One-year-old Elliot Koski reached up from his stroller to tug on the Predator’s dreadlocks and pet his face while the alien creature scowled into the camera and looked generally intimidating.
“Nice Predator,” said Elliot’s dad, Cory Koski, with a laugh.
It was Elliot’s first time at ThunderCon, the local pop-culture convention that took over The Valhalla Inn this weekend and hosted characters of all kinds.
“I love how it’s improved over the years, there’s just more,” said Cory. “This is a really good draw and there’s a lot of people really participating. There’s a lot to look at and people dress in great costumes, I also like bumping into people I know that are all dressed up.”
The event, which is in its third year, seemed to attract a lot of families.
“It gives families the opportunity to come out and express themselves as the inner nerds that they are and I love seeing the kids dress up in their costumes,” said Crystal Koski, Elliot’s mom.
Cory agreed that he loved seeing all the little kids getting into the fun of the day, dressing up and meeting some of their favourite characters.
“I grew up as a geek and this culture was despised by most people except the subculture,” said Cory. “Now geekdom is everywhere and everyone loves it.”
Deciding to make ThunderCon weekend an event, Thunder Bay resident Noah Daniels and his son Callum, 8, stayed at the hotel so they could attend both days.
“It’s a staycation,” said Noah. “We wanted to make a weekend of it. It’s nice to see it getting bigger every time.”
“It’s really fun,” said Callum. “I just like all of it, I like seeing R2-D2.”
The Luc family has attended ThunderCon every year, said mom Danielle who was dressed like Poison Ivy from Batman.
“We usually choose a theme and all dress up like that,” she said. “We let (the kids) pick what they want and then we decide from there what we will be.”
The family of Batman villains featured son Malcolm dressed like The Joker and daughter Shailyn as Harley Quinn. As part of her costume, Shailyn carried a huge mallet, but when she saw the Predator coming she turned and walked quickly in the opposite direction.
Inside the Predator costume, David Biscardi said what he loves about events like ThunderCon is the creativity it inspires.
“It’s an outlet to see what you can do,” said Biscardi, who spent a-year-and-a-half accumulating all the parts for his Predator costume. The legs and torso, he said, were just a latex skin that needed to be painted after he got them.
“The mask was made by a Thunder Bay artist, the hands were made by a Thunder Bay artist,” said Biscardi. “I sourced them from all different people who have different talents and it all gets put together.”
A lot of the details Biscardi added himself, including designing the animatronics and sound system for the cannon on his shoulder.
“It was a lot of late nights,” he said. “But you build it and get the response. When people say ‘oh wow!’ that puts a smile on my face.”
Another pair of aliens who were turning heads this weekend were Klingons Peter Hutchison and Pierre Ouellette, both from Timmins. The were invited to attend the convention as part of the Klingon Assault Group, an international cosplay club focused around the Klingon empire and Star Trek fandom.
“We’re trying to build a community of Star Trek cosplayers here in Thunder Bay,” said Hutchison. “We’ve got a number of people who have expressed interest. There’s a new ship that’s been founded here called the Imperial Klingon Vessel Shadow Lord, so Klingons are going to be a regular presence here in Thunder Bay from now on.”
The Klingon Assault Group, said Hutchison, is based on the principle of having fun. There are very few rules and everyone is welcome.
“We do accept other races,” said Ouellette. “As long as they’re not human, and they pledge allegiance to the Klingon Empire.”
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Just sharing some cool stuff that we've done.