Avalon Expo organizer 'fine,' participant says controversy unwarranted

The Avalon Expo has been mired in controversy since it ended Sunday night, but one vendor says much of the negativity is out of focus.

Featured expo star Rene Auberjonois tweeted about unpaid bills, disorganization, but vendor says it's off base

Jeff Power founded Avalon Expo, a sci-fi and fantasy conference in St. John's, in 2015. (Jeff Power/Facebook)

An Avalon Expo vendor is speaking out in support of the event and against the stream of negative tweets from one of its headliners.

"This is something that started out pretty small and it's been growing exponentially ever since and it's a really great event," says Heather Reilly, owner of Reilly Books. She's been selling books at the Avalon Expo since its first year in 2015.

"Everything has hiccups every once in a while. This year just happened to have a whole bunch all tied into one."

The Avalon Expo, or AvEx, is a sci-fi, fantasy, gaming and comic convention, which was held at Mile One Centre in St. John's Aug. 25-27. It's been mired in controversy since it wrapped up last night, beginning with a series of tweets from one of its headlining guests, Rene Auberjonois, the actor who played the character Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Auberjonois tweeted that the event was disorganized and bills related to accommodations were unpaid, writing "we're being stiffed and he's run out on the hotel bill."

He also said Jeff Power, the event's founder and organizer had disappeared.

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The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary confirmed they received a missing persons report for Power on Sunday at 9 a.m., the last night of AvEx.

Power has since been in contact with the RNC — they said he "is fine."

As for the allegations from Auberjonois, Reilly says she has been speaking with organizers of the event and that, to her knowledge, the hotel bills have been taken care of.

This was the third year for Avalon Expo, and the first time it was held at Mile One. Last year's event was at the Centre des Grand-Vents. The year before, it was at Re/Max Centre.

Reilly says the bump up to a bigger venue caused headaches, as did a number of last-minute hiccups, like a star pulling out at the 11th hour. 

"I'm not here to point fingers and I don't know who to point the finger at in any case," she said. "It could have just been that too many things went wrong at the same time, I don't know, but I know the whole thing kind of got off to a rocky start."

But despite the shaky liftoff, she said the event was ultimately a success.

"There was so much that went on this weekend, and there were so many great aspects to the weekend that I think people are losing sight of. All in all, even though there were some things that didn't go right, in the end the thing was a success."

She said everyone involved is working to learn from their mistakes and to come up with safeguards for those things that are beyond the control of organizers.

"I think there's a real need for events like this, for the quote-unquote geek community," she said. "Everybody needs a place to call their own, and I think a lot of people that don't feel like they have a place in everyday situations have a place here."

Representatives of Avalon Expo declined to provide a statement to CBC News on Monday but Bonnie Glenn with the Expo posted on Facebook Monday evening that no further information will be released to protect Powers' privacy.

If you are referring to his tweets concerning his hotel room, I can say that it has been taken care of for him.- Bonnie Glenn

"If he wishes for people to know what happened during his disappearance he will share that information," she wrote. "For now we — his friends and family — request that you respect his privacy."

Glenn, when asked by CBC to comment on Auberjonois' tweets, declined.

"If you are referring to his tweets concerning his hotel room, I can say that it has been taken care of for him," she wrote. "As for the rest, that is something you would need to contact Jeff Power's family about as I am not at liberty to discuss."