It also led right into our next activity--August Ragone's interview of Mr. Sahara with the focus on Ultra Q. It was for panels like this that I had come to G-Fest, and Mr. Sahara and Mr. Ragone provided an engrossing hour of information and recollection. The clips of the original Ultra Q were exciting and Mr. Sahara was eager to speak about his experiences in this groundbreaking series. Mr. Sahara even hinted that an Ultra Q anniversary release might be a possibility. (Could you imagine an Ultra Q series box set?) It was heartwarming to hear how Ultra Q made Mr. Sahara an instantly beloved figure among children in Japan. The panel concluded with a well-deserved standing ovation for a true living legend.
Still enjoying the positive vibe generated by the autograph session and panel, we found a spot in the Midway room for Kevin Horn's "Varan: Still Unbelievable." I found Mr. Horn to be a good-natured, generous and knowledgable presenter. In addition to tracing the history of the production of Varan and the (kaiju-sized) differences between the Japanese and American releases, Kevin explained the nuances of DVD regions and the region-free quality of Blu-ray technology. Numerous questions were asked in a courteous, conversational manner. This session was more than worthwhile for casual and hardcore fans alike.
As soon as the Varan panel was over, it was time for the Awards Luncheon. The meal was good, the company at our table was enjoyable, and the serving staff kindly gave Andy some special attention. We were pleased to see Mr. Sahara seated at the table next to ours, and looked forward to his award presentation.
But first, other awards were given to contest winners, and door prizes were raffled off. We held our tickets with bated breath, but no luck. No big deal, because then it was time for Mr. Sahara to receive the Mangled Skyscraper Award, and it was a moment remarkable in its sincerity. Visibly moved by the recognition of his work, Mr. Sahara took the microphone and spoke in confident English, "Thank you for your kindness." That was all he said, and all that needed to be said.
After the luncheon came to an official close, Andy and I approached J.D. Lees with a drawing Andy had made for him. No surprise--J.D. accepted it graciously, and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. We assured him that we were.
It occured to me that I had one more set of raffle tickets left--a set I had purchased at the Kaiju Modeler table. Andy and I headed back to the Dealers Room for what would be the final time on our trip. We went straight to the Kaiju Modeler table and saw that indeed, the winning number had been posted right next to the grand prize: A Paradise Mosugoji Godzilla. I took the small stack of tickets out of my wallet and checked the first number I saw against the winner. Incredibly, our number was within ten digits of the winner! Unfurling the roll, I determined within seconds that we held the winning ticket--but I double and triple checked in order to be positive! I finally handed the ticket over to the guys at Kaiju Modeler, and they confirmed we had won, and explained how the model fit into the wooden base and how best to transport it--and then, Mosugoji was ours! It all had happened so quickly that it seemed unreal--but if I needed proof, all I had to do was look down at the beautifully detailed, deceptively light model I was carrying. My feet were floating above the ground as we left the Dealer's Room, with just enough time to score some seats in J.D. Lees' "G-Fan & G-Fest" panel.
It ended up being standing room only, which is understandable: thanks to J.D., there is a G-Fan to read and a G-Fest to which to come. During his time he revealed the date and location of next year's Fest: July 9--11, 2010, at the Wyndham O'Hare. We were relieved to hear that it will still be held in the Chicago area. We were also happy to hear that there is a decent chance of matinee movies next year--a much better set-up for younger fans. J.D. also spoke candidly about how G-Fan remains a hobby (albeit a rewarding one) in light of professional responsibilities and family concerns--and I found much in those comments to which I could relate. He fielded a question from yours truly regarding the publishing schedule of G-Fan, and from his response, it sounds certain that it will remain a quarterly. I was encouraged to hear that.
After the session was over, J.D. was kind enough to pose for a picture with Andy, Mosugoji and me. It was a fitting, friendly finale to the weekend's festivities and was much appreciated. The overall cordial atmosphere we experienced was an unexpected yet welcome element of G-Fest.
At this point, it was all over but the singing. You read that right: presenter Stan Hyde leads a kaiju sing-along that can only be understood if you love these movies enough to love their music, too. Andy and I definitely do; but we could not stay. It had been such an intensely enjoyable day that we were done, even if we were not ready to be. And just like that, G-Fest 16 was over.
We took Mosugoji up to our room and headed out to sample some Giardano's pizza and rehash our newly minted memories, with visions of kaiju dancing in our heads.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the G-Fest Convention Committee and Session leaders for all they did to make G-Fest 16 an overwhelmingly positive experience. It exceeded my dangerously high expectations in every way. My family and I will be talking about things that happened at G-Fest 16 for the rest of our lives, and if it is up to us, this was just the first of many excursions to the center of the kaiju universe. Thanks again to each of you.