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If you’ve never been to a convention for fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book enthusiasts, buckle up. Even if you’re not a card-carrying geek, this year’s Salt Lake Comic-Con is shaping up to be Utah’s can’t-miss family fun event. With public interest soaring (the event was recently moved from the South Town Expo Center to The Salt Palace to make room for crowds and vendors) and a projected 25,000 to 35,000 attendees, what started as a modest fan gathering has snowballed into a major community occasion. Here are seven reasons to block out September 5-7 on your calendar. You won’t want to miss it.

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1.It’s family-friendly. While some other conventions have a reputation for at-times scandalous attire and adult-oriented fare, the Salt Lake Comic-Con (which counts among its sponsors both Deseret Book and Deseret News) is keeping it PG. For example, the rules for the costume contest state: “Absolutely NO foul language will be acceptable during your performances! Remember, this is a family convention so please be respectful of all the children and parents out there. Inappropriate or overly sexual material will not be allowed…Please make sure your costume covers all of your private areas. This is not a peep’ or peek-a-boo’ show. Again, please keep it family-friendly. While we do not mind sassy costumes, there is a point when too much is just too much.”

2.Adult tickets are affordable. Tickets for teens are cheap. Kids’ tickets are free. Kids ages ten and under get in for free. Adolescents ages eleven to sixteen cost about half as much as grown-ups (for teens it’s $12-15 per day or $30 for a three-day pass, for adults it’s $20-30 per day or $50 for a three-day pass).

3.You can meet celebrities. For its first year, the Con has amassed a very impressive roster of pop culture icons for you to meet, take photos with, and get autographs from. Comic book enthusiasts will “geek out” over their favorite artists and authors, book fans can rub elbows with their favorite writers, and mainstream types will get to rub elbows with:

-       William Shatner (Star Trek, T.J. Hooker)

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-       Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica, The A-Team)

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-       Cerina Vincent (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

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-       Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman)

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-       Ray Park (Star Wars, GI Joe, X-Men)

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-       Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World, Relic Hunter)

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-       Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk)

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-       Kevin Sorbo (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Soul Surfer)

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-       Sofia Milos (CSI: Miami)

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-       Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica)

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-       Adrian Paul (Highlander- The TV Series)

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-       And more (with others to be announced)

 

4.The film festival. Although submissions are still being reviewed and accepted, there are two films which will have exclusive screenings at the Con that I am very excited about. The first is Dragon Lore: Curse of the Shadow, a fantasy adventure with elves, orcs, dwarves, and dragons, by local director John Lyde (the excellent Christmas Oranges) and starring Danielle Chuchran from director Kieth Merrill’s 12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue. The makeup, cinematography, and action all look stellar.

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The second is The Last Man(s) on Earth which, it’s no secret, is my favorite comedy of the past year. The film stars Charan Prabhakar (Abandoned Mine) and Brady Bluhm (Dumb and Dumber), with supporting performances by Darin Southam (Ephraim’s Rescue) and Rick Macy (The Testaments) as you’ve never seen them before. The plot revolves around inept survival experts trying to save the world from a zombie apocalypse. Appropriate for young teens and up.

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5.Panels. Actors, artists, writers, and more will delight you with panel conversations about film, TV, comics, and more.


I’ve been to several of these in the past, and they can be loads of fun.

6.Co-splay (costume play) and people-watching. For me, the true highlight of any convention is the creative and often impressive costumes worn by adults and children. Attendees of the Con will be surrounded by average people transformed into iconic heroes and creepy monsters. In fact, if you want, you could be one of them! Think of it as an early Halloween, except this time grown-ups are as likely to parade around in costume as the kids. What’s more, there’s a cosplay competition and, wait for it, a costume ball as part of the festivities. Even if you don’t want to dress up, the Comic-Con presents an opportunity for people-watching that is unparalleled.If you see a costume that blows your mind, be sure to complement its wearer and ask to take a picture with them. Trust me.

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7.The vendors. Want to get your child an authentic lightsaber? Pick up a rare, out-of-print comic? Get your wife some Harry Potter jelly beans? Action figures, autographed photos, fan art, vintage collectibles, clothing, and much more are available to browse and buy. I myself will be there signing copies of my book 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, which you can purchase at the Con.

I’m beyond excited to have a Comic-Con in Salt Lake City. I went to Dragon-Con in Atlanta in 2008. I went almost against my will because I thought I was “too cool” for it. However, it ended up being one of the most contagiously fun events I’ve ever attended, so get your tickets in advance, grab the kids, and head on down to The Salt Palace on September 5-7 to make your own memories. I’ll be at the Cedar Fort Publishing booth, so come say hello! I’d love to shake your hand…or claw…or robotic arm…depending on what you’re wearing.

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For more information on the Salt Lake Comic-Con, and to purchase tickets, please visit the official website. Be on the lookout for my interview with Comic-Con producer Dan Farr, coming soon to Meridian!

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Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in couples’ counseling and singles’ guidance (www.jdeckertherapy.com). He is the co-host of The KJZZ Movie Show and reviews Hollywood films from a Latter-day Saint perspective at www.mormonmovieguy.com. Jonathan’s book, 250 Great Movies for Latter-day Families, will get a wide release on September 10 through Cedar Fort publishing.

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