Above: Sakura-Con, in a visual nutshell..
First, a bit of cultural background is in order. Washington, especially the Seattle area, has a sizable population of Japanese. The state ranks third, behind only California and Hawaii, in terms of size of the Japanese-American community. And, as a major gateway to Asia, Seattle is a natural location to hold a cultural event such as Sakura-Con.
One could do worse than to hit a con run by dedicated and competent staff in such a location.
As a venue, The Washington State Convention and Trade Center is reasonably modern and state of the art, with enough space for the 16,500 convention attendees. More importantly, the convention center is in a vibrant downtown area with easy access to food and shopping. One cannot underestimate the value of having an anime convention near cheap eats.
Most amusingly, the con offered up something that few if any other cons can claim to offer: actual sakura during the convention, as well as plenty of other flowers. Yes, Sakura-Con actually lived up to its name in the most literal way possible. And, when it wasn't raining, people were outside shooting with and frolicking between the flowers. In fact, Freeway Park, directly attached to the convention center, was a jammed mess during much of Saturday.
Above: What? Sakura at Sakura-Con? Madness!
As a sign that the programming staff knows the varied tastes of its crowd, the programming schedule was... diverse. There were the normal Guest of Honor events and various panels devoted to such mundane activities as cosplaying or jumping into the industry. Then there were the esoteric panels, like the Anime Swimsuit Contest or even the Gay and Lesbian Speed Dating Panel. This was probably made possible by the fact that Sakura-Con had more panel rooms than most other anime conventions. A lot more.
It's also about the only con I've ever seen with a 2 hour Touhou panel. It deserves some brownie points.
(To say nothing of the music program...)
Sakura-Con had a surprisingly vivacious dance. Now this should go without saying, but West Coast cons have a reputation for terrible nightlife, and this is reflected in their dances. But Sakura-Con's dances were well-attended. It probably helped that Sakura-Con's know-how in its concerts carried right over to putting on an excellent dance, and that one Guest of Honor, Smile.dk, was exclusively performing at the dances.
Above: The Friday-night dance. Featuring a performance by Smile.dk, out to promote 10 years performing.
If there are things this con could have done better (and there are always things cons could do
better), they would be logistics and planning. Things like finding a way to cut reg lines down,
or communicating policies better to staffers. But these are common problems. To Sakura-Con's
credit, they did do a reasonably good job adapting. And, if you could gather nothing else, there
was always a positive spirit about the convention. I can't say that I knew anybody that truly
left the convention sad, except for the fact that the convention was over.