Parts of Dallas may have been underwater over the weekend, but that didn't keep an enthusiastic crowd from converging on the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for Fan Expo Dallas.
Presented by the producers of Dallas Comic Con, the expo is a huge gathering of pop culture creators and connoisseurs with an emphasis on science fiction, fantasy and, of course, comic books. While he didn't have exact figures yet, Fan Expo's James Armstrong estimated the number of attendees would be "tens of thousands."
"We're expecting a much bigger crowd than last year," he said. Based on the number of people I saw at the convention on Friday and Saturday, I believe him.
And why wouldn't people come? Well, OK, price could be a factor. The $50 people paid per ticket to get in on Saturday (the other two days were a bit cheaper) didn't cover the cost of most celebrity autographs or photos, not to mention the price of expensive convention center food and all the trinkets fans just had to buy while they were there.
It could also be the lines. Unless you paid extra for a VIP pass, you could be waiting a very, very long time to meet your favorite stars, such as Star Wars' Carrie Fisher or Firefly's Nathan Fillion, not to mention the geek god Stan Lee, creator of most of your favorite superheroes (probably).
For most of these fans, though, that money and time seemed well spent. There were costume contests, a free arcade (hosted by Dallas-based video game website ScrewAttack) and panels with fan-favorite stars to keep everybody occupied.
As usual, the special guests were a big draw. Crowds cheered as Jason David Frank (the original green Power Ranger) arrived at his booth, high-fiving the people in line as he walked by. Others laughed as Charles Martinet, the voice of Nintendo's Mario, spoke with the voice of everybody's favorite goomba-squishing Italian plumber.
But for many, the main attraction wasn't the celebrities -- it was the fellow fans. Conventions like Fan Expo Dallas are the perfect opportunity to spend time with like-minded individuals. Sitting at a table with strangers to grab a quick snack could be the launching point for a discussion about archery between someone dressed as Green Arrow and someone dressed as a Ghostbuster.
It's hard to find a group more welcoming than a gathering of geeks. I took my least-nerdy friend, GuideLive co-worker Sarah Blaskovich, to the convention center on Friday, and her most common response was, "Everybody here is so nice!" She didn't have a clue who most of the die-hard fans were dressed as, but they didn't mind. They were happy to have her at the event anyway.
Some of the people we ran into never even broke character, including an impressive Spock impersonator who posed with Sarah for a selfie. "I'm considering moving to this planet, and I might have to get one of these," he said, holding her phone.
"No, a female."
Sarah laughed. "You have to date them first."
It's the kind of exchange that you can only have at an event like Fan Expo Dallas. At least until the starship Enterprise is a reality.