Dana Cain has been involved in fandom since she first came to Denver, so it's no surprise that in her capacity as director of the Denver County Fair, she went geeky. Last year, she launched the Geek Pavilion, making Denver's fair "the only county fair in the world with a Geek Pavilion," as she bragged last year. And the Geek Pavilion will return to this year's fair, which runs from August 9 through August 11 at the National Western Complex, bringing along old favorites along with a whole slew of new, nerdy attractions. To find out what Denver's geeks and geek-curious have in store, we caught up with Cain to talk about the Geek Pavilion and how she's improved version 2.0.
See also: - Denver County Fair Geek Pavilion: "Stormtroopers, zombies, steampunks ... it's going to be pretty dang cool" - The ten best geek events in Denver in August - Local filmmakers tackle zombie culture with Doc of the Dead
Westword: This is the second year of the Geek Pavilion, right?
Dana Cain: This is year two for the Geek Pavilion, yes. Year three for the fair.
How did it do last year? Were people excited about the Geek Pavilion?
Oh, they loved it. It was one of the most active, exciting places at the fair. It was a huge hit. There were people in it all the time. It was great.
What did you learn from last year's Geek Pavilion that you've rolled into this year?
One of the things that we did is we had such great things on the stage, but the geek stage was kind of back against the wall so some of the things that were there that were so amazing were sort of ... you kind of had to go look for the stage. So this year we have moved the stage to the middle of the pavilion. So it's kind of right out in the middle. I'm really excited about that. I think it's just going to add this whole new dynamic and the whole pavilion is going to be activated by that as the centerpiece. The spelling bees and the circuit-bending and the robot opera and all that stuff is going to be right in the middle of the pavilion.
So it'll be a little harder to miss this time?
Yeah. Virtually impossible to miss. Who wants to miss robot opera? I actually missed it last year. So I get a chance to see it this year.
On that note, what are the returning attractions from last year to this year?
Well, we've got the spelling bee. We've got the maybe half the vendors returned, and half are new, so that's exciting. Maybe it's two-thirds returned.... Speed texting is back. The Scrabble tournament is back. Gamma Two Robotics is back doing robot demos and patrols. Robot opera is back with a new robot opera. Those are the returning things. Oh, and Stan Yan zombicatures are back and the Stormtroopers are back.
What about some of the new stuff?
This year we've added one whole booth for R2 units. There are people in Colorado who make their own R2-D2s and so we've got one whole booth of functioning, homemade, operational R2-D2 units and other Star Wars robots. This year we've also got Affinity Gaming Black Hawk sponsoring; in the gaming area they're doing a big poker tournament, which is sort of geeky but it's a different kind of geeky, so that's kind of cool.
The Colorado Steampunks are back, but this year they're doing something that's just painfully nerdy. They're doing this thing called "tea dueling." So it's blue-ribbon tea dueling: You get two people and they're competing and they have a cup of tea and a cracker. They dip it in the cracker until they're told to remove it, and [whatever craker] doesn't disintegrate first... does that make any sense? I think they're trying to eat the biscuit before it falls apart or something. It's all for the blue ribbon, so it's all legit.
We have a circuit-bending performance by Jane DaPain, that's new. We have Rainbowdragoneyes, he does an 8-bit chiptune black-metal band. Andrew Novick booked them, and I'm just going to have to go check it out because I'm not sure I know what's it going to be, but I know it's going to be super-cool. Then, all day Sunday -- technically, this is in the Art Pavilion, but it's kind of by the Geek Pavilion -- is something called Space Palette. It was a huge hit at Burning Man and it's an interactive art and music thing. It's really nerdy. You put your hand through this thing, you move your hands and it creates all original music and sound and light in the tent. It's going to be super cool.
This is a little like asking a mother who their favorite child is, but what's your favorite thing happening this year?
Well, the thing that started the Geek Pavilion was the spelling bee. That's what gave me the original idea. But I have to say the robot opera. It's Robot Opera II: RoboperaZilla. I'm looking forward to that because I missed it last year. But one other thing I absolutely have to mention -- technically it's not in the Geek Pavilion -- is Corpses and Crowns, the zombie beauty pageant. You know, it's definitely tied to the Geek Pavilion, but we used the Fashion Pavilion runway. But this year, Corpses and Crowns is being filmed for a new documentary on zombie culture. The documentary is called Doc of the Dead and it stars George Romero and Simon Pegg. I don't know how up you are on your zombie stuff, but George Romero invented it, basically! That's really exciting. It's going to propel us to international fame! We also do the steampunk fashion show in the Fashion Pavilion. There are geeky things sprinkled all around the fair, honestly, but they're centered in the Geek Pavilion.
Is there an art show this year?
Yes, within the Geek Pavilion, there are several blue-ribbon [art] categories. You'll get to have the geek art/science art/fan art competition, and the homemade robot competition is part of that, and there are several other categories, too. They're all listed online.
Apart from those judged competitions, will there be lots of walk-up competitions like last year?
Yeah, for the live competitions you can just show up a few minutes before, sign a waiver and go do it.
Was that stuff pretty popular last year? Was there good competition for the spelling bee and Geeks Who Drink and all that stuff?
Oh yeah. The spelling bee is sponsored by Denver Public Schools, I should mention. They have rounds for adults and kids. I think we're running it twice. It's all on the schedule.
Last year, you mentioned that the Geek Pavilion was almost like a convention hidden within the fair.
Yeah, the Denver County Fair is kind of like twelve different festivals under one roof, honestly. And the Geek Pavilion is like a con. It's kind of like that, but it's also got some education booths, too, and some things that aren't "fannish," if you will.
Part of that was you hoped the Geek Pavilion would act as sort of a gateway drug to turn people on to the joys of cons. Did you see any Highlands Ranch housewives walk in, fall in love with fandom and go, "Wow, now I want to go Denver Comic Con!"?
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I'm sure it happened. I'd have to go to StarFest and Mile High Con and ask them if their registration said they found out from the Denver County Fair, but all those groups, all the local conventions and local fannish groups, get free booth space in the pavilion. There's a big booth reserved for ColoCons, which is a big group of people who run cons here. We have a booth for all the other cons to promote what they do. We do want the Highlands Ranch housewives to know about Nan Desu Kan and all that good stuff.