Yesterday three-day passes for the inaugural PAX South in San Antonio, TX were made available to the public. And yesterday they sold out. I wasn’t quite as disappointed as some that I didn’t get a chance to snap one up for a mere $65 – mostly because I was more than a little ambivalent about attending.
Part of it was because, despite living in the Deep South, Texas is still pretty damn far away. And, yeah, I reckon part of it also has to do with some of the rather public missteps of Penny Arcade‘s Gabe in recent history. But, more than anything, I think that at 38 years of age I have finally realized that massive conventions – like massive outdoor music festivals and massive amounts of alcohol – maybe just aren’t for me.
Now I’m not implying these things are objectively bad in any way, mind you. I’m simply saying that I have begun to prefer slightly more modest affairs. More importantly, though, I’m also reminding you (and myself) not to forget about the lesser known conventions in your area, the noble community cons.
The Southeast has its fair share of big name conventions – HeroesCon in Charlotte and, of course, Atlanta’s Dragon Con – but even my humble home in the upstate of South Carolina has its own notable event for the nerdily inclined; later this month Greenville, SC will again host MonsterCon. While it’s become the largest multi-fandom convention in the state its attendance, 2500 its first year and growing, isn’t exactly on par with SDCC. And that is, at the risk of sounding like a cliché southerner, kind of how we like it down here.
I recently talked to Program Director Dave Harlequin about where the event came from and where he feels it’s going. And the one thing he made abundantly clear is that MonsterCon is Greenville’s con.
“For us, Greenville just made the most sense,” Dave stated, adding that “It’s a perfect central location, literally right in-between Charlotte and Atlanta, very close to Columbia and Asheville, and it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the region.”
The fact that Greenville had con culture but no actual full-scale event? That made it all the better. The convention has taken its lumps – last year the organizers had to tangle with an 11th hour venue change – but Furman University’s Timmons Arena has proven a fitting (and, in Dave’s words, a permanent) home for MonsterCon.
But what can attendees expect?
Like any con worth its salt, MonsterCon 2014 has costumes and contests and music and movie madness, but since this is a uniquely regional affair there’s a little added local color. You can learn to “Cosplay on a Budget” alongside our SC Ghostbusters or attend “One-Hour Film School” with some of the indie filmmakers from North Carolina’s Adrenalin Productions. Supernatural author Tally Johnson and the Carolina Cryptid Crew will be on hand to discuss local legends of fantastical creatures, and my fellow skeptics will be pleased to learn that Dr. Ben Davis will be representing the other side of the coin in a panel entitled “Paranormal: Fact or Fake?”
Of particular interest to GeekParents is MonsterCon’s family-friendly slant. Cosplayers are limited to PG-13-levels of gore and revealed flesh, and daytime programming is geared to be suitable for kids. Saturday morning features a number of specific presentations for younger attendees – including “Draw Your Own Sonic the Hedgehog” with Archie Comics’ Tracy Yardley, “Draw Your Own Comics for Kids” with illustrator J. Chris Campbell and a “Cosplay for Kids” event – and the fact that under-10s get in free with a paid adult only sweetens the deal.
“At the end of the day,” Dave told me, “all any of us really wants is to just bring a great, fun show to the Upstate. Somewhere that families can bring their kids, and nerds like us can come to just enjoy themselves and forget about everything else for a weekend.”
MonsterCon, like the classic conventions of old, is truly a fan event. It’s got celebrities and merch and, above all else, fellowship. And for someone like me, who spent his formative years always having to travel just to scratch that geeky itch, it’s home. Tickets are still available, so if you’re in my neck of the woods come on down.
That’s the tale of my local con, and I’d love to hear yours. Is there a local event that you call your own? Give it some well-deserved love in the comments below!