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Published on July 16th, 2011 | by Hurt Reynolds

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Remember RollerCon 2007?

Editor’s Note: Since it’s almost that time of year again, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Hurt’s travelogue from Day 1 of the first RollerCon to resemble its current format. Year one was more like a party with a scrimmage, year two was a wildly ambitious 10 day non-stop derby machine, and in year three, 2007, RollerCon found a balance. Enter our time machine and enjoy.

RollerCon: Day One Dispatch
Written by Hurt Reynolds
Thursday, 09 August 2007
So much to talk about, so little time to type. RollerCon Day One was amazingly fun, smoother than we’d thought would be possible (which is to say plenty of bumps, but no showstoppers), and just plain thoroughly satisfying for me and everyone who talked to me. I’m going to try to come back to this later today and talk more about what happened, but right now I’ve got time for just one highlight.

The real jaw-dropping moment came late in the day, when I walked through the doors to the welcome banquet to behold a SEA of rollergirls. It’s one thing to know that the sport has grown wildly, and another thing to see a large ballroom filled wall-to-wall with derby people, 600 or more… I wish I’d gotten a picture! But I was overwhelmed and overstimulated and exhausted and just plain kept thinking “take a picture” then forgetting what I was doing before I got ten feet toward a corner of the room. Surely someone else got one, and I’d love a pointer to it.

Apart from problematic sound system that rendered the hosts nearly incomprehensible to people in the center of the room, everything else about the banquet was really enjoyable. The food was remarkably good (surprising, since such events usually produce a lot of half-eaten rubber chicken), the Imperial Palace staff was attentive, and the multiple bars in the lobby had no problem keeping up with what would usually be an insurmountable tide of derby demand.

Bob Noxious, Mayor of RollerCon and proprietor of Flyin’ Squirrel, performed a heroic job under difficult conditions while hosting the banquet. He introduced Ivanna S. Pankin for a few quick words, then brought up original Roller Derby skater Loretta “Li’l Iodine” Behrens, guest of honor for the banquet. Loretta was an early supporter of the modern roller derby revolution, and spoke from her heart offering both encouragement and pointed advice to today’s skaters.

Loretta, in turn, brought up a surprise guest: Jerry Seltzer, longtime roller derby owner and promoter and son of the sport’s original inventor, Leo Seltzer. Jerry quickly captured the audience’s attention with comments about how his late father always hoped to see the sport gain broader acceptance and legitimacy, and wouldn’t have believed it’d ever be possible after the original roller derby wound down in the 70’s. Jerry’s most telling anecdote: At the height of the sport’s previous success, in the 50’s, roller derby consisted of six teams totalling 83 skaters. It only took a look around the room to see how much the modern sport has accomplished in so little time.

I and many people around me were surprised and touched by these gestures. While there have been exceptions, the modern roller derby community has endured an awful lot of criticism from some old-school derby skaters and promoters, often along the lines of “that’s not the real sport.” Jerry and Loretta earned lots of applause from an attentive and appreciative audience.

Off to the workshops. My session today: Balancing Show and Sport. Stay tuned for more dispatches from RollerCon!

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