By Becca Carlson, Sean Williams and Matt Daniels
Pensacon is quickly becoming one of Pensacola’s biggest tourism attractions. Year after year, this Con expands, and the city responds with open arms. From cosplay and peoplewatching to fan merchandise and celebrity meet and greets, whether this is your first time or 3rd, Pensacon has something for everyone, and Pensacola State College students are no exception.
CyberSecurity major Gabriel Brewer noted the sizable PSC student turnout, “I see a lot of students around here attending. A lot of people I hang around are nerds too,” said Brewer. “It’s good to see some familiar faces around here.”
This was the second Pensacon event for Sasha Vires, an Art Education student at PSC. She cosplayed as a member of Team Skull from Pokemon Sun and Moon while carrying a plushie of her favorite Pokemon, Phantump. “I’m a Team Skull grunt. I’m one of the adversaries you play in the game,” said Vires.
Spencer Maupin, a journalism major, was pleasantly surprised by the celebrity turnout this year. “I didn’t know that the man that plays Jay Garrick in the Flash was going to be here. That was fun,” said Maupin. “I got to meet him and got an autograph.”
Even the celebrity guests were impressed by the job Pensacon’s organizers did with putting together this event.
Randy Havens, best known for his role as Mr. Clarke on the Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things,” talked about the city’s unity in celebrating the event. “I think it’s really fun. They’re closing up streets so that everyone can have kind of a block party. It just really feels like the city welcomes all the people that come to this Con.”
It was voice actor George Lowe’s first time at Pensacon, and he had many positive, and often humorous, things to say about his time there. “Great, great crew! Everybody.” said Lowe. “ Except, I found myself spooning with a Cuban guy I’ve never met, this morning in my room, so I don’t know how he got in. That was a little odd. Aside from that everything’s been lovely.”
Lowe is one of the stars of shows like “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “The Venture Bros.” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.” He and Space Ghost co-creator Matt Maiellaro, a Pensacola native, shared the Adult Swim Q&A panel with Hal Lublin and Mark Gagliardi of the podcast, “We Got This!”
Celebrity panels are among the most popular attractions at Pensacon. Positive feedback from these celebs is vital for the success of future events.
Sometimes even celebrities get a little star struck at Pensacon “I got to see Virginia Madsen who I hadn’t seen in 31 years,” said Lowe. “My face has slipped like a California mudslide. She still looks awesome and I look like something out of Fraggle Rock. But Virginia, God bless her, she doesn’t age. Good genes. She looks beautiful. I got to see Verne. I told Verne Troyer there was an imposter at his table earlier pretending to be him, I think I broke him up.”
Havens was not immune to fangirling either when it comes to meeting his favorite celebs. “I tried to hold it together, but I didn’t do a very good job of it,” said Havens. “When I met Daniel [Portman] and Ellie [Kendrick] from ‘Game of Thrones’ I lost my mind.” Havens looks forward to coming back to Pensacon. “This is a great Con.”
Con-goers also enjoyed a daytime solar viewing presented by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association (EAAA)’s student and community chapter. The EAAA also held a Q&A panel to discuss the possibilities of colonizing Mars. Panelists included PSC’s very own Dr. Wayne Wooten.
For all the good at Pensacon, some attendees felt improvements could be made. Chase Livingston, PSC student, had a few suggestions to improve future events. “It’s pretty good right now for such a small city like Pensacola,” said Livingston, however, he wished for “more venders and more celebrities.”
More for less was a sentiment echoed by many fans. Price was a major factor at this year’s event. It will be interesting to see how event coordinators respond to consumer concerns over prices next year.
PSC Club: Literary Round Table
Members of Pensacola State College’s Literary Round Table club were amongst a large crowd of attendees who came to shop, play games, and meet some of their favorite celebrities at Pensacon 2017. Together, they collectively dressed as pirates to represent PSC and were met with praise from onlookers who regularly stopped them to take pictures.
The LRT decided to go to Pensacon as one of the many activities they plan together regularly. These outings happen every two months or so and can vary, but usually consist of things that can be done as a group and relate to the art of storytelling in some way.
“We try to get together to meet outside of a traditional class setting because it’s easier to get to know people better that way,” says member Lila Fitzpatrick. “We can make more friendships that way.”
Michael Cole, another member of LRT, explained that activities like going to Pensacon bring the group together by giving them ample opportunity to talk more freely.
Coming together at Pensacon, six members from the Literary Round Table gathered at the main gate to spend their night going to whatever event interested them the most. No one in the group had previously attended Pensacon, so they all agreed that they didn’t know what to expect from it.
Most thought that, at the very least, they would be able to see a menagerie of interesting cosplays and people. During their time at the convention itself, the booths and stores became the most popular attractions between them.
However, everyone shared a common sentiment after they left the convention.
“Everything is too expensive,” Cole said after he’d walked out. The prices, the others agreed, were simply too high both for entry and for the things sold in stores, especially for the number of things to do in the convention hall itself. Though there are a selection of photo ops and panels, for the casual convention goer, for a first timer, these can be difficult to find.
As a whole, the group from LRT decided that, while interesting, Pensacon simply isn’t for them. It proves that conventions like these simply aren’t for everyone. It may be worthwhile to see what interests you before spending the $44 minimum fee to attend.
Pensacon came to town and so did Pensacola’s most well-dressed cosplayers. Joining alongside the Star Wars fandom is Adjunct Faculty Music and Theatre teacher as well as dance instructor, LaVonne French. Her personal experience with cosplay gives her first hand knowledge of what it takes to prepare a costume for Pensacon.
For this year’s event, she joined with the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion organizations who often attend national cosplay events. The force is strong with these Star Wars groups as they showed off their talents in February. This year, French was eager to show off her Princess Leia and Dale Arden costumes from Star Wars and Flash Gordon respectively.
Her initial approach to creating these costumes is finding the correct fabric. “YouTube is your friend,” said French. Fabric doesn’t come cheap, so careless spending could wind up costing you. To help stitch up the costs, she recommends looking at what you want to make and to never overlook the cheapest finds. Utilizing imagination covers half the cost.
Attention to detail and dedication really pay off when making cosplay costumes. Creation time can vary depending on complexity, but French’s estimated timeframe to finish one is around four months. She suggests the website www.thereplicapropforum. com which has many ideas for creating other costumes.
Every fandom is embraced at Pensacon, and French commends the variety of fans. “There are so many avenues to pursue,” said French. That diversity is what inspires her. She hopes that students are influenced to follow their own interests too and is open to the idea of a cosplaying club on campus.