Lodi Li­brary Con has some­thing for ev­ery fan

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Ryan Klinker

The Lodi Li­brary is en­cour­ag­ing lovers of vir­tu­ally ev­ery fan­dom, from anime to zom­bies, to revel in their ever-ex­pand­ing com­mu­nity once again at the sec­ond an­nual Lodi Li­brary Con on Sun­day, Sept. 29.

The orig­i­nal idea for the event came from a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Cal­i­for­nia Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence that show­cased the pos­si­bil­ity for li­braries to host events of this va­ri­ety, and Lodi’s li­brary as­so­ciate Ryan Szichak be­gan the plan­ning process.

Af­ter orig­i­nally plan­ning on rent­ing a space at the Grape Fes­ti­val grounds, the li­brary chose to use its own prop­erty as the venue as a way to show­case their daily ser­vices.

“We de­cided to do it (at the li­brary) be­cause it gets peo­ple com­ing in and see­ing what the li­brary has to of­fer be­yond the con­ven­tion,” Szichak said.

The in­au­gu­ral event in 2018 brought in roughly 30 artists, lo­cal writ­ers and ven­dors, and it fea­tured pan­els and a cos­play con­test in ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tion of booths. With it be­ing just the first in­stall­ment of Li­brary Con, Szichak was op­ti­misti­cally hop­ing for some­where close to 600 vis­i­tors, but the venue found it­self with a sur­pris­ing crowd of 1,500.

“We had two food trucks that were close to sell­ing out, we had an Im­age Comics writer whose mer­chan­dise was bought out be­fore the end, and it was a rous­ing suc­cess all around,” Szichak said.

Szichak has taken the ex­pe­ri­ence and is try­ing to ex­pand it fur­ther it terms of the fans rep­re­sented. There will be an 85% re­turn rate for the ven­dors from last year, and the new­com­ers will help round out the al­ready di­verse guests. A card tour­na­ment has also been added at the re­quest of fans on­line, and it will fea­ture Poké­mon and “Magic: The Gath­er­ing” matches with prizes for the play­ers.

“Es­pe­cially now since in the last 15 years it has blown up into this mas­sive mar­ket of gen­res and sub­gen­res, sci­ence fic­tion and fan­tasy, we wanted to try to make it so ev­ery­one can say there was some­thing here for them,” Szichak said.

The Comic-Con in San Diego is known for ap­pear­ances by the fa­mous faces be­hind the lat­est block­busters, and Szichak, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced it first­hand, hopes the Li­brary Con will reach a rea­son­ably com­pa­ra­ble point some day. In the mean­time, how­ever, he ex­plained that this lo­cal event is a ter­rific in­tro­duc­tion to the thrill of fan con­ven­tions with­out the hefty ticket price.

“It’s about $500 dol­lars if you want to pay full price for a full week at San Diego Comic Con, and not ev­ery­one can drop that kind of money, so for some­thing that is free in your town and has things you’ll en­joy, this is fan­tas­tic,” Szichak said. “This is sort of like a con­ven­tion starter pack where you can see if this is what you want to do with your fan­dom.”

There is a bond that de­vel­ops be­tween those who love this form of en­ter­tain­ment, even if their beloved fran­chises are po­lar op­po­sites, and Szichak hopes this event will bring peo­ple to­gether and pos­si­bly in­tro­duce diehard fans to brand new ad­ven­tures.

“It’s one of those things where you can en­joy what­ever fan­dom you like and you meet some­one else that has a dif­fer­ent one that you know noth­ing about, and you can still ad­mire that per­son’s joy from it and maybe learn more about that topic,” Szichak said. “There’s al­ways some­thing for ev­ery­one to dis­cover and en­joy, if you can’t find it you would have to be try­ing not to find it.”

KYLA CATHEY/NEWS-SENTINEL FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Robert Luc­ch­esi mans the booth for the 501st Le­gion, a “Star Wars” cos­play group, at the Lodi Li­brary Con on Sept. 23, 2018.

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