I am going to preface this by saying, the best thing about any Con is that every person has a different reason for attending. The first time I went I felt awkward because my reason didn’t feel the same as others. My passion will always be deep rooted in pop and celebrity culture. I can hold a basic conversation about comics but my nerdiness lies with the people that create and act in the movies and television shows that we’ve come to love all these years and for many more years to come.
Rewind to last fall (2013) a couple of men, by the name of Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, created something much bigger than all of us: Salt Lake Comic Con. Celebs such as The Fonz-Henry Winkler, Lou Ferrigno, David Prowse, Nick Gomez, and a many others were first time guests. There were aisles and aisles of vendors and amazing artists. Honestly, it really was all a blur to me. I had never been to a Con before. Ever. I didn’t know it was about scheduling your day with panels on topics you find interesting. I DID know that the pop culture spirit in me wanted to see some celebs! I waited 2 hours on a Saturday to get into the building. Once I was in, they announced moments later that the building was to capacity and they weren’t letting anyone else in for a while. Yea, I felt lucky I made it in just in time.
6 months later, FanX made its debut. Pretty much the same thing, but with a focus more on the pop culture side of things. That was cool. I got to meet (and tear up with) Julie Benz of Dexter, and I met THE Edward James Olmos of Dexter and Stand and Deliver. I know guys, he was part of Battlestar Galactica too. One of THE best panels was Charles Fleisher, the voice of Roger Rabbit, he stole the show.
3 months later another production company unleashed FantasyCon on Salt Lake City. This one based more on Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans. Also pretty fantastic. This one included TheOneRing.net, 7 of the 12 Hobbit Dwarves, Sylvester McCoy, the super friendly and charismatic Doug Jones, and the amazing Mark Ryan. I was so excited to have almost a 30 minute conversation with Mark Ryan. He was absolutely lovely. Those names were just a few. And guess what? I had my groove at this one! I made out my schedule, knew who I wanted to meet, and I felt pretty confident in my Con-going abilities this time around.
2 months later, September 4-6th, marked the second annual Salt Lake Comic Con. Word on the street is that it was to attract over 120,000 people. Salt Lake was going into this as the 3rd largest Comic Con in the country after only their first time. I wasn’t scared, I was actually totally excited! I was excited to be part of something so big and be in a place where anybody can find where they fit in. Celebrities on the list this time included legends such as James Hong, Danny Glover, Barbara Eden, Lou Ferrigno, Hulk Hogan, and Stan Lee. Popular icons Stephen Amell, John Barrowman, John Heder, and Alan Tudyk. Craig Parker, Carey Elwes, Bruce Campbell, Manu Bennett, Erin Gray, and many others were added to the guest list. I had my go-to list written out a week in advance. Only a small handful of them were on my list but a very important few. I also made a list of guests just to say, “Hey, thank you for being part of my love of movies and television.” I marked out all of the panels I wanted to go to and just before the event, the Comic Cons app went live. It is SUCH a cool and well organized app! I bought my tickets months in advance and pre-registered 3 days before. No lines for me! Or so I thought…
Thursday finally arrived! My first cosplay ever was made for the next two days (Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura and Myrtle Snow from American Horror Story), I was ready! I got to the Salt Lake Convention Center about noon and the lines were already massive and nobody knew what they were doing. I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day though. The doors were suppose to open for the Gold/VIP members at 1pm. I was in that group. We stood in line ’til almost 2pm. Finally the line moved and we were able to get in. There is something so overwhelming, but in a good way, of walking into a huge convention center with rows and rows of artists. I remember thinking to myself where do I even start? I decided I would have plenty of time and walked up and down the aisles for a bit. I am a pretty firm believer in things happening for a reason. The weekend played out accordingly.
I was able to go to all the panels on Thursday that I wanted to. Cary Elwes started the weekend just right. He is just as charming in real life as on the screen, with a heart of gold for his fans. (oh and buy his book “As You Wish” on Amazon)
Craig Parker, who was an absolute joy and looks NOTHING like his character, Haldir, in Lord of the Rings was next on my list. I didn’t know him at the time for anything other than LOTR but now I am well versed in his acting. Craig had no moderator and the guy just sat on the table and talked. I would have been okay listening to him talk for hours telling stories of auditioning, costuming, and traveling for his roles. For the rest of the weekend I spent moments popping in and out of Craig Parkers booth and giving the awesome volunteers, Greg and his wife, a hard time (but Greg’s wife told me that Craig and I had a good connection so it was okay I kept coming back.) We had something immediately in common, he was just as excited about my American Horror Story cosplay as I was! Over the three days I asked him questions about his roles, his personal life, and he thought I should do the flames for my cosplay which he gave suggestion on how to, but the flames never came to fruition.
In James Hongs panel, he spoke about his entry into film at a time that Asian actors weren’t common, he let out some of his famous voices like Lo Pan and Mr. Ping, and even busted out some pretty awesome moves for a guy that is 85! I was in awe listening to him speak about being in films with Clark Gable and Lauren Bacall. He was as legendary as I ever imagined. When I met him, he was pounding fists with fans and when I got my picture taken with him he said, “let’s do something, here let me sign your hand.” He signed his name on my hand.
On closing night as I was waiting for Craig Parker to return to his booth to get my autograph, John Barrowman stood on his table and told everyone waiting in his line that he would get to every single one of them. I have no doubt that he did. It was so cool watching the actors interact with their fans. Some, of course, were cooler than others.
Now for the serious side of how I felt about Salt Lake Comic Con as a business. Two times over the weekend I ran into Dan Farr. All I could think was how cool that the creator of this event is out on the floor making sure everything is happening. I am frequently spending time on social media, especially for large events, for updates and information. As I gallivanted around inside this massive convention center, outside of the building over the three days people were angry and they weren’t afraid to voice in on social media. Mad that they weren’t getting in timely and that the building was too packed. People were posting they were VIP’s and Gold Members and weren’t getting in. They were posting about the ridiculous crowds, and the cramming of rows and the inability to actually stop and see the vendors. I am so far from a type A personality, so the crowds don’t bother me and I am pretty great at navigating them. I want to just say to these people, “STAND YOUR GROUND!” I was in cosplay and made plenty of time to stop at booths. The complaining has continued for weeks. Could they sell less tickets and give those of us that buy first more room? Maybe. Could they add an extra day? Perhaps. Could they ask less vendors to participate? I guess. I think people forget this Con is in its baby stages. This is only the second one EVER people! San Diego Comic Con has been around since the 1970. I bet they had issues and I am sure they are still learning. My message to those complaining about prices, space, or even too many con’s in one year: stay home and let the rest of us that want to go, go. I loved everything about that weekend, except for the couple panels I missed and that I didn’t get more time to talk to Craig Parker cause everyone else wanted to talk to him too. It is crazy it has already been almost 2 months, it feels like it just happened. I anxiously await the next and the next in hopes that some of the celebrities/artists want to come back to us!
Thank you Salt Lake Comic Con for bringing this pure awesomeness to our backyard!