All dressed up and a place to go
Denver Fan Expo 2023
The Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver was abuzz as the FAN EXPO Denver (Expo) 2023 came to town. The Expo offered attendees the opportunity to interact with celebrities, authors and cosplayers from around the country with autograph sessions, Q&A panels, artwork and the chance to buy movie and comic memorabilia in a 300,000-square-foot marketplace. (Cosplay is a portmanteau of costume play, where an individual dons a costume of a character and takes on its role). The event took place over three days starting on Friday, June 30, and running through Sunday, July 2.
The parent company, FAN EXPO HQ, gathers more than a million fans at its annual events across the United States and Canada. It is the largest comic convention (comic con) producer in the world, and serves fans of various genres (called fandoms) like comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming in one place, attracting all ages and backgrounds. Some of the celebrities attending the Expo were actor Henry Winkler, Tom Felton from Harry Potter, and members of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Lindsay Aries, who attended the Expo and made her own cosplay costume, said she started cosplaying in middle school. “I had the thought; wouldn’t it be so cool if I dressed up as a character from the show I really like?” She has been doing cosplay for 20 years under the pseudonym @leeleethebunny and also served as the lead judge at the Masters of Cosplay Grand Prix during the cosplay competition.
For Nicole Maher of Castle Rock, the Expo is a family affair. Her son Dominic, who dressed as Star Wars’ Boba Fett, started cosplaying at 4 years old, and her husband also attends the events. Maher said, “The best part is watching my 5 year old make so many people smile, from the tiniest fan to the grandparents who watched the original Star Wars in a movie theater when they were around the same age!”
A few notable nonprofits also had booths at the Expo, one of which was a partner for the event, Pop Culture Classroom (PCC). PCC works to inspire literacy and learning by utilizing pop culture as the medium. Another, Cap For Kids, is fighting pediatric cancer. The organization is completely volunteer-run and helps families pay bills they may not be able to afford because of continuing medical costs. They also do character visits at children’s hospitals around the U.S.
Krysta Parr, who has been attending the Expo since 2016, and works with various charities said, “I always enjoy the after-party! Cap for Kids hosts an after-party Saturday night of the Expo. This year was at the Hard Rock Cafe. It’s so fun to see everyone dancing in their costumes.”
The Expo is a chance to gather with fellow enthusiasts, meet stars of favored shows and share some memories. It is also a very egalitarian space as people from all sorts of backgrounds, places and fandoms mingle seamlessly. Parr said, “There’s something for everyone there. Even if you don’t care about the celebrities, there’s tons of artwork, collectibles, interactive exhibits, cars, and even a beer ‘cabin/porch’ to people-watch.”
As one out-of-town attendee shared, they have already started preparing for next year’s Expo, and that probably says it all.