By Kent Wong, April 6 2018 —
At the end of April sits a four-day event that has steadily grown to be one of Canada’s largest fan conventions. From its beginnings in 2006 as a humble comic book convention, the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo has quickly grown to captivate sci-fi, horror and other pop-culture fans from around the world. Now the fifth-largest convention in North America, the Calgary Expo is a major event in the city’s annual calendar. Every year, stars from film, television, comics and animation gather in Calgary to greet fans.
Expo vice-president communications and guest acquisitions Lindsay Thomas is the face and host of the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo under the alter ego ‘Emily Expo.’ Thomas says that the success story and growth of the Calgary Expo is always exciting to look back on, especially considering it’s the festival’s attendees that make it all possible.
“Every year at the show, I run into someone who says they’ve been to each and every Calgary Expo and they’re almost mystical about it. The reason the show is successful is the fans,” she says. “Whether you’re starting a fan convention or any business, in my experience, the key to success is building a community around what you do and do everything you can to make them happy.”
Many students grew up watching Marvel and DC films and probably wouldn’t bat an eye seeing someone rocking Dr. Who paraphernalia. But not long ago, many looked down on sci-fi fans — and even those fans looked down on comic book fans. With Black Panther now the 10th highest-grossing film of all time and the current climate of entertainment in general, it’s clear comic culture is far from niche. Thomas has comprehensive thoughts on the Expo as a first point of contact for many people diving deeper into the culture and how Calgary Expo fits into the big picture.
“I’ve spoken a lot about how I was bullied as a kid for being a ‘geek’ or being ‘different.’ I wish I could flash back in time and tell my younger self just how the world was about to change,” she says. “Geek culture is beyond mainstream, it’s now setting the trends. Conventions like Calgary Expo offer a chance to discover new things.”
Notable guests at this year’s convention include Jeff Goldblum, Chris Jericho, Jason Momoa, the cast of Back to the Future and voice actors from Overwatch and Adventure Time, to name just a few.
“We ask a lot of people and hope they say yes. We’ve definitely had Jeff Goldblum on our wish list for a long time — every single person in our office is a super fan. This year the stars aligned. It’s the ones that happen last minute that I remember the most,” Thomas says. “Neil Patrick Harris was announced the first day of the convention once. I’ll never forget calling the team to tell them to put out the news one hour before the show was about to open. I had to convince them it wasn’t a prank.”
Lastly, Thomas has some quick advice for convention first-timers.
“First, wear comfortable shoes. Bring cash and stay hydrated. A lot of people forget this. Second, check out the schedule released one week before the event and pick out some key panels. Plan some shopping and visit the Artist Alley. The community on social media is super vibrant [and] can help you out with ideas to do,” she explains. “Third, I recommend first-timers to get familiar with ‘cosplay does not equal consent,’ meaning if you want a photo of or with a cosplayer dressed as your favourite character at the show, please ask permission and treat them with respect.”
The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo runs from April 26–29 at the BMO Centre. A cosplay parade in downtown kicks off the event — Mayor Naheed Nenshi is always a regular. Single day tickets, weekend passes and complete information on guests and attractions are available on calgaryexpo.com. Keep in mind that tickets, passes and photo opportunities with celebrities tend to sell out fast.