Hero Fest 2015

Kingston welcomed self-professed nerds of all sorts this weekend for one of the city’s first Comicon and cosplay events. For the uninitiated, cosplay involves dressing up in costume as a beloved character from a comic, movie, video game, or television show. Hero Fest, which stretched over Saturday and Sunday, saw Gandalfs, Yodas, Supermen, Power Rangers, and a whole host of other costumes and props. A TARDIS from Dr. Who, a few robots roaming around, and a green screen for stylized pictures completed the scene. In addition to having a series of vendors, the weekend also invited high-profile guests to give panels and Q&As. The roster included Tara Spencer-Nairn of Corner Gas fame, Ivan Sherry of Inspector Gadget, and Denise Crosby of the Walking Dead, among many others. Panel topics included Voice Acting, pro wrestling, and a Dr. Who discussion. As time goes on, the scope of cons has reached far beyond strictly comic books, instead encompassing virtually any aspect of pop culture.

Hero Fest, Kingston, Ontario
Melissa George of Underworld LARP was in Dungeons and Dragons gear for live role playing.

A certain camaraderie was plenty evident at Hero Fest, where everyone is more than happy swap stories, share pictures, and educate newbies like myself. As I watched a demo of some sort of sword fight, cosplayer Melissa George in resplendent elfin regalia asked if I knew what LARP was. I confessed I did not. Did I know what Dungeons and Dragons was? Well, sort of. George, of the organization Underworld LARP, gamely (ahem) explained: LARP stands for live action role play, where players take their D&D plots and actually act them out, complete with costumes and weaponry. Pretty cool stuff, but unfortunately only for 18+ cosplayers. And interestingly, Hero Fest saw many, many cosplay tykes. Zaphyn Monk, for instance, had one of the most impressive costumes of the day as a pink power ranger. Just six, Zaphyn was accompanied by her father Justin (who donned a Superman outfit). Like everyone else, both were more than happy to pose for pictures and chat up other cosplayers.

Hero Fest, Kingston, Ontario
Zaphyn Monk, 6, and her father, Justin, were decked out in superhero gear for Hero Fest.

Joe Paulin is a Kingston native and lover of comicons, annually traveling as far afield as New York City for events that draw up to 40,000 people or more. He admits that Kingston still has a ways to go in establishing a thriving cosplay culture, although it’s on its way. He attended Hero Fest on Saturday, bringing his 8 month old son, Oliver, dressed as Batman (Paulin’s favourite character). “I think it just takes time for it to grow,” says Paulin. “It’s about word of mouth. Next year, it could be twice as big.” Even at smaller events like Hero Fest, though, part of the draw is the friendliness of the subculture. “Somewhere like Kingston, you do recognize and bump into people that are on the circuit,” says Paulin, “but a lot of people, complete strangers, are so polite. It’s like everyone is on the same page.”

Hero Fest, Kingston, Ontario
Some cosplayers take their costumes to serious lengths for LARP.

Enthusiasm seems to be high for more of this style of event in the future. The Hero Fest website, for instance, already has a clock counting down the days until next year’s event (it’s 362 days, if you’re wondering). In the meantime, if you missed out, check out the photo sharing from Hero Fest’s Facebook page and join the others in counting down until next year.

Kelly Reid

Kelly Reid has retired as a contributor to Kingstonist. Kelly was one of our arts and culture contributors. Her column for Kingstonist explored the city's art galleries, as well as live music, theatre and performance art venues.

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