Are You Ready for the First FAN EXPO Denver?

Cosplay: still possible, masks and all.
Cosplay: still possible, masks and all. YouTube
After a months-long buildup, FAN EXPO’s Denver premiere is here, the first of what fans hope will be many fests to come. The event has taken over the Colorado Convention Center on Halloween weekend, October 29 through October 31, and if the guest list for this fun-size convention (organizers are limiting offerings and crowd size to about 75 percent of normal) is any indication, fans’ expectations will be rightfully high for summer 2022, when FAN EXPO Denver returns.

Much of the excitement surrounds the first expo's very special guest, William Shatner. It was going to be a treat for fans just to see good ol’ Captain Kirk, but with Shatner’s actual visit to the final frontier this past week, the stakes have been raised: FAN EXPO Denver will mark one of the first events that Shatner will attend after becoming the oldest person to go into space.

According to the current FAN EXPO Health and Safety Guidelines, masks are required for all attendees, regardless of role. That includes fans, vendors, celebrities, staff, and pretty much anyone involved in the convention who's over two. There are exceptions when people are eating or drinking, and during celebrity photo ops, the mask rules are temporarily lifted and up to the discretion of those involved in the photo. Beyond that, though, masks are absolutely required.

With these new guidelines in place, it's a good time to offer nerdy neophytes a quick checklist of the needs for your knapsacks:

Seriously, Masks
In years past, the only attendees in masks were wearing them in the interest of cosplay. This year, it's all about the health and safety of those around you. So be a hero and save someone else's day — and protect yourself at the same time. Masks for FAN EXPO Denver must consist of two or more layers of fabric and completely cover the nose and mouth without gaps, exhalation valves or vents. Neck gaiters and face shields are acceptable as additions, but are not okay as substitutes.

It's a cliché because it's also too often true: Some fans have a terrible sense of personal hygiene. Actual stink aside, it also stinks that an unwashed obsessive plays into the nerd stereotype. So don't be that person. And while we're on the subject, no, your magic deodorant rocks aren't working, and covering that natural scent with patchouli just makes it all worse.

Yes, the convention will have cash machines on site. No, they're not all that dependable, and the fees are pretty exorbitant because, well, they can be. Sure, lots of vendors will take credit cards, but they'll also be super-happy to accept cash, which is quicker and cheaper and charmingly old-school.

A Water Bottle and Snacks
Part of the fun of these cons is getting a commercial treat — maybe some gorgeously greasy cinnamon sugar doughnuts in a small paper sack, or a hot soft pretzel dipped in some truly terrific trailer-park cheese. But you don't want to depend on buying full meals, as the prices are jacked up to Richie Rich proportions.The Convention Center has rules against bringing in outside food, so don't try to smuggle in a stack of pizzas. But a little snack has been okay in past years, and it can save you some serious coin that you can spend elsewhere. And remember to hydrate: Bring an empty water bottle so you can fill up for free at the water fountains.

A Modest Backpack
Note the adjective: modest. You're not a turtle, so you don't have to keep your house on your back. Don't wear a pack that juts out two feet, taking up valuable space. Likewise, think twice before you bring your monster-truck double stroller to a convention. Your kid(s) are too young to give even the slightest of shits yet, and you're filling the whole aisle with that thing, Karen.

Your Phone...but Not to Call Anyone
You're going to want to take photos. That's part of the reason those cosplayers do what they do: for the accolades and attention. So bring your phone for all those snapshots; just don't snap them in the middle of the damn aisles. And don't think you'll be able to get internet access or even one bar for phone service; the number of fans essentially makes that impossible at certain times of the day. So the plan for meeting up with your pals later for lunch shouldn't be "I'll call you." Set a time and a place to meet in advance, just in case.

Something to Get Signed
One of the cool things about a fan convention is the memorabilia — but everyone has too much crap these days, and devotees of comics and pop culture are some of the worst hoarding culprits. Instead of buying a bunch more stuff to stuff in your stuff closet, how about busting out with something you already own that could be signed by one of the celebs? Maybe get Shatner to sign that dog-eared copy of his book TekWar, or bring that near-mint issue of Superman/Batman to have Jae Lee autograph. Still, don't be afraid to buy some little stuff — the upcoming artists and writers selling their wares need support, too, and you might just get in on the ground floor of someone who'll be deservedly super-famous in a few years. Having the big names sign their already-cool things will make room for stuffing those new finds in that modest backpack of yours.

We're all probably a little out of practice on this one, having been responsible shut-ins for much of the past eighteen months. Sartre may have been on to something when he said that "hell is other people," but remember that everyone else there also paid for the communal experience. So while you're standing in lines or stacked up in an aisle or just feeling a little overwhelmed, take both a deep breath and a moment to appreciate that we're again able to safely geek out together.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen