RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A costumed crowd of thousands will take over the Raleigh Convention Center this weekend as the city’s second Supercon starts Friday.
Organizers tout the three-day convention as North Carolina’s largest celebration of comic books, anime, animation, cartoons, video games, cosplay, fantasy, science fiction, pop culture, and all things “Geek.”
Supercon Vice President Sandy Martin said the coordinators looked at the Triangle as a potential market after successful events in Florida. The group is adding Martin’s hometown of Louisville at the end of the year.
“We have had our eye on Raleigh for a long time. We knew the tech corridor was growing here, and it’s one of these really nice places that’s kind of caught in the crosshairs between the mid-Atlantic and the midwest,” Martin said.
“We just kind of felt like we understood the culture with the music scene combined with the tech scene. We felt that was fertile ground for geeks enjoying the spectacle that is Supercon. It turns out they do really enjoy it,” Martin added.
Highlighted guests for the festival range from legendary performers such as William Shatner and Henry Winkler to stars from Marvel’s current blockbuster films featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementioff, Sean Gunn, and Terry Notary.
Gillan will join fellow Doctor Who alums John Barrowman and Catherine Tate for appearances involving the British science-fiction show which now in its sixth decade.
The original Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, arrived in the Triangle early for some events ahead of Supercon, one of which has him throwing out the first pitch at the Thursday night Durham Bulls game.
Ferrigno also visited the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and became an honorary deputy.
“In California, I’ve been a deputy for 15 years. I do a lot of search and rescue. I teach weapons shooting. I do a lot of speaking for the department, and I was deputized today by Sheriff (Donnie) Harrison,” Ferrigno said. “It’s very exciting because I like supporting sheriff’s departments knowing that it’s all about their leadership.”
Ferrigno said he is excited to meet new and old fans during his first trip to Raleigh. He said he loves participating in conventions because there are often multiple generations of fans from single families. Sometimes an older adult watched him as a child and now shows the same episodes to their children or grandchildren.
He is also hopeful to see some of the people who inspired him to become a performer, particularly William Shatner.
“Growing up as a kid I used to watch Star Trek. I’ve always wanted to be part of Star Trek. I think he’s about 88 (editor’s note: 87), but to have him here is exciting, and having other celebrities that I enjoy working with,” Ferrigno said.
“When I see Shatner it reminds me when I would watch Star Trek. I see these kids and they come up to me and tell me they watch the show. Their father, grandparents, tell my parents about my original series, because I do the voice for the CGI Hulk, and I know how they feel when they tell me about it — because it’s the same way when I was young watching Star Trek.”
Ferrigno said he is amazed by how excited fans are to attend large pop culture conventions.
Attendance at the 2017 Raleigh Supercon was about 30,000, more than double the expected turnout. Martin said she hoped to grow to 35,000 for 2018.
Advance ticket sales for this year look like they may top 40,000.
Three-day and Saturday passes are sold out. Sunday tickets are running low, while there’s still a reasonable amount available for Friday and an after 4 p.m. option on Saturday afternoon. Check here for ticket availability.
Martin said she met this week with Raleigh’s parking authority to make sure there was plan for parking.
“Fortunately, Raleigh’s got tons of parking,” Martin said. “They have a feedback loop so that when the close lots get full, they can let us know and we’ll put a message out on social media to ask people to a couple blocks farther down.
“In Florida, we have to shuttle people from five miles away because the convention center is right along the beach. Here it’s great, they have over 14,000 spots downtown and that’s not going to be an issue whatsoever,” she added.
Martin said her team researched Raleigh a lot and praised the city for its success with street festivals. There are plans to expand next year by taking over space in some of the nearby hotels.
Supercon will close a portion of Cabarrus Street adjacent to the Raleigh Convention Center this weekend as exhibits and vendors venture outdoors.
“We’re testing out the concept of moving the festival into the street and so we’ll see how that goes, and see how we can improve upon that. We’ll test and learn with that and hopefully be as big as IBMA someday,” she said.
The International Bluegrass Music Association festivals in Raleigh boast crowds of more than 200,000 in recent years.