Tana Mongeau wanted to throw an alt-VidCon. Instead, she threw a Fyre Festival redux.
Mongeau is a YouTuber. She has 3.5 million followers and her name might sound vaguely familiar if you’re at all versed in the surprisingly engaging world of vegan YouTube drama. VidCon is an annual YouTube-centric convention organized by brothers and YouTube royals Hank and John Green. Tanacon is the event that Mongeau organized — and named after herself — last week in California.
Tanacon was inspired by Mongeau’s self-professed dislike of VidCon. In a video you can watch if you have an hour and eighteen minutes to kill, Mongeau explained she would not be attending VidCon this year, citing drama over not being designated a featured creator at the event. And so, Tanacon was born. And, in a way, so Tanacon died. The event was barely six hours into its first day when it was shut down by officials for overcrowding, sending thousand of teens — many who had been waiting hours outside in the sun — into a tizzy. A dehydrated tizzy we can now recount for you to gleefully relive from the relative comfort of wherever you’re presently posted up. (We can only assume it’s not still the parking lot of the Anaheim Marriott Suites.)
To fully understand the descent into madness, you first have to understand how Tanacon ticketing worked. The event, which promised appearances from names like Bella Thorne, Casey Neistat, Miranda Sings, and Shane Dawson (to those of you just nodding along blankly: famous YouTubers), was technically free. Free tickets to the event went on “sale” in May. They sold out in two minutes. If you didn’t manage to get your hands on one — one vlogger reporting live from the crowd said she never actually spotted anybody wearing a free badge — VIP tickets were available for $65. “But with handling and taxes came to about $77,” Bryan, an 18-year-old Californian, told me. He said that price promised a “concert, gift bags, private signings, and personal pictures.” Once at Tanacon, VIPs discovered the bags contained “just stickers and a condom,” Heidy, 15, noted. Inside the venue, some fans inflated their condoms and passed them through the air like beach balls at a concert.
The VIP ticket was also supposed to be a fast pass for meet-and-greet lines. Fans later discovered you had to RSVP online for creator-specific meet-and-greets. Those events had headcount caps, so most fans found themselves locked out anyway. That is the fans who knew that you had to RSVP in the first place. “You only got one [meet-and-greet RSVP] and most of them sold out immediately,” Veronica, an 18-year-old from New Hampshire, said. “They ended up giving everyone at registration the VIP badge because they ran out of the free ticket badges, so almost everyone was a VIP. It was really unorganized,” Devon, a 20-year-old from Orange County, explained.
It turns out it didn’t really matter which ticket you had. Once attendees arrived at the venue they were all instructed to stand in the same line, no matter what they had or hadn’t paid. “They said we were going to able to skip front of the line [with VIP],” Devon, a fan who showed up at 6 a.m. to queue, said. “VIPs also stood in the same line as free pass holders … that’s why it took so long.” (Devon was one of the lucky ones who was able to get inside the venue before the whole shebang was shut down.) “I was able to get inside on Friday, but I was first in line and got there at 3:30 a.m.,” another fan, Gianna, said, adding she drove six hours from her hometown, also in California, for Tanacon. For those fans that didn’t arrive in the wee hours of the morning to stand in line, standing in line is basically all that Tanacon amounted to.
The venue could only hold 5,000 people, but, if Mongeau’s tweets are to be believed, an approximate 20,000 showed up for the event. Most of those people never made it in the door. Those that did got to witness, among other things, a “wedding” where Mongeau married two fans. “It was some couple who tweeted to her asking if they could get married at Tanacon, so she got ordained,” Bryan said. “It was fun.” Another attendee, Mary, said she and her boyfriend watched someone get taken out of the event on a stretcher. “I was inside for about 35 minutes and left about ten minutes before the police shut it down,” an attendee named Shelby said. “Security and fans were getting frustrated and angry and there was nothing to do. It started to feel like an unsafe environment.”
Even if it wasn’t actually 2o,000 fans, there were still far too many people outside who wanted to get inside. Thus … a whole lot of waiting around in the parking lot. And what happens when you park thousands of people outside for hours in the California sun? They burn. And then they tweet pictures of their burns. On Twitter, attendees also lamented a lack of vendors selling food and water. Fans who managed to get inside were told if they left the venue they would not be allowed back inside. There were no concessions for sale inside the venue, one vlogger explained in a video filmed during the event.
“The line was chaos when we got there and no one knew where the end was or even what they were certainly in line for. When we finally found what we assumed to be the end, the line wrapped around the parking lot,” Sierra, 19, said. “We stood in line for literally like four and a half hours in the hot, hot sun. I currently have second-degree burns on my shoulders from sunburn. After we finally got up to the other side of the parking lot, a Good Times worker had a microphone and was saying that the capacity was full and due to safety concerns they were canceling the entire event. I saw people crying and everyone was chanting, ‘refunds refunds!’ Or, ‘Tana Tana!’”
The fan horde did not take well to the event cancellation. “After the lady said it was canceled, everyone started screaming, complaining, and cussing her out,” 13-year-old Alyssa, who bought a VIP ticket and waited six hours to be turned away empty-handed, said. “Everyone ran to the registration tent and threw the merch … pop sockets, Tanacon bags, stickers, Tanacon condoms, badges. This led to everyone destroying everything.”
Mongeau eventually came outside to calm the crowd. This, reader, will you believe … also did not end well, as evidenced by clips of screaming fans, phones raised above their heads with cameras at the ready, running through the parking lot to spy their queen. “When I went to get my badge, the worker checked my ticket really fast. She didn’t check the name or anything,” Heidy said. “Once I got it, this lady came out and said Tanacon was canceled. Everyone there was mad and they began to freak out.” Another attendee, 16-year-old Camryn from Nevada, described the crowd as an angry mob. “The fire marshal and police came and shut down the whole event,” Camryn said.
Mongeau, accompanied by Bella Thorne, told the crowd she and her team —– management company Good Times Live — were getting things figured out for the second day of the event. (She also tweeted that she and her team had located a second venue to fit another 5,000 people on day one. This never materialized.) This, it would later be revealed, didn’t happen. But optimistic fans weren’t given any indication the second day of the convention would also be canceled until the arrived on day two.
The next day there was no announcement that day two was canceled “so I showed up at the venue at 7 a.m.,” Camryn said. “There were people gathered in the parking lot where the line was and the employees told us it was canceled. Tana didn’t officially announce the whole event was canceled until hours later.” Good Times Live apologized, via Twitter, on Sunday. Mongeau also posted an apologetic thread offering refunds to everyone who bought a ticket and offering her Gmail address to discuss reparations for any fans who traveled particularly far.
None of the attendees I spoke with said they had heard back about their refund inquiries. Nearly all of them, however, wanted to be very clear that they don’t blame Mongeau for what went down. “I don’t believe it was her [Mongeau’s] fault,” Mary said. “There was just too many people there and that’s what caused everything to go bad.” The mental gymnastics there, given Mongeau elected to organize an event the same weekend as VidCon, in the same city as VidCon, with cheaper tickets and seemingly no system to cap crowds, is truly, uh, something. Still, blame or not blame, these fans would like their money back as soon as possible. “We emailed them about refunds with no response and Tana was radio silent for literally like twelve hours,” Sierra said. “We just ended up driving home with nothing but broke bank accounts and sunburns.”