Chi-Fi bounces back from “freak” flap

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“The Simpsons” Courtesy of FOX

When faced with a bully, what did Mom say to do? Pick ourselves up and move forward.

And that’s exactly what Chi-Fi, a new sci-fi convention set to debut in Chicago until a recent setback, is doing.

James Dobbs, chairman of Chi-Fi, said Wednesday that “several hotels have contacted us” after the Westin Chicago River North and Chi-Fi’s planning committee had a falling out during negotiations for a planned March 27-29 convention. Specifically, a senior staff member called the convention group “costumed freaks” and said it did not fit with the Westin’s aspired “Four Seasons” feel, according to media reports.

It reminded him of “middle school bullying,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs and his group decided to walk away from the contract, and the convention, which will be shortened to a March 29 celebration featuring science fiction programming and geeky bands, at a to-be-named location. The group plans to returns in 2015 with a full convention.

Part of the flap centered around an anti-harassment policy that the group stood by in the face of pointed questions by the Westin. Dobbs says Chi-Fi is envisioned as a community atmosphere and an important aspect of that is that all guests feel safe, and the Westin “did not know why we needed an anti-harassment policy.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” Dobbs said. Comic book conventions have recently had reported incidents of sexual harassment, with varying degrees of successful response by con organizers.

The first 150 convention-goers who register for the 2015 convention will get free admission to the March 29 event. Register at chi-fi.org.

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