by Sarah Stubbs
The superfans in Akron who would otherwise feel at home at Comic Con won’t have to pay big bucks or travel to big cities in order to get their geek on this summer. They can get their fan fix July 25 at Geekfest 2015, the Akron-Summit County Library’s free and family-friendly 3rd annual mini-comicon.
Never been to a geekfest or practiced cosplay? Don’t worry. We have you covered. To help you own your character and tap your obsession to its fullest, here are a few pro tips from self-professed geek (and Devil Strip contributor) Bronlynn Thurman and Geekfest coordinator Sarah Rosenberger.
Comicons can be dominated with by science-fiction or fantasy-focused geeks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rock your favorite video game character or obscure book character. Whatever your passion, you should celebrate it right alongside the superheroes and anime addicts.
2. When it comes to “going all-out,” originality always counts most.
Fans don’t commonly buy a pricey costume. Instead, they typically build theirs from scratch. Last year, the second place winner of the costume contest used real animal bones in her costume (all humanely acquired, her neighbor was a taxidermist). There was an Optimist Prime costume made entirely of foam and another fan built a humongous dragon costume out of duct tape – she couldn’t fit through doors. Pat Catan’s and Jo-Ann’s aren’t the only places to get materials, so get creative!
3. You can cosplay without spending thousands of dollars (or opt out altogether).
Bronlynn says, “Some people come in just T-shirts with their favorite characters on them and some people go all out.” You don’t have to participate in the costume contest while you’re there, either. You can support those who have the resources and time to invest in awesome costumes by cheering your fellow geeks on as they walk across the stage embodying their characters. Plus, there’s other stuff going on besides the contest, like taking in a live-action “Doctor Who” performance or expert panels, or game and DIY activities.
You don’t have to impress other Star Trek fans with a plethora of Star Trek references, quotes, and history. Be honest about how well-versed you are in your specific geekworld. Geeks who really do know their stuff will be eager to tell you all about it and will be excited that you’re celebrating with them.
5. Don’t miss opportunities to expand your mind.
If you’re curious about turning your obsession into hobby—or even a career—take advantage of the learning opportunities that will be offered all day. At 12:30 pm, there will be a “So You’ve Created a Comic Book. What’s Next?” session put on by children’s book illustrator Damion Kendrick and at 2 pm, there is a “Cosplay for Beginners” panel.
6. You don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re nervous about stepping out in the spotlight by yourself in your costume, grab a group of friends and dress up together. Or cosplay with the whole family. Over the last two years, families have dressed up like Transformers. Groups of friends have gone dressed as Bronies, which isn’t the name of Bronlynn’s groupies but rather what you call adult male fans of “My Little Pony.” Though it’s natural to get nervous the first time you try something new, both Bronlynn and Sarah agree that the environment at Geekfest is extremely supportive. Everyone cheers for one another as they improv across stage.
Participants enter the costume contest alone or with a group, and then are divided into two groups: teens and adults. Contestants must fill out a paper indicating which character they’ve dressed up as, why this character and what makes the character unique or special. Two emcees will host the big stage, introducing each respective geek in character as she takes grabs the spotlight, throwing a few improv moves into the mix. Then the real test begins. The judges—previous winners and veteran geeks—will ask a question to gauge how well that geek knows her character. Those who survive this daunting gauntlet (aka – winners of the contest) will receive trophies sponsored by Akron Comicon as well as gift cards for use at local businesses. Though the little geeks (preschool – 5th grade) will not be competing against one another, they will be marching across the stage parade-style to show off their costumes.
8. Make time to make friends.
After spending time with Bronlynn and Sarah, I know you don’t have to be a geek to have a good time at Geekfest. The joy of people-watching at a mini-con like this should be entertainment enough, as should the celebration of Akron’s creativity (and finding out your neighbor is way into Doctor Who). But there’s another reason to go: To make friends. While organizers have planned several events to keep you busy throughout Geekfest, Sarah says their big focus is about helping Akronites “socialize with people who are passionate.” That’s the best part of anything like this so set aside some time to meet new people. They may even introduce you to a fandom that totally changes you—or at least gives you some ideas for next year’s costume.