When it comes to the discussion of 2013's Salt Lake Comic Con, the phrase that seems to best describe it is “who woulda thunk?” --- That's not to disparage anything. In fact, it's meant to be a commendation, but for years our state has had marginal conventions with Anmie Banzai being the biggest in Layton and no signs of ever seeing a major event of this scale take place anywhere in Utah. When Comic Con happened in September 2013 and brought in the numbers and exposure it did, a lot of things in the local geekdom changed overnight.
Looking to capitalize and possibly eclipse the first event is FanXperience, a three-day convention set to take over the Salt Palace with another long list of celebrities, panels, booths and displays. And hopefully this year you won't require a rowboat to crowdsurf your way through the sea of geeks, Deadpool cosplayers and hundreds of women dressed as Amy Pond. Today we chat with the Con's founder Dan Farr about the success from last fall, this brand new event and a taste of what you'll be able to see. All with pics from last year's event I snapped, which you can check out in this City Weekly gallery.
Gavin: Hey Dan! First thing, how have you been since we last chatted?
Dan: Fantastic... and incredibly busy!
Gavin: Getting right to it, what were your personal thoughts exiting Comic Con last September?
Dan: I was blown away by the support from the entire community. Everyone from the city to the Governor's office to the incredible fans of Utah made it an amazing event.
Gavin: When you got the final numbers for the attendance, what were your first surprises and concerns?
Dan: I was definitely concerned about people who weren't able to get in and any and all issues surrounding crowd control for the event. This aspect has been the number one focus from the end of the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con until now. For the FanXperience we'll be able to accommodate a much larger crowd than we had at the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con back in September. I was surprised that attendance was as high as it was. I wasn't blown away by it because we had several indications leading up to the event that let us know it was going to be big, but it was bigger than we had anticipated. I was also surprised that we got to a point that the fire marshall shut down the convention center and wouldn't allow anyone else in for a brief time. This is why, as I mentioned earlier, crowd control is our number one concern for the event.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to do an event in April rather than waiting the full year?
Dan: Nobody wanted to wait. We were too excited about doing the second event, we didn't want to wait a full year to do it.
Gavin: When you decided you were returning to the Salt Palace, what kind of planning went into utilizing the space compared to the first Con?
Dan: We knew the Salt Palace had a lot more capacity than we had utilized last September, so we put a lot of planning in and secured the entire facility. We planned on making the overall experience of people getting into the hall much easier and to have a lot more space while in the hall.
Gavin: Knowing the crowd issues, as well as what worked and what didn't, what were the first things you wanted to incorporate into FanX?
Dan: We wanted the lines leading into the convention center to go much faster, as well as the lines leading into the hall floor. We also wanted to keep people in the building while they were waiting to get their wristbands and get registered and to provide an overall smoother experience.
Gavin: Aside from the celebrity area, what sections have you expanded on to accommodate the fans who are attending?
Dan: We have larger areas for people to take a break and get a bite to eat. We have broader isles that will make it easier for people to move around in the hall.
Gavin: One of the bigger draws last year were the roundtable panel discussions. What are some of the big panels you have planned at this event?
Dan: One of the big panels this time around is actually a ticketed event, it's our Star Trek Ultimate Xperience. This panel features Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and Denise Crosby. We know this will be a great panel. That being said, there are many other panels focusing on a variety of television shows and movies that will be great as well.
Gavin: I know podcasting is taking a bigger presence this year, what shows will you have involved with this year's events, both for panels and live recordings?
Dan: We have GeekShow heavily involved in the panels at FanX. In addition to them, there are many other podcasters involved in the panels at the event. Not only are there a number of podcasters participating in panels, there are many involved with planning panels and proposing panel topics. We love what podcasting has been able to do for us in terms of spreading the word about Salt Lake Comic Con, so we're happy to have them involved in providing feedback and new ideas.
Gavin: Cosplay was a huge factor in last year's attendance, are you doing anything special with or for those who will be attending in costume?
Dan: We will be conducting another cosplay costume contest at FanX. The participation in last September's costume contest was phenomenal and we expect the FanX costume contest to be one of the key draws at the convention during Saturday's activities.
Gavin: What plans do you have in expanding the comics side of things, both with artists and writers?
Dan: We do have more attending the convention this time. As the show grows and becomes larger it will attract more comic book artists down the road.
Gavin: On the local side of things, who are you bringing in to represent the Utah geeks?
Dan: We are bringing in a lot of local talent for this event. Specifically, we have brought in local comic book artists Ryan Ottley and Tyler Kirkham to the event. We are happy to be able to showcase local talent at the event as it gives things a distinct Utah flavor.
Gavin: Aside from the last minute celebrities and surprises you're not revealing yet, what are you most looking forward to at this event and are anxious to see the reaction to?
Dan: I love to watch the reaction of the fans. It's fun to see the costumes people wear and to witness the enthusiasm for the event. I relish the experience we are able to provide for others while they are at the convention. This energy and excitement is the most rewarding aspect for me.
Gavin: After all the planning and initial dust has settled, what are your thoughts going into FanX?
Dan: I'm very optimistic that the fans in Utah are going to support this event in a way that is going to give Salt Lake Comic Con more national attention an notoriety in the comic con industry.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Dan: We will be doing some intermediate events leading up to the second Salt Lake Comic Con in September, but we don't have anything specific set at this time.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Dan: I'd like to shamelessly promote our fans. I can't give enough credit to them. Ultimately they are what will make FanX a success. We've made it a point to really involve fans in these events by giving them a true voice via social media in the types of guests and topics we bring to the table. We know that as we continue to do this we will receive the overwhelming support of the community.
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