In August 2010, just before the start of my senior year of high school, I attended a small convention. I had a phoenix painted on my face, watched Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) in the planetarium dome, and failed to find a game tournament that I was anywhere near qualified to enter but watched a number of others play until their fingers hurt. The programs were basic and film showings were the main attraction, an author I’d never heard of was signing books I would never read, and gamers made spider webs of tangled laptop cords between commandeered classrooms.
That was the start of Geekfest.
It may not sound like much now but, in Central Texas, where being called a “geek” often has a negative connotation that falls somewhere between Harry Potter’s “Mudblood” and Divergent’s “pansycake,” it was an amazing experience and one that I was eager to have repeat. Geekfest, even in its infancy, provided a place for geeks to peacefully (okay, excitedly) coalesce, as well as a means by which geekdom/nerdom/fandom could become more apparent and socially present in Central Texas.
That was the start of a new community.
This past weekend Central Texas College held the festival’s fifth incarnation, Geekfest 2014, which was aptly advertised as “A Celebration of All Things Geek.” While it may not be on the same scale as San Diego Comic-Con, Geekfest 2014 was filled to the brim with programs, tournaments, demos, films, vendors, and costumed-attendees—there was something and someplace for everyone.
Where Geekfest 2010 lulled and had an overall sedate atmosphere, Geekfest 2014 moved at a quick pace and positively exuded excitement, energy. Where Geekfest 2010 was simplistic and necessarily limited in scope, Geekfest 2014 was complex, diverse, and effectively multidimensional. Where Geekfest 2010 was an attempt and a promising beginning, Geekfest 2014 was an ultimate success and a dazzling sign of an even greater future.
In short, Geekfest 2010 was solid fun, but Geekfest 2014 was pure awesome.
I bought the three-day pass ahead of the event at the special discount price ($10.00–super affordable, am I right?), but a last-minute cosplay idea and the resulting sewing binge meant that I was only able to attend Geekfest (in its entirety) on Saturday and Sunday. Two out of three obviously isn’t too bad though because I still had a ton of fun.
While Friday’s festivities included a live performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show by the Queerios, regular performers from the Alamo Drafthouse Village in Austin, Texas, and a Harry Potter-themed Yule Ball, Saturday and Sunday included a greater number of tournaments, programs, and vendors, and drew larger crowds.
On Saturday, I arrived at Geekfest in my version of Slytherin wizarding robes in an attempt to cosplay Harry Potter. Almost immediately upon reaching the Mayborn Science Theater (one of two buildings in which the festival was being held), people ranging in age from toddler to elderly made pleasant comments about my robes and just generally said “hello.” It didn’t feel like some big, scary, anonymous event, it felt like a giant and multi-day party with friends.
If I could sum up Geekfest in one scene, it would portray the excitement of two cosplayers as they yell compliments to each other across hallways and courtyards, joking about stealing each others’ costumes and adopting character names. Even for someone who sometimes has a difficult time getting to know new people, this festival had the strange transformative power to take random people and turn them into instant friends (at least for a few moments).
After picking up my pass, which was worn as a wristband, I simply walked about the various areas of the festival, taking in the possibilities and opportunities. While it was incredibly humid outside (damn you, melting makeup), Saturday was a truly gorgeous day as far as “hotter than hades” Texas summers go.
In the parking lot and open field between Mayborn, where tournaments and programs were, and Anderson Student Center, where vendors and food services were, attendees were able to take in the sunlight and watch the more physical programs as they walked along. Everywhere you looked, pairs and groups were doing the same. And, if nothing else, the heat was a motivator to get from one activity to another as quick as possible.
In the public space, there were RenFair and other historical cosplay groups calling out to attendees to watch them “beat each other up for our entertainment,” teenagers and adults truly going at it with boffers, a children’s train running a snaking course, roller derby chicks skating circuits, robots chasing kids, and random people chatting about geeky things. In every direction, something fun was happening among fun people.
During one walk from Mayborn to Anderson, I even managed to get caught up in a discussion with a random guy about the Ninth Doctor and how underrated he is among the Doctor Who fandom. (For the record, he agreed that, had Christopher Eccleston had more than one season, he would have developed more of a fan force.) I never even found out that guy’s name, but it was amusing to have an off-handed comment about the sun turn into a fan-chat.
In Anderson, two floors were devoted solely to food, live entertainment, and geeky goodies.
On the first floor, after scoring some food of their own, attendees were able to vote on cupcakes and tier cakes that had been entered into the cake decorating contest. My personal favorite was a three-story Doctor Who cake that featured the TARDIS, daliks, bowties, galaxies, and even more wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. It almost made me wish that I’d continued those cake-decorating classes years ago! After voting, it was simple enough to find a table to rest and even take in a sword-fight, not to mention the roaming robots.
The second floor was packed with the tables of vendors and sponsors. Yet, on this one topic, I must be a bit negative: the space just simply wasn’t appropriate for so many tables and people and more than a few of those represented were not entirely suited to the convention. I heard more than one parent note that vacations should not have been advertised around excitable children or light sabers brandished in so cramped a hallway. In addition, while the vendors sold anything from hair bows to tattoos, I feel that the vibrant Central Texas community could produce more (and more varied) vendors, if perhaps more effort was put into recruitment. (Perhaps I should volunteer…)
In any case, for the most part, the vendors had fascinating wares and the represented sponsors were nothing but kind, talkative, and accommodating.
Back in Mayborn, programs started every half-hour to hour, and ranged from Doctor Who screenings to Harry Potter trivia to Dungeons & Dragons how-to’s to cosplay tips to screenwriting classes to retro gaming to costume contests to who-knows-what-else. There were so many things happening at once that, were it not for the nifty program schedules handed out and posted on classroom doors, attendees would have been turning in circles with sensory overload.
I personally attended quite a few cosplay, live action roleplaying (LARP), and Harry Potter programs. Those are just the areas where my fandom interests primarily lie, but there was certainly more that I could have done. Perhaps my favorite program on Saturday was entitled “Cosplay’s Place and Influence in Society,” which was presented by members of Heroes and Villains of Cosplay (HAVOC), a cosplay group based in San Antonio, Texas. It was fascinating to hear about cosplay’s significance as well as the challenges it can pose. (Plus, one of the presenters said that he loved my wizarding robes!)
Two other presentations worth mentioning were Jason Sanchez/J. Sanime’s “Taking the Cosplay Stage” and “How to Be Awesome at Cosplay.” Sanchez, a practiced cosplayer, costume designer, and cosplay contest-placer, was exceptionally helpful with his tips regarding maintaining confidence, having fun, and getting into character. Not to mention the fact that his Maes Hughes (Fullmetal Alchemist) costume was brilliant.
Thus, after a long day of walking, talking, and laughing, I left Geekfest sometime around 9:00 PM–just before a second performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show was set to start—in hopes of eating some much-needed (sort of) non-junk food and getting a few hours of sleep. (Not surprisingly, I was too amped up from the excitement of the day to sleep much that night.)
While I got down with my pillow and some delicious cereal, other Geekfest attendees finished up the “Geek Glow Wars: Glow In the Dark 5K.” At the end of that day, I didn’t even have it in me to think about a 5K, but cheers to everyone who participated.
Sunday afternoon, I arrived cosplaying as Tris Prior from Divergent. Compared to the sewing frenzy that wizarding robes induced, this cosplay was relatively simple to plan and execute on short notice.
By combining some black and grey reflective compression leggings, a loose-fitting black workout tank, a black sports bra, and plain black trainers, I was able to recreate something resembling Tris’ Dauntless training outfit. I topped off the outfit with a messy ponytail, makeup, and two eyeliner temporary tattoos. I owe YouTuber “thosefandoms” major thanks for her video entitled “Tris Prior Cosplay” wherein she explained how to make temporary tattoos from only eyeliner, body powder, and hairspray.
While it may not have been the most creative costuming or detailed cosplay, I was happy to find that multiple people called out “Dauntless!” and Tris!” as I walked by, so the outfit must have gotten the point across. I truly love Divergent, as a book and as a film, and Geekfest provided a setting in which I could show that attachment and have others appreciate it as well.
In terms of temperature, Sunday was much more tolerable and thick cloud-cover gave the pale ones like myself a bit of relief from the threat of imminent sunburn. Presenters and performers, some clad in mail and armor, also seemed to appreciate the respite. As a result, an even greater number of people milled about in the public space and outdoor presentations/programs were much busier than the day before.
Of the programs offered that afternoon, I most clearly remember the Ennis’ “Modern Herbology: Herbs and Their Uses Both Medicinal and Magical” and Chris Glover’s “LARP Prop Making Tips.” While I expected the Herbology presentation to be a simple spiel about the natural and positive effects of herbs, the Ennis’ actually facilitated an interesting discussion about nature and evidence of modern-day witchcraft (i.e. Wicca). Similarly, Glover’s tips for using everyday materials, such as insulation foam, hot glue, silicone molds, paint, and LED lights, to create more eye-catching costumes, made for a simply fascinating presentation and I cannot wait to employ some of Glover’s techniques in creating future cosplays.
After taking in those two presentations, I ventured back to the vendor area and bought a $10.00 Doctor Who mug from Hastings. I don’t know how anyone else feels, but any shopping trip that results in a fandom find is a true success in my book.
In a quick turn of events, Geekfest then ended with an opening of the floodgates, a torrential downpour, and attendees running to their cars with makeup streaming down their faces and costumes stuck to their skin. If nothing else, a full-on thunderstorm in an area that is often jokingly said to “live under an umbrella” was an amusing way to end an already eventful weekend.
Overall, Geekfest 2014 was a wonderful experience and I can’t wait for Geekfest 2015. I just know that it will be an amazing time and filled with the creation of new memories. This festival can only get even bigger and better in the future, it can only further develop this wonderful community. Perhaps I will even apply to be a presenter next year and get to teach as well as learn. Anyone up for a couple of presentations on “Blowing Up the Blogosphere” or “Fanworlds and Fanfiction”? Cheers to you, my fellow geeks of the world.