WHAT: Denver Pop Culture Con
WHERE: Colorado Convention Center
700 14th St., Denver
WHEN: Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1
10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 2
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A lot can change in eight years — something Littleton residents Kendra, Jason and Ash Alder can readily attest to when it comes to how Denver Pop Culture Con has evolved since its first iteration in 2012.
“When we first started going, it wasn’t nearly as big as it has become,” Kendra said. “When I was growing up, nerd culture was very taboo, but it’s done a complete 180. When I would mention a lot of this stuff, people had never heard of it. Now everyone knows.”
This year’s event returns to the Colorado Convention Center, 700 14th St., from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 2. And it looks to be the biggest yet, with more booths, artists, celebrities and cosplayers.
“The con was borne out of a passion for pop culture, and using pop culture as a tool to connect with reluctant readers,” convention director Christina Angel wrote in an email interview. “The event grew exponentially in the early years, and expanded to include various fandoms and guest attractions and activities based on fan feedback.”
That growth is reflected in the event’s name, now Denver Pop Culture Con instead of Denver Comic Con. The newer name reflects a wider swath of mediums and influences than comics alone.
“Since inception, our event has been about inclusivity and bringing different fandoms together for a weekend-long celebration; comics culture has always been a key component but not the entire focus,” Angel wrote. “While it’s true that `comic con’ is often synonymous with pop culture conventions, we didn’t feel that it told the whole story.”
The worlds created in comics from Marvel, DC and countless other studios remain the wellspring for many films and television shows that have made nerd culture everyone’s culture — and the con is a great way to bridge the gap between these fans.
“At our store, that’s one of the things we talk about the most — how to connect people who see all the movies with the stories we have at our store,” said Jonthan Garnett, owner of Hall of Justice Comics and Collectibles in Parker, which has had a booth at the con for about the past five years. “If you’re a fan of something you’ve seen onscreen, there’s a good chance we have something that will scratch that itch.”
Kendra and Jason, who used to own a comic book store, said the con works hard to balance a celebration of all mediums while acknowledging that comics are the source and are constantly evolving.
“They want all kinds of people to keep coming back, and that’s why they do,” Kendra said. “You can do what you want, be free, and not be ashamed of what you like.”
Another way the con works to keep bringing people back is by fostering the next generation of nerds. The event is a program of the Pop Culture Classroom, a nonprofit focused on youth literacy, Angel said. The work the group does all year is supported by the con. As for the actual event, all kinds of options exist beyond shopping and getting a photo with a favorite celebrity.
“Programming also includes exciting kid- and teen-focused activities and events in The Lab, which is a large space on the show floor dedicated to young folks,” Angel wrote. “The lab activities can include anything from learning to draw a famous character, to presentations and workshops, to finding out how to one day work for NASA or become an actor.”
For Garnett and many other attendees and exhibitors, the con is a chance for real connection with fans of all ages.
“We get to talk to consumers and fans, not just from the area, but all over the country,” he said.
Kendra said Ash particularly enjoys the con’s cosplaying aspect. But she loves immersing him in comic culture because of the positive way it affects him and other children.
“We take our niece as well, and their favorite part is taking pictures with as many cosplayers as possible,” she said. “I think it’s all a great influence on kids, and especially is great for reading. I always see it like going to Disneyland — you’re meeting the characters you’ve seen on the big screen, right there.”
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