Behind the Convention: An Interview with QFX Events’ MC – Holly Winebarger

Photo Credit: QFX Events

May 13th…a day right around the corner and it can’t get here soon enough. After two years on the shelf thanks to ye-old-pandemic-that-shall-not-be-named, the highly anticipated and very gay fan convention is about to kick off. That’s right folks, the inaugural QFX East convention will take over Tampa, Florida beginning exactly one week from today. Creative guests from some of your favorite LGBTQ+ entertainment mediums will be in attendance. You may recognize some of these amazingly familiar faces from Wynonna Earp, Batwoman, Motherland: Fort Salem, Lost Girl – just to name a few. One thing is for certain, this convention is fit to leave quite a positive impact on a lot of people.

And now without further ado – here is our interview with the lovely Holly Winebarger:

Stay 2uned: First and foremost – how excited are you that in person fan conventions have returned?

HW: “SO. EXCITED. We began the planning process for QFX East in early 2019, so it’s been three years in the making. Obviously, we have had to adjust due to the evolving nature of COVID-19 and how the event industry has been affected by it, but we are thrilled to finally be able to share this event with everyone!”

S2: What inspired you to create QFX East? Was it something that you saw as a fan that you knew needed to be addressed? *i.e. the lack of LGBTQ+ fan conventions?

HW: “As a lot of people know, I was a co-founder of ClexaCon. When I left that organization, and after seeing how important the event was – and still is – to the queer community, I decided that I wanted to continue with this type of work. Even in 2022, spaces for the LGBTQ+ community are still very much needed, especially in the South, where a lot of queer voices are severely marginalized.”

S2: Can you take us behind the process of putting together an event such as this?

HW: “This could be an entire dissertation, but to spare your word count, it’s a lot of work. Typically, with inaugural conventions, you figure out the event size you are comfortable with hosting.  Then, the hunt for space to hold the event begins.  Luckily, we have this great company that does the leg work for us on that front, so that has been a little easier. Once those two things are solidified, you start working on acquiring talent, programming, etc.”

 S2: What is the most rewarding/challenging part of the process?

 HW: “The challenging part of running fan cons is trying to gauge who people want to see in attendance. We can’t invite every guest we would like, but we wish we could!  But seeing people meet actors and others in the industry who have changed their lives for the better makes up for it ten-fold.”

S2: How is the talent acquired? Do they reach out to you, or vice versa?

HW: “Both. I have a lot of great relationships with the agencies who represent a lot of the actors in the LGBTQ+ community, so a lot of the time it is definitely us reaching out to them.  But we do have a good amount of folks who pitch their clients to us as well.”

S2: How closely do you and your team have to work with local and state officials in regard to going forward with this event this year?

HW: “Assuming you are asking about this with COVID-19 in mind, I wish I could say VERY closely. Unfortunately, state officials in Florida have not taken the pandemic very seriously since it began. We could have held our event last year, but decided to push until 2022 for everyone’s safety. Locally, however, we are in contact with law enforcement, fire departments and others to ensure we are operating at proper capacity and with correct legal protocols.”

S2: At this present moment, how many tickets have been sold or are projected to be sold this year?

HW: “Since there are a lot of international attendees and volunteers that are unable to attend in-person due to visa or COVID restrictions, QFX East will operate as a hybrid event with virtual attendance and experiences running alongside the physical event. Having said that, our in-person attendance is likely to be smaller than what we were anticipating pre-pandemic – but we like intimate events!”

S2: What can fans expect should this be their first time attending this event?

HW: “They can expect our team and volunteers to be professional and knowledgeable and that they will be safe in the space we have carved out at our venue. We will have loads of guests but also a ton of fun things to do outside of programming hours.  Our Saturday night afterparty will be a Queer Prom and we are very much looking forward to that!”

S2: Addressing the elephant in the room, COVID, what precautions will this event be taking?

HW: “We have a very detailed COVID-19 policy on our website, but the cliff notes version of this is that our event will be vaccine-mandated.  The majority of our guests are opting not to use plexiglass as some events have had in the past, but when attendees are waiting for autographs in line, we may implement masks (only while in line) since there may be some crowding.  We will also have color-coded wristbands for attendees to wear to signal their comfort level to others.”

S2: Finally – what are you most looking forward to this year w/ QFX East?

HW: “Meeting new people, connecting with old friends and finally holding our inaugural event with the hopes of it being the first of many to come. :)”

We here at Stay2uned look forward to that as well. On behalf of everyone here -we would like to congratulate the passionate and dedicated QFX Events team for finally getting the chance to kick off what is sure to be one heck of a convention. QFX East will be taking place next weekend, beginning Friday, May 13th and ending on Sunday, May 15th at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. For more information – you can visit their official website at: https://www.qfxevents.com. And- if you can’t make it there in person, fret not as there’s also a virtual means of attending. 🙂

-Thank you again, Holly W., for taking the time out of your insanely busy schedule to answer our questions. 🙂

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