PopLurker would like to thank the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo for providing press passes in exchange for coverage.
There’s that old saying, you never forget your first time.
Here at PopLurker we haven’t forgotten our first time, our first time covering conventions that is! This time last year we had the honor and the privilege of receiving our first press approval when we covered the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo or Calgary Expo for short.
Many conventions later PopLurker is back where it all started as we received the nod to attend the Calgary Expo for the second year in a row, in downtown Calgary, Canada.
Every year since 2005, Calgary has hosted this massive 4 day event celebrating all things nerd and pop culture, attracting celebrities, cosplayers, vendors and just fans of nostalgia and pop culture as a whole. While I couldn’t attend the opening Thursday festivities both last year and this year what with the whole day job thing, the meat of the event is from Friday to Sunday and PopLurker was there in full swing.
Calgary Expo starts off proper with the annual Parade of Wonders running along downtown Stephens Ave which sees thousands of cosplayers and select celebrities making their way from downtown 8th street to Olympic Plaza where the mayor of Calgary makes the weekend official. It’s always a good time seeing who cosplays as whom during the parade, and catching a few photos along the way. My assistant, knowing how much of a MST3K fan I’ve become, pointed out a gentleman in the parade who was cosplaying as our favorite red jumpsuit wearing host on the Satellite of Love, Joel along with a life-sized Crow and Tom Servo. Sadly, he had just walked past on the other side of the street and I wasn’t able to get a photo. I kept my eyes out for him the rest of the weekend, but never saw him again. Major bummer.
Another bummer, although not nearly as major was this year’s parade felt a lot shorter than last years, but while parades are nice, it’s really the appetizer to the main course and that’s the three days of celebrity panels, vendors, artists and toy shopping which I took full advantage of.
Leaving Stephens Ave and the parade behind we made our way to the BMO Centre to pick up our press passes, and I have to say even though I’m still something of a convention novice and haven’t attended that many shows, the difference between picking up our press passes this year compared to last year was night and day.
This isn’t to crap on last year, as it was clear to me then the event organizers worked hard and were super accommodating to make sure I got my pass as quickly as possible, but I had to walk clear around the building to get them, which was a bit of a hike. Everyone was super friendly and accommodating as I mentioned, but this year Alex and the team behind Calgary Expo went the extra mile to make it as seamless a process as possible. A couple of days prior to the show, I got an email from Alex advising me to text the number in the email prior to arriving at the main entrance and one of the staff would then meet us there and usher us to the registration desk.
One quick text and only a matter of minutes later we were escorted inside got our badges from the prompt and friendly staff and PopLurker was cocked, locked and ready to rock! In addition to how seamless the registration process was, even cooler was the implementation of the free Fan Guru app which was used to house Calgary Expo’s floor maps, and programming schedule in one convenient location, as well access into and out of the buildings was super easy as every attendee’s badge could easily be scanned by event security as you entered and exited throughout the course of the weekend. Everything flowed smoothly and I don’t recall seeing any long lineups or disorganized queues at any time during the show.
The general layout of the show wasn’t too different from last year. Once we walked in you had the celebrity autograph signing areas to the left and the right of you within Hall E of the BMO Centre, with a section specifically for specialized photo ops towards the far wall, as well as the always present Cosplay Corner and select vendors stretching into Hall D.
But, Halls A-C was where the real action was! Vendors as far as the eye could see took up this giant space, but the team behind Calgary Expo spared no effort in making it as organized as possible, with plenty of room to maneuver around and lurk for whatever toys, comics, and trinkets you had your heart set on purchasing. And believe you me, as Ace is my witness my credit card took a pounding over the course of the weekend. Whether it was some badass concert photos of my favorite band KISS from local photographer Ian Mark that he took in 1977 when the band played the Corral Centre which was adjacent to the BMO Centre, to picking up the Insecticon trio of Bombshell, Shrapnel and Kickback for a sweet price to grabbing a Contra/Alien vs Predator mashup I fell in love with the moment I saw it care of Michael Calero from Northern California.
Then there were other local artists such as Chozen Studios in neighboring Airdrie selling a gorgeous rendering of Optimus Prime as well as the badass work of David Joyce who was located in the Artist Alley in the Big Four building next door as well as a cool Castlevania keychain from Chinook Crafts, anything you were looking for to satisfy your nerd itch, the vendors at Calgary Expo literally had it all.
The big attraction every year though is the celebrities Calgary Expo books for their event, and just like the vendors had something for everyone, there were celebrities there as well for everyone young and old from Peter “Robocop” Weller to the Goonies to Zachary Levi who’s riding high on the success of Shazam, just say the word and whoever you had your heart set on seeing was there in the Corral Centre ready to entertain and take your fan questions.
It was particularly special for this 80’s kid to see his heroes Peter Cullen and Frank Welker in attendance and while my request for an interview with them was declined, just being able to stand mere feet away in the press pit and get them on camera made me feel like I was 6 years old again. As well, one of my all-time favorite movies Back to the Future was represented. And while Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson returned from last year, we were also treated to James Tolkan calling us all slackers, but the coolest was seeing Michael J. Fox; who had to bow out last year due to health concerns, come home to his native soil to celebrate with the fans.
Calgary Expo is a sprawling, massive event and even though this was only my second experience, I can say without question it’s a truly inclusive, safe, and fun environment. It’s well organized, stress free and a complete blast to attend. If you’re ever in Calgary the last weekend of April, it’s well worth your time to check this amazing show out, and I’m already psyched for next year’s show celebrating the event’s 15th anniversary.
PopLurker’s Calgary Expo Image Gallery: