For the past six years, the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Downtown Binghamton has been the home to a convention known as RoberCon, a comic book, sci-fi and board game convention that is often well-attended by local residents — over 1,800 people were at the event last year. The event consists of panel discussions, costume contests, board games, writing workshops and food from local vendors.
The event is a fundraiser for the Roberson Museum and Science Center and all proceeds go toward maintaining the museum’s operations. In its origin, the museum’s marketing team was looking for creative ways to raise money and noted that there weren’t any sci-fi conventions in the area.
“[It’s] basically just a whole bunch of people getting together and geeking out,” said Crystal Sarakas, a volunteer who has been running RoberCon since its inception.
RoberCon has room for all sorts of fandoms — there are panels on platforms from comic books and anime to movies and other areas of pop culture. Panels are 45- to 50-minute discussions on a wide range of fandom-related topics. Some notable panel topics include the social and cultural impact of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” a discussion on the new main character in the BBC television show “Doctor Who” and discussions with science fiction writers.
For Sarakas, one of the highlights of the event is people-watching. A tradition at RoberCon is for participants to arrive dressed as their favorite characters, and Sarakas said some of the costumes get pretty complex.
“Walking around and seeing the creativity that goes into some people’s costumes is really fun,” Sarakas said.
While this creativity manifests itself into a variety of fan bases, Sarakas expressed that RoberCon has the ability to bring people together under the connecting thread of science fiction.
“We kind of talk about coming to RoberCon to find your tribe, and that’s really what it is for us, just coming together and finding people who have similar interests,” said Sarakas. “We’ve had people leave comments on Facebook and the website afterward saying that it’s like coming home for them.”
Sarakas shared that her favorite costumes she saw were two toddlers dressed up as Princess Leia of “Star Wars” in a white dress and buns in her hair, and Han Solo, with a vest and pistol blaster at his belt, which she described as “amazingly adorable.”
In terms of the overall mood of RoberCon, Sarakas said she feels that it is one of “joy and acceptance.”
“It’s no longer weird to be a nerd,” Sarakas said. “And people are finding out that they have more in common with each other than they previously expected.”
RoberCon will be held on Sept. 29 and 30 at the Roberson Museum, located on 30 Front St. Tickets are $18 for a single-day pass and $24 for a weekend pass.