending Vidcon 2018: A Rant” in April, she explains that VidCon had refused to give her a “Featured Creator” badge, which affords attendees extra security measures, during multiple events. Mongeau says that the refusal prevented her from moving around the conference discreetly, instead forcing her to travel directly through crowds of fans, which resulted in mob situations in which security ultimately asked her to leave the premises due to safety hazards. A joke about Mongeau holding a meet-and-greet in the parking lot across from VidCon eventually spawned the idea for a formal convention.
In an interview promoting the event with Forbes last week, the 20-year-old she says that she planned the entire event over the course of 40, “maybe 30” days, at the start of which she had no lineup or anything rented. “Absolutely nothing,” Mongeau told the publication. “I’m a pretty last minute person, but this was extreme.” Mongeau says she was heavily involved in the planning process, “down to the color of the cups” at creator parties. “It’s mind-blowing that I have to pay attention to every little detail,” she said. “But it’s my name. It’s TanaCon. And if anything bad happens, bad security or whatever, it’s on me. So, I’ve been putting my heart and soul into making this the best that I can.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, that slapdash organization meant that TanaCon was falling apart from the jump. The night before, registration was pushed up from 8AM to 6AM, so the morning of, fans began lining up at the Anaheim Marriott Suites hotel — next door to the Anaheim Convention Center where VidCon was being held — before 6AM to enter the event; people didn’t end up entering the building until almost 9AM. On Twitter, angry fans documented what quickly snowballed into an outright disaster: thousands were stuck waiting in line outside the hotel for hours after the doors opened, without food, water, or even shelter from the sun. Others vlogged that, in addition to sunburns, some people even passed out. The event space quickly hit capacity, leaving many stranded in line for hours or advised to come back the following day. Confusion and scheduling conflicts for creators attending both VidCon and TanaCon meant that some were either unable to attend or just chose not to attend the event at all.
In a DramaAlert interview uploaded later that first day, Mongeau explains that the hotel event space was originally intended to hold 5,000 people and that the event had initially sold 4,200 tickets. The team did not anticipate so many extra attendees showing up, let alone an alleged 20,000 people, despite the fact that it was billed as a “free convention.” (Fans had the option to buy $1 general admission tickets or $65 VIP tickets.) “Of course, when that happens, anyone waiting in line to get in is now going to be halted by this crazy riot of people pretending that they have tickets, bringing fake tickets, rushing the gates, jumping over people, throwing VidCon stuff … so we stopped letting people in,” she said.
Those who made it into the event didn’t fare much better than those waiting outside. Attendees described barren halls with little to do, set in a building that was not designed to hold its thousands of attendees. “I wasted 150 dollars on #tanacon, it’s one hallway, one big concert room, and no activities,” tweeted one. “No creators are walking around like promised. We stood outside for 4 hours, just to be treated like animals.” Others complained that the gift bags — which were only included with purchase of a VIP ticket and were promised to be worth “quadruple the price” of the ticket — were laughably sparse, save for small items like a wristband and condoms branded “TanaCondoms.” Ironically, given the origins of TanaCon to begin with, security had to eventually ask people to leave panels and on-site events due to safety hazards.
Even creators scheduled to appear at the event were puzzled. “ya i have no idea what’s happening lmfao did tanacon get cancelled… do i still have a meet and greet,” tweeted Sarah Baska. “Ok sorry jokes aside what’s going on with tanacon? I have a panel at 3 is it still happening?” tweeted Ricky Dillon.
i don’t blame tana but i do have some serious questions for the people that organized the event. overselling tickets, not having enough water, and letting people burn? not okay. and even though it’s not my event i promise i’ll make it up to you. i’m so sorry. https://t.co/Mk3EabeYBY
— Shane Dawson (@shanedawson) June 23, 2018
Though Mongeau later tweeted that day two of the event would be moved to a new venue “within minutes away from this one that holds an extra 5,000 people and doing a free show with some very special guests,” in the end, the event was canceled outright; organizer Good Times announced on Twitter that refunds would be issued to ticket-holders. “Due to an overwhelming & unexpected response of over fifteen thousand unregistered guests arriving to the venue Friday morning, unfortunately, inclusivity to everyone became a safety hazard for the exact people we wanted to accommodate. Our team has worked around the clock to find a solution to accommodate everyone safely and fairly, but at this point in time there is no way to continue our weekend at TanaCon as is without risking the safety of all our Featured Creators, which is our number one priority.” Attendees can issue a refund claim until January 5th, 2019.
“I take full responsibility,” Mongeau told Keemstar in her DramaAlert interview. “I shouldn’t have fucking thrown a convention in two months. It was dumb and compulsive, but I wanted to make change in this industry and create a better space.”
Attendees went to YouTube after the event to share their disappointment. In a video posted after the event, Dillon offered his support for Mongeau: “It got canceled, and Tana has been getting a lot of backlash and crap for it. I do think she could have done a lot of things better. I do think the company could have done a lot of things better. But I do feel bad for her because I think Tana had really good intentions. She really wanted to do this event to be able to give some creators who maybe weren’t featured at VidCon a place where they could perform, meet people at, and she really wanted to make it so y’all, the viewers, could meet people and have a good experience.” Vlogger AlyssaRae posted a similar video saying the event was planned too quickly, despite Mongeau having her heart in the right place. “Her and her team included really fucking dropped the ball. She promised so many things to her fans that I really think that she should have made sure that she could fulfill those promises before doing so. I feel so bad because so many people traveled from all over the world to go see her.”
Another creator, enjajaja, posted footage from her experience at TanaCon, adding that even though she did make it inside, “it got very boring very fast.” The YouTuber goes on to detail the disorganization of the event, before adding, “I think you can have a big heart and do things the wrong way … You rushing an event out of revenge is so wrong, to your fans, to your audience, and to anybody else around who will see you doing that and do the same thing and make the same mistake.”
On Twitter, Mongeau added that the event at its start “did contribute to exactly what I wanted,” which was to provide inclusivity. “Until things got chaotic, it was everything i wanted and more and i’m excited to create that atmosphere again in a different place,” she said.