“Star Wars” rogues, dark fairies, superheroes and the occasional rainbow tutu — the ultimate “geek” fantasy came to life this weekend at RoberCon.
RoberCon, inspired by Comic-Con, featured events for all sci-fi lovers. The organizers, including Chris Kocher, the programming co-chair of RoberCon, invited vendors, fan clubs and local authors and artists to share their work and love of the mystical world.
“We have created a community at this event because the same people come every year,” Kocher said. “I think it’s been a big thing for the sci-fi geek community to have this here as a central meeting place. [It’s] really remarkable.”
The event is held annually at the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Downtown Binghamton and took place this year on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1. This year, RoberCon celebrated its five-year anniversary.
When the convention began in 2013, the event coordinators expected a turnout of 500 to 600. To their surprise, according to Kocher, they ended up with over 1,000 guests.
“They actually ran out of lanyards and badges the first year,” Kocher said. “They raided the kids craft drawer for yarn and they made lanyards out of yarn. So we kind of knew we were on to something.”
Endicott residents Jonathan and Lola Myers have come every year to display and sell their work as the “Illustrators of Imaginative Art.” Their paintings range from portraits of a Korean mythical mermaid to ones of Princess Leia. They are one of 32 vendors who tabled at RoberCon this year.
The first year of RoberCon, Jonathan recalls dressing up as Spock and seeing a little boy in the same costume. They greeted each other with the Vulcan V-salute and took a picture as big and little Spock.
“There’s a sense of community [at RoberCon] and it’s family-friendly with all different ages,” Lola said. “It’s great to see the love of art passed on to the next generation.”
RoberCon 2017 featured panel discussions with over 50 different topics and subjects like “Doctor Who,” “Harry Potter,” “Ghost Hunters” and a talk given by The New York Times best-selling sci-fi author, Faith Hunter.
“It basically is about bringing fans together to have discussions about things that they love,” Kocher said. “There’s about four or five people on the panel to lead the discussion, but it really is an interactive thing. There’s a lot of give and take between the audience and the panelist. Like, ‘What do you think the next “Star Wars” movie will be about?’ ‘What do you think… the “Fantastic Beasts” movie from “Harry Potter” coming out next year is going to be like?’”
Another highlight of the event is the costume contest, which took place on Sunday with three categories: youth, novice and expert. The prizes, including pop culture memorabilia and other items, were donated by local businesses, organizations and fan groups.
For the last three years, the convention has also set up extended hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Binghamton High School. Each year, around 150 people reconvene in the high school during and after RoberCon to play games such as “Dungeons and Dragons.”
“There’s been a renewed interest in [tabletop games] in the last five or 10 years,” Kocher said. “There’s also something to be said for sitting down together and playing a game [in person].”
Kocher said the community fostered at the event has grown over its five years to become one with many different faces.
“Geek culture has become pop culture,” Kocher said. “Like the macho-football guy who [also] loves ‘Star Wars’ — it’s not really mutually exclusive anymore.”
RoberCon differs from other conventions in the area because of the sense of community created and its charitable goal, according to Kocher. Proceeds from the event go to the Roberson Museum and Science Center to support the museum’s programs in science and art and to maintain the building’s Victorian elements.