Pensacola is about to become an intergalactic mecca as Pensacon 2018 will kick off events for comic con lovers next week.
Pensacon officially runs from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25, but true fans of space-themed classics "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" won’t want to miss out on Cosplay Day at the Pensacola International Airport on Feb. 20.
The public is welcome to visit the Pensacola airport throughout the day on Feb. 20 for photo opportunities with cosplayers. Air travelers might also be surprised to discover the airport has been redecorated and, instead of normal flight gates, they will be flying into and out of stargates.
"The Mayor of Pensacola did a proclamation renaming the Pensacola airport to the Pensacola Intergalactic Airport from Jan. 23 up through the end of (February)," said Pensacon director of marketing Kat Bishop. "We will have people from U.S.S. Continuum and the 501st Legion there in costume with the Starfleet from ‘Star Trek’ and Lucas-approved stormtroopers, Darth Vader and the bad guys from the ‘Star Wars’ films. There will also be other general cosplay characters, so someone will be there all day to take pictures."
Also of interest at the airport is a month-long display of a screen-worn "Star Trek" uniform and original props from the film "Star Trek: Into Darkness."
This year, Pensacon is celebrating its fifth year producing the comic con — an event that Bishop said grew faster than she ever imagined.
"It was a rapid growth and expansion," she said. "We didn’t expect the first year to be that popular. We were expecting about 3,000 people but instead we had 11,000 people show up!"
Last year, Pensacon saw 28,500 people come through the intergalactic gates, and Bishop said the three-day event attracts people from all over the world.
"In previous years, we’ve had at least one ticket purchase from every state, including Alaska and Hawaii," she said. "This year we have ticket purchases from England and Iceland, and we have seen people come in from France and Switzerland — they come from all over."
When it comes to star-power, Pensacon has it in tribbles. This year the line-up has more than 100 expected guests from well-known comic, television and film genres as well as authors, artists and even wrestlers.
When asked to name the most popular guests in the line-up this year, Bishop said it’s hard to tell who will be the crowd favorites, but there are a few big-names that are already creating a buzz.
"We are definitely seeing a lot of interest and excitement with our guests John Barrowman and Jason Isaacs," she said. "John Barrowman is known for everything from his roles in 'Doctor Who' and 'Torchwood' to his work in the DC Universe. He’s kind of become a staple in the con circuit, but he has never been to this area. Jason Isaacs has a huge following, especially for his role as Lucius Malfoy in 'Harry Potter.' He is also a really big draw."
Bishop added that with the popularity of the comic con, the guest list grows with each passing year.
"This year our line-up is bigger than any other, but there is such a nice cross-section of interests and genres," she said. "We have something for everybody, so I believe we have definitely hit the mark this year."
Although the guests of Pensacon are a huge draw, Bishop said the single-most anticipated event of the weekend is the cosplay contest on Saturday night.
"People really enjoy seeing the cosplays that fellow con attendees come up with," she said. "It’s about the craftsmanship of creating something new and unique that hasn’t been done before."
Bishop said last year brought out some very elaborate costumes, as each contestant must hand-make their attire to participate.
"There were a couple last year that really blew the judges away," she said. "There was a guy in a centaur costume complete with the back end of the horse, and then there was a really amazing guy on stilts. It was an original costume of a moss man that he came up with — it was quite spectacular."
The after party
Pensacon has become sort of a sprawling event that takes place across the city of Pensacola. In addition to the airport and the five official locations of Pensacon, local businesses and restaurants are also getting in on the thematic fun.
"Fish House is a sponsor of Pensacon and has been for the past four years," Bishop said of one participating local restaurant. "They have three locations in the area — The Fish House, The Deck Bar and Atlas Oyster Bar."
Bishop detailed that during the weekend of Pensacon The Fish House will take on a "Harry Potter" theme, Atlas Oyster House will become a "Star Trek" zone and The Deck Bar will become a "Star Wars" watering hole.