Review: EyeCon's One Tree Hill Convention

“There’s only one Tree Hill, and it’s your home.”


For all of my One Tree Hill fans, this statement most likely hits home. It was the anthem (besides Gavin Degraw, of course) for the entire convention weekend, and it honestly could not be more true!


I’ve had many people reach out and ask about my experience with EyeCon’s One Tree Hill convention and was beyond excited to share every detail with y’all! Let me first tell you, though, that I went into this entire event blind! There were little to no details about ANYTHING: no blog posts or reviews and very few descriptions of the events we were attending! Because of this, I want to not only let all of my friends know the inside scoop of what went down but can only hope that an eager fan like me will come across this post and be able to make more informed decisions for the next con. That being said, let’s get started (and maybe grab a snack, because this is going to be a long one)!



Purchasing Tickets:


I’ve been following EyeCon’s event for years in the hopes that I would one day be able to attend, so when I found out that this was their last convention, I knew that this was my year to go! (They have since announced that this will not be their final con and that they will be returning in October of this year, thus inspiring this blog post!) Despite having knowledge of the event, I had no clue where to even begin when it came to purchasing tickets!


There are three levels of admission: Diamond, Platinum, and General Admission. The first two will cost you an arm and a leg but will allow you into almost every party and will let you meet a wide variety of actors. General admission merely lets you into the convention and Q&A panels. We opted for General Admission simply due to price and added on our experiences from there.

After attending the convention, though, I can say that having one of the higher admissions most likely would have resulted in a greater overall experience, but only because of the number of actors you would have been able to meet. (For reference, though, you can purchase as many photo ops and autograph sessions as you would like with a general admission pass, I would just consider the value of your purchase as related to the higher admission levels, if that makes sense).

Because we had general admission tickets, we then added on a photo op with Chad Michael Murray and tickets to their Saturday night party (more details on those later in the post). The website was very clear that there were absolutely NO refunds (even in the case of death!) and they laid out the rules of each purchase with little questions left to ask. So, while the physical website was not the most aesthetically pleasing and a little difficult to navigate, majority of the information (beyond what it was you were actually buying tickets to) was relatively clear.

One thing to note, however, is that you do not obtain physical tickets until you arrive at the convention. So, save and print off your confirmation emails and make sure you spell your name correctly (as it is shown on your photo ID)!



Registration:


This may have been the most organized portion of the entire experience. Upon arriving to Wilmington, we were directed to the USS North Carolina (aka the River Court) where all of Friday’s activities would be taking place. This included any Friday Night parties, Friday Q&A sessions, and registration.


I would HIGHLY recommend registering first thing! We arrived in Wilmington at 3:00 local time and went to pick up our tickets as soon as we checked into our hotel. This saved us from having to wake up early and fight more lines on Saturday! And honestly, the entire process was quite simple.

I made sure to have my ID and printed ticket confirmation so as to avoid any questions at all about my purchase. This proved to be helpful, because after locating my tickets, we found that one had been left out of our packet. I simply informed the lady helping us, showed her my printed confirmation, and received another ticket. Easy-peasy! After that, we were set and could just enjoy the rest of the weekend!


**Very important side note before going too far: BE SURE TO FOLLOW EYECON ON EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM. I was GLUED to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with notifications turned on for each so that I was aware of any announcements EyeCon made. This was extremely important, because registration was moved from the convention location to the battleship with 24 hours’ notice. Had I not paid attention, we would have been lost and confused about where to register (and about everything else happening that weekend), so I must urge you to check these platforms if you have any questions during the event!


This leads me to my next topic . . .



Information Gathering:


This may have been one of the most stressful parts of planning our trip! I’m very type-A when it comes to organizing a vacation. I like to have almost every minute of our day planned with backups B and C in case the restaurant we wanted to eat at had too long of a wait, we got stuck in traffic, etc, and as mentioned before, EyeCon gave very little information about what to expect, which led me to doing research of my own.


The MOST helpful place to gather information about this event is EyeCon’s Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/RTTHConventionEyecon/). By joining this group, I was able to read everyone’s questions, get quick responses to my own, and read every announcement from the convention first! Everyone was so kind, and I was able to hear about each member’s personal experience, which was truly the information I was looking for!


The only caveat with this group, though, is that while I could ask about whether or not the Saturday Night party was worth the purchase, I always received the same answer of “yes.” Again, no details on how it worked, just encouragement to do as much as I could possibly afford. Though this Facebook page was the ONLY thing I read about for three months, I still felt unprepared upon arrival.


So, is it helpful? Yes, in terms of technical proceedings concerning the convention. Did I get a real look into the experience? Not at all, so let’s get to the meat of this post.





Saturday General Admission:


As mentioned before, we chose to purchase general admission tickets for Saturday only. This meant that we could only attend the convention, the Q&A panels, and the vendor room on Saturday. Because we drove up (8 hours) on Friday morning and returned Sunday evening, this was an excellent decision! We were not able to attend any other events on Friday and Sunday due to time constraints, so there was no need to spend even more money on admission for those days. However, if you plan to make this a full weekend trip, allow my experience with just Saturday’s admission to inform you on whether or not to purchase for all three days.


Saturday’s admission allowed us access into the "vendor’s room," which was honestly just four tables of merchandise crammed into a very small space, and because we didn’t shop on Friday, almost everything in my size had already been sold out. This was honestly not a problem, though, as almost every store in downtown Wilmington carries One Tree Hill Merchandise. I just hated not being able to support the vendors who worked hard to provide for this event, but a girl’s gotta have a Keith Scott Body Shop hoodie!


The only other “perk” of our Saturday admission was entrance into the Q&A panels, which was honestly a lot of fun! There were two panels on Saturday separated from the other by about two hours. This allowed us to get lunch in between and not miss a moment. Despite having “general admission” level seating, we did not struggle to find a seat, even after we returned from lunch. The panels were fun, light-hearted, and not nearly long enough! I honestly could have listened to the “Deb, Keith, and Skillz” panel for hours! So, while you must have general admission to attend any of the other events, photo ops, autographs, etc., I highly recommend you attend at least one Q&A session! I mean, you’ve already paid for it, and my husband even enjoyed it!




Photo Op:


One of the highlights of this trip was our photo op with Chad Michael Murray! In fact, he’s the only reason we chose to come to this convention! I’ve been dreaming of meeting Chad since I first started watching the show almost 10 years ago, so a photo op was a must have on my list!

One of my favorite things about the photo op ticket is that each ticket purchase includes a photo for two people, so rather than pay twice the amount of money just so Brandon could tag along, he was able to join me at no additional cost. (Though I may not have complained if I had to have Chad all to myself!)


As for the photo op experience – it’s FAST. This was to be expected, though. There are a ton of people who all want the same experience as you, and there’s only so much time to fit it all in. And while I can’t vouch for the other actors in attendance, I can tell you that Chad at least took the time to ask our name, give us a hug, and make our one-minute session feel as long as possible. He was a SWEETHEART, and if you love Lucas Scott as much as I do, I will say that this is something you shouldn’t pass up (unless you can afford the private meet and greet with him, but more on that later).


My ONLY complaint about the photo op was that you get one shot and it’s over (again, I knew this going into it), so you can only imagine how disappointed I was (and honestly, still am) to find that I look like the most awkward person alive in my one photo with the man of my dreams! But then again, I suppose it gives me a good excuse to go back!





Saturday Night Party:


This may have been one of the biggest let downs of the trip. Leading up to the convention, there was not much information on this event. I posted on the Facebook group begging for information, and this is the event to which I received “just go” as the common answer. Needless to say, I had absolutely zero clue what I was getting myself into. The only thing I was certain of was the party's location, The USS North Carolina, and honestly, that made my purchasing decision a little easier.


The party was advertised as a “1940’s Costume Party.” I didn’t expect everyone in attendance to dress up for the occasion, but you better believe I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to wear a costume pass me by! I would say that half of the attendees dressed for the theme, while NONE of the celebrity guests were in costume.


Upon arriving, there was an incredible group of swing dancers and the cutest DJs setting the theme with their period-specific music and dancing. I have to say that first-impressions were great! Unfortunately, though, you can only stand around and watch professional dancers for so long before getting bored.


After my husband and I watched a couple of dances, we decided to explore the ship, since it was open for self-guided tours. This was the best part of the entire party! Brandon and I loved goofing off and getting to see every part of the ship on our own, but in retrospect we could have done this any other day in Wilmington and paid significantly less money to do so.


Now, to the part everyone wants to know about: celebrity interactions. We only attended this event in order to get more time with celebrities we had not purchased photo ops or autograph sessions with. Not only was I disappointed with the outcome, but I would argue that this event (specifically this aspect) shaped my opinion of EyeCon and their operations as a whole.


The Saturday Night party was not attended by the big-name actors (i.e. Chad and James). We were lucky enough, however, to see majority of the other stars at this event. (Note the word “see.”) These actors arrived an hour after the party began, said a few words, and immediately left. Despite paying the hefty ticket price, we were not allowed to mingle with them (not that we would have had time) or even take a photo of them talking to the crowd! I can understand not taking photos with the actors, as this would create quite a scene, but essentially being told to not use my phone at all after being blocked by their “posse” from even saying hello is honestly just insulting.

So, if the Saturday Night Party, or any party touted as a “celebrity event” is on your list, don’t go with the expectation of meeting, seeing, or speaking to the actors, because you will very disappointed.





Overall Thoughts:


While I do not for a moment regret our experience with EyeCon, I’ll be honest and say that we both came away from it disappointed. Not only had I built up this experience in my head for years, but the price tag on what we received was not a good value.


If you are attending this convention in the hopes of meeting your favorite celebrities, expect to pay a lot of money. From my understanding, each actor signs an agreement with EyeCon stating that they will not take photos with fans outside of paid opportunities at the convention. For many this meant barely even speaking to the fans as they passed by. Thankfully, most actors were kind enough to say hello, and I’m honestly too timid to ask for a photo in the first place, but the “celebrity interactions” this convention advertises does not deliver.

Additionally, I found the entire weekend to be very unorganized. There was little communication between the emcee and other operators of the event, resulting in confusion as to what was taking place at what time and how to properly execute each event. This was shown specifically in the Saturday Night Party when they promptly announced “We’re supposed to have alcohol for sale, but it’s on its way.” How can you plan an event as many months in advance as they had to forget a key component to their biggest party of the weekend?


I would not by any means, however, say that you should not attend this convention. I truly did enjoy my time, but the moments I look back on and remember the most are those spent outside of the convention. Wilmington is truly a beautiful city, and getting to see the filming locations and walk along the Riverwalk with my love is what made this trip so special!

So, if I had it to do all over again, what would I do?



My Recommendations:


To get the most satisfying experience and receive the ultimate bang for your buck at an EyeCon convention, see which events I would recommend below:


1. General Admission Tickets


This is a given. Unfortunately, you can’t participate in any of the events without admission for the day that event is taking place on. But, it’s the least expensive thing you’ll purchase, and you get to sit in (or maybe even ask a question if you’re bold enough) on the Q&A sessions, making it worth it. Depending on which events you plan to attend, however, will determine which days to purchase. I would still only recommend Saturday admission, as you can get everything done (even my wish list items) in one day!


2. Meet and Greet


If you’re going to meet one specific actor, then I would HIGHLY recommend you do the meet and greet experience. Though I would have loved to meet the other actors, I was really only interested in Chad, and had money permitted, I would have certainly chosen this experience over the standard photo op.


This event has so many perks that (might) make it worth the money! You get to spend one hour with the actor and a very small group of people (maybe 10-15 people). The event is held in a unique location (Chad had one at the bridge and one on the river court), and you get a bomb professional photo as opposed to the harsh flash and outdated backdrop of the standard photo ops!


While I did not attend this event, I fully believe I would have been more satisfied with my interaction had I done so!


3. Photo Ops


If your specific actor of choice is not holding their own meet and greet, however, I would still recommend purchasing a photo op with them! Yes, it’s fast and you have a 50/50 chance of your photo turning out the way you would like, but you still get to meet your favorite character, and you get to do so at a much cheaper price!


4. Saturday Night Banquet


This was another event we did not purchase due to the price tag. After our experience with the Saturday Night Party, though, I do wish we would have paid a little bit more and foregone that experience for this one instead!


The Saturday Night Banquet is the opportunity to have dinner with one of the actors from the show! Depending on your admission level, you get to choose which table to sit at and then have a full meal with one of the stars and approximately seven other people at your table! This was by far the best way to truly maximize your celebrity experience!


The catch? Who you sit with is determined by your ticket status. So, if you have Diamond or Platinum admission you get to choose first whose table you’d like to sit at. (This results in Chad and James’s tables filling up rather quickly from what I’ve read). After that, general admission can line up in order of their pre-assigned number (I’m guessing based off of who purchased their tickets first) to choose who’s left.

This event and its overall value is the only reason I would also recommend purchasing:


5. Diamond or Platinum Admission


Is this a good deal? It honestly depends on what you would like to do! Do I believe you can maximize your experience with it, though? Absolutely! Like I said, money permitting, I couldn’t see why you wouldn’t want to be a Diamond member of the event!


6. Sunday Night Concert


I think this event is a little subjective, as whether or not you would want to attend is based upon who’s performing. At this year’s convention, Tyler Hilton (Chris Keller) was the main act, and if we hadn’t had an eight-hour drive ahead of us, I would have 100% stayed for this event.

My favorite part about it, though, was that you did NOT need a general admission ticket for the concert! (Yet another reason to save your money and only purchase admission for Saturday!)



If you've managed to stick with me this long, I hope I managed to answer just a few of your questions about this event and in turn help you decide what to do as EyeCon prepares for another convention this October! If I managed to leave anything out, or you want to know what my experience was like outside of the convention (Wilmington, Antwon’s Party, etc.) please leave a comment below or reach out to me on social media! I want to help you get the best experience possible so that you don’t have to live out the unrealistic expectations I had going into this event! Despite the event’s shortcomings, though, I can’t deny that I did truly feel as if I was in Tree Hill for the weekend. The city of Wilmington is absolutely stunning, and I can promise that even if you can only afford general admission and a photo op with your favorite actor, this trip will still feel like a dream come true!

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©2020 Charlsie Etheredge