THUNDER BAY - From its less than humble beginning three years ago, the little convention that was meant to gather fans of sci-fi, comics, games, and everything geek together in a fun and inclusive way, has grown like a colossus and is taking the city by storm.
ThunderCon wrapped up on Sunday and organizers say the turnout and reception this year has far exceeded expectations.
“We were setting the bar rather high this year,” said ThunderCon executive chair, Robert Kilgour. “I think we have been rewarded with a little bit of success. We have set a higher level for bringing new and interesting ideas for our con to the people of Thunder Bay and I think everyone has responded well.”
Kilgour said when ThunderCon first started three years ago as a one day event, more than 1,000 people attended. It grew in its second year when it expanded to two days, but this year, he is expects attendance to be more than 4,000 people.
“I think we all had dreams of that, but we never expected it to grow quite this quickly,” he said. “The uptake on it was huge.”
This year included several special guests such as Robert Picardo of Star Trek, voice actor Chuck Huber, video game writer, Ann Lemay, actor Kevin Porter, author Jayne Barnard, and cosplayer MNC Props, or Vincent Grenier.
ThunderCon offers something for everyone, from board and video games, to comics and collectibles, or cosplay and live action roleplaying, whatever your fandom is, you can be sure to find it. And that is what makes the convention so special, according to Gary Kemp, a vendor who has participated in ThunderCon since it began.
“It’s so inclusive,” he said. “There’s no exclusion. When you walk in the door, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you wear, your orientation, colour, creed, anything. It’s such a wide reaching event and it speaks to the creativity of the people here.”
Creativity was certainly on display, as people dressed up as their favourite characters from movies and comics and video games.
Karen Hutchinson, a cosplayer from Timmins, Ont. made the drive to Thunder Bay with her fellow Klingons and she said her experience at ThunderCon has been amazing.
“I really enjoy these fan run, smaller conventions,” she said. “It allows you to spend more time getting to know people, people are really friendly up here, and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Hutchinson has been involved in cosplay since she was a child, and because her parents were costumers, and her father owned an upholstery shop, it always meant her Halloween costumes were extra special.
“I just grew up into it,” she said. “We were a Star Trek family. I grew up on Star Trek and other sci-fi and learning how to make costumes as I went.”
But what’s next for ThunderCon? Kemp has seen it grow substantially in only three years, but he believes too much growth, too fast, may hurt the convention.
“I believe it can keep growing, but I think the danger is to grow it too quickly without thought to what that growth is,” he said. “You want quality not necessarily just quantity.”
Which is something organizers are very conscious of as they start thinking about what ThunderCon will look like in 2018 and just how big it will get.
“There are so many different individual and fandoms within Thunder Bay and I think they see an opportunity here to share their love for their fandom together,” Kilgour said. “But I also think word has gotten out not only in the city, but into the district and northern U.S. and as far as Winnipeg and Timmins.”
“We will always keep an eye to growth, but I think what we really want to do is look at what we have and make it as good as possible,” Kilgour continued.