KINGSPORT — The largest toy and gaming convention in the Tri-Cities is moving from the Twin Cities to the Model City this year.
And best of all, it’ll be held just a few miles from my house.
The 33rd annual Rob Con comic book convention will be held July 27-29 at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. It’ll run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday, a two-day pass is $20 and a three-day pass is $30.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The annual convention will host more than 50 vendors selling comic books; toys and games; movie and television collectibles; anime and manga; and other “geek” related merchandise. G2K Games is sponsoring the tabletop, board and card gaming, while a Johnson City arcade is bringing a selection of games for fans to play.
Tyler Mane, who played Sabretooth in the 2000 X-men movie and Michael Myers in the Halloween remakes, is the special guest this year. In addition to Mane, there will be a number of other writers, artists, novelists and craftspeople, including Michael Golden, Arthur “Zombie King” Suydam, Geof Isherwood, Renee Witterstaetter and Rick Leonardi.
A variety of panels on comic books, fantasy television, Star Wars, sewing, Bays Mountain, and wrestling will be held throughout the weekend. A third day has also been added to the schedule (Friday evening), and attendees will be able to dance along in a cosplay prom, meet and have photos with Mane and engage in a game of trivia.
Since cosplay has grown in recent years, Rob Con will host two costume contests during the weekend — one on Saturday for kids and amateurs and another on Sunday with a $500 grand prize.
WHY THE MOVE?
Except for one time in Johnson City (1999), Rob Con has always been held in Bristol. This will be the first time the convention has graced the halls of the Model City.
“We just got too big,” explains Robert Pilk, the owner of Mountain Empire Comics in Bristol and organizer of the convention. “The Viking Hall people are nice. We never had any problems with them. We just ran out of room.”
Holding the three-day convention at MeadowView opens up a whole bunch of opportunities for Pilk. There’s room for panel discussions; more space for vendors, writers and artists; and the special vehicles (Jurassic Park jeep and Ghostbusters Ecto-1) will now be inside, rather than outside under the weather.
“I think we’ll pull the whole Tri-Cities in this time instead of just Bristol. It’s not that long a drive,” Pilk said.
Last year, Rob Con saw more than 2,700 people come through its doors for the two-day event. This year, with the convention expanding to three days, being held in a larger venue and with a big-name guest like Mane showing up, Pilk said he hopes to top 4,000 people.
“I think, realistically, 4,000 is not out of the ballpark, but I do think we’ve even got a good shot at 4,500,” he said.
For more information on Rob Con, to sign up as a vendor or to purchase tickets, visit www.robcon.org.