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Personal Reflections on 25 years of MTAC

by Cass Teague
Cass Teague at MTAC in 2005.

The latest iteration of MTAC, MTAC Dueling Dragons, runs Friday, March 29 through Sunday, March 31. My first experience with MTAC was with the 400 or so who came to Days Inn Nashville Airport in August, 2002 for MTAC Pi. I was looking for an alternative to rap music, basketball, and such for my son, age 17. I heard about his convention, and my intent was to take him there to enjoy and have fun.

Ironically, he hated it. But, I loved it! And, I went back, year after year, and grew to love it more and more, eventually attending other fan conventions, literally all over the continent, from San Diego Comic-Con to Polaris and Fan Expo in Toronto, Canada. I agree wholeheartedly with Gray that MTAC offers a welcoming, friendly environment, a safe place with love, acceptance and fun. This is due in large part to the amazing convention chairpersons, department heads, staff members and volunteers who have made this convention and GMX magical for decades, way too numerous to mention any one by name.

As an outgrowth of my acclimation to convention life at MTAC, I have enjoyed many other fan conventions in Nashville such as Hypericon, AkaiCon, Nashville ComicCon, the ICCC, and the amazing 7 year run of GMX — the Geek Media Expo— a spin-off of MTAC for an older audience modelled on Atlanta’s Dragon*Con that ran from 2009 through 2016. MTAC motivated me to attend Dragon*Con in Atlanta in 2006, and I went back every year through 2019, and returned in 2023 (thanks, coronavirus!).

MTAC sparked the movement in Nashville that fed other local conventions. It perennially brought in fans numbering in the thousands beginning with 4.01 Beta at Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University in April, 2004 with guests Greg Ayres, Robert DeJesus, Monica Rial, and Doug Smith, maybe my favorite guest lineup. The next year Greg, Monica, and Robert returned, along with Brent Allison, Laura Bailey, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Emily DeJesus, Lisa Furukawa, Kevin McKeever, Vic Mignogna, and Steve Yun to almost double the attendance, for MTAC GO! at Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in April, 2005.

Attendance continued to grow, and grow, as these and other guests came for conventions in Williamson County at Embassy Suites Nashville South in Cool Springs, Franklin, in 2006 and Cool Springs Conference Center (Marriott) in Franklin, in 2007, really hammering home the idea that this is the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, not the Nashville Anime Convention. This would be revisited at Embassy Suites Nashville SE – Murfreesboro, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in April 2014.

MTAC settled into a groove with the folks at the Sheraton Music City, and it first hosted MTAC in 2008, and will host it for the tenth time this year, officially sharing with the Nashville Airport Marriott in 2015 and Embassy Suites Nashville Airport since 2016. It is an almost ideal venue, so come check it out!

2010 was a very challenging year, as the Great Nashville Flood happened that weekend, making access to and from the con impossible on Saturday and Sunday. As a local, I drove to it Friday and came home; but I couldn’t get back for the rest of the weekend. The convention and the hotel staff did a remarkable job of keeping everybody safe and fed, especially considering how many attendees were very young. Memorial Floodcon t-shirts became a favorite item afterwards, and can still be seen at cons over a dozen years later.

In 2012 and 2013, the Nashville Convention Center (not Music City Center) and Renaissance Nashville Hotel hosted MTAC, as attendance reached its peak of 9,796 for MTAC Devil’s Dozen. After that year in Murfreesboro, the con settled in to the Sheraton & Embassy until the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down for 2020 and 2021. In 2022, MTAC experimented with the new Grand Hyatt Nashville downtown until returning home to the Sheraton & Embassy last year, where Beau Billinslea headed the guest list.

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