Before Fyre Fest and its infamous cheese sandwich, the poster child for events gone terribly awry was DashCon. Best epitomized by the photo of a sad ball pit in an empty convention hall, the event was meant to be a celebration of various Tumblr fandoms with panels geared to their interests and plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people. It ended up being an unmitigated disaster. And it was probably such a wreck because it was organized by a kid.
Ryan Broderick interviewed Lochlan O’Neil, DashCon’s creator, over at Garbage Day in a subscriber-only piece and shared excerpts through a freely available edition of his newsletter. In it, we learn that O’Neil was only 15 when she founded the Tumbl-Con blog and just 17 when that blog eventually turned into 2014's DashCon.
Though she had no experience with conventions other than “rabbit breeding fairs she had attended,” O’Neil ended up in charge of DashCon’s social media and “on-site logistics” while some adults handled the business registration. Because she was a 17-year-old who had no idea how to manage something as complicated as a convention, everything quickly spiraled out of control. There were too few attendees “to pay the hotel properly,” so O’Neil had to walk around in tears, wearing Homestuck cosplay, trying to get donations in a brown paper bag, and began “exhibiting symptoms of what she would later learn was narcolepsy” while trying to avert total catastrophe.
As for the ball pit, O’Neil told Broderick that she came up with the idea and had “envisioned a really big one that people could get to know each other in.” When she saw the pitiful, tiny pit she went to the operations room (“not even crying at this point ... just [feeling] very defeated”) and was told that the supplier had, at least, “said we can have an extra hour because it’s not the right one.”
Afterwards, O’Neil received death threats and emails “saying they were going to sue me,” to which she would respond, “I’m 17.” Broderick rightly assigns blame for the shambles of an event on the adults who put O’Neil in a position she was unequipped to handle. It’s hard not to agree—and not to feel terrible for a kid being stuck in that kind of spot—when you read more of her memories of DashCon for yourself.
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