Pop culture lovers and children of all ages showed up in record numbers for the Fifth Annual Blount County Public Library Mini-Con.
“This has been our biggest event thus far,” Youth Services Manager Jennifer Spirko said. “Over 1,000 people attended Mini-Con this year. We knew it was going to rain throughout the day. I wonder if the weather helped us attract a larger crowd? Maybe people that would normally spend a summer Saturday doing things outside decided to stay dry by going inside the library for Mini-Con.”
Originally, tents were going to be set up outside for balloons and face painting. “We moved everything inside because we were worried about possible thunderstorms,” Spirko said. “We have moved some things around in our main gallery; the periodicals and newspapers are not there anymore. That allowed us with more flexibility with space. Vendors had more room and everybody didn’t feel like they were (squeezed in).”
Events added this year included a presentation by true crime production company Jupiter Entertainment and labs for children. The labs gave individuals the opportunity to make items such as wizard wands/costume swords, and workshop with sonic screwdrivers.
“Children seemed to love it,” Spirko said. “I think there were some adults that did more than help the kids with projects such as magic wand making. It all turned out well, and we will offer (more) workshops in the future.”
Returning Mini-Con guests included The Knoxville Academy of the Blade, The Smoky Mountain Ghostbusters, the band known as the Spooky-Ooos, and comic book writers Neil and Robyn McCammon.
The McCammons are married and hail from Maryville. Their horror-genre comic book “Don’t Fear Dawn” is on its eighth issue. “We will have over 300 pages combined by the next issue,” Robyn McCammon said. “The comic is mature, gory and sexy, with a bit of literary substance.”
This marks their second year at Mini-Con hosting a panel.
“Last year we did a concept-to-comic panel, and this time we discussed finding a publisher for your comic book,” Robyn McCammon said. “The top four picks are Image, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse and Top Shelf Productions. We went over the process of research, building proposals and tone. You look at all of these things when trying to pick the perfect publisher for your project.”
Vendors are a big part of Mini-Con. Pop culture devotees can buy a piece of their favorite franchises, ranging from superheroes to anime. Vendor Doug Atkins has been a dealer at conventions for five years. He mainly sells throw pillows and travel pillows with images of popular genre characters.
“Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and DC pillows are items we try to have consistently in stock,” Atkins said. “Those are the ‘for sure’ pillows everybody asks for. We can’t keep anything in stock related to Transformers, Dr. Who, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man or the Avengers. They are so popular that they fly off the shelves.”
Representatives from ZombieFest, held every October in Oneida, also promoted their show at Mini-Con.
“ZombieFest is for charity, and we have been growing over the last three years,” ZombieFest promoter Moe Mullis said. “This show (Mini-Con) and the library in Maryville are impressive. We had a lot of foot-traffic and have been able to get the word out. Several people at Mini-Con have said they will attend ZombieFest this year.”
One of the primary events at Mini-Con is the costume contest. “People surprise me with the costumes they make,” Spriko said. “Some of them really take your breath away.”
The costume contest was divided into four categories; best overall, adult, teen and children. Aldina Jenkins, 9, won the best overall award for her steampunk explorer costume. Winning the children’s bracket was Zee Carnes, 9, with her character The Ink Blot. Sisters Holland Bowman and Brienne Bowman, both 10, won as Harley Quinn. The duo also won the Best Next Great Hero Creation Contest. Lilianna Bacheller obtained third with her costume of Pretty Power Princess.
The participant known only as Nic, 25, won the adult division as Android 18 from “Dragonball Z.” Zeke Scott, 24, placed second as Therion from “Octopath Traveller.” Bethany Miller, 29, took third as Atem from the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” series. First place in the teen category went to Sofia Griggs, 14, as Loki of Asgard from Marvel Comics. Rachel Nichols,16, took second for her rendition of Beatrix from “Slime Ranchers.” Mallorie O’Neal, 14, placed third as Tord/Red Leader from “Eddsworld.”