Have you ever been to a convention? No? Then why in the world are you reading a geek blog? Don't worry, I'm just kidding. I'm sure quite a few geeks out there, sadly, haven't experienced the awesomeness that is a Comic/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Video Game/Anything Else convention.
Official logo of MarsCon 2015.
Now, I can't speak for every geek and nerd out there, but my hunch for why they're missing out, is because they've heard of the BIG cons. You know, conventions like Comic-Con, Wizard World, or Dragon Con. While these are the ones everyone seems to know about, they are also the most expensive. Some have nothing but pricey merchandise and celebrities who charge you just to look at them [SHATNER!]. Others are renowned for being impossible to attend because tickets go so fast, or because you spend more than half of your time at the con waiting in line for something.
And this is just for the restroom.
Don't get me wrong! There's nothing wrong with all big cons, the experience just may fall short of what many geeks expect. I would love to attend a con like this one-day, but it's just not possible right now with my lack of finances and time. However, those in the same boat as me don't have to feel like they're missing out! Nowadays, you can't swing a dead red shirt without hitting at least one smaller, local comic convention. Not only are cons like these more affordable, but also they have more to offer in terms of entertainment, interactivity, and community. My hope is that I can start a series showcasing some of the best smaller cons in my area. And then, someday, the rest of America!
I'll start off the series with one of my favorites, the first convention I ever went to: MarsCon (MN).
The very first MarsCon was held in 1999 with the intention of attracting geeks and nerds across the board! If science fiction books are your bread and butter, this is the con for you. If you are constantly working on a new cosplay, this is the con for you. If your idea of a perfect night is staying in with friends and playing Magic: The Gathering, this is the con for you. Literally everyone will find something that they like here! Every year they book guests from your favorite TV shows and films as well as some of the best authors of sci-fi and fantasy! And each year has a theme that can be applied to nearly every fandom there is. This years' theme was 'Heroes, Wizards, and Fae...Oh My!' and everyone there took it to heart.
A Klingon Faerie happened...and you missed it.
They have the staples most conventions have. There are a slew of talented local artists who bring amazing artwork in every year for people to bid on. Not just wall art either, but knitted items, jewelry, and (of course) fairy wings. A Masquerade show that showcases not just experienced costumers but beginners, as well as kids, with a prize for each category. Their Masquerade isn't so much about how perfect the crafting is, but about the work, dedication, and passion put into what each of costumers decide to show. They have a Gaming Room for all your RPG and strategy inclinations. By the way, if you're a novice at any game, then have no fear! Everyone there is more than willing to help you assimilate. And of course there's the Dealer's Room, filled with things you didn't realize that you needed until there. Not only is there tons of cool stuff, but also it's all reasonably priced!
Some of the more unusual offerings of MarsCon help with its widespread appeal. The science room hosts interactive exhibits and demonstrations from organizations like the National Space Society, Mars Society, and Twin Cities Makers. This year, they had a simulation of the bridge of the HMS Artemis! The A/V Room shows independent films related to Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as not so independent offerings like Monty Python and classic Saturday morning cartoons! The Prop-A-Torium houses both official and fan-made props from all kinds of films and TV shows. The collections amassed there are nothing short of impressive.
Here there is life-sized, working Daleks. For real.
Perhaps the thing that really sets MarsCon apart is it's own 'MarsCon Dementia Track' a la the infamous Dr. Demento. Every year, a number of comedy artists from around the country, headed by 'The Great Luke Ski,' come to perform throughout the weekend for a very enthusiastic audience. They also host the opening ceremony each year, ensuring that it's entertaining and memorable. I'll confess that I don't often get to stop by their shows (if you haven't figured it out yet, there's lots to do!), but whenever I have the chance to check them out, I always have a blast! If you love 'Weird' Al or are just of fan of anything humorous, you owe it to yourself to spend some time with the Dementia crew.
Where laughs and obscure geek jokes abound! For more info: http://marscondementia.com/
New this year was an Anime/YA room for discussing young adult literature and hosting Anime Showings. Also new was the 'Room of Requirement,' a room especially for the kiddies or adults who act like them. Here you could pretend to be a fairy by posing for photos with oversized props and donning fairy wings, see 'mythical' creatures and reptiles, craft to your hearts content, and play a life- sized version of D&D!
Like this but with dice!
MarsCon is not just about geeking out and having the time of your life, though. You also get to make a difference! They have a blood drive for those interested and this year they accepted donations to the COPD Foundation in memory of Leonard Nimoy. You can also be part of a charity auction, which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Greater Minnesota) and the Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Even with all of the amazing things offered at MarsCon, its 'shining quality' is its community. Everyone behind-the-scenes is incredibly friendly and passionate not just about the convention, but about the people who attend! They go above and beyond to make each year an immense success and you can tell that they love every moment of it. As someone who first started coming a few years ago, I can honestly say that going to MarsCon was like being with friends I'd forgotten I had.
When it comes down to it, MarsCon is an excellent gateway for the uninitiated. It's small enough that the crowds won't be overwhelming and there are endless things to occupy your time for a very reasonable fee. I guarantee that whilst there, wherever your own interests lie, you will always find a few comrades and friends to make your time there truly memorable.
Did you attend MarsCon 2015? If so, what were your favorite things about it? Do you have any special memories? Share them in the comments section below.
For more info on MarsCon, please visit their website HERE.