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Joey Harker photo

GEEKS, GAMERS, NERDS and general fans of science fiction and fantasy can rejoice! The Crystal Coast Con is back for its fifth year running. The event, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17 at MacDaddy’s of Cape Carteret, bills itself as “Eastern Carolina’s premier sci-fi/fantasy convention” and local opinions agree. “We’ve been dubbed the ‘little con with heart,’” said the event’s organizer Connie Milter, citing the words of many of the convention’s faithful attendees.

It’s easy to see why the convention is so successful. Attendees can expect to be entertained in myriad ways. Celebrity guests galore are booked for the event, like Kevin Sorbo (from the film “God’s Not Dead” and the television series “Hercules”), Richard Harmon (from “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” as well as several television series, including “The 100” and “Fringe”), Bill Blair (“Star Trek,” “Babylon 5” and “Robocop”) Rick Mora (“Twilight” and “The Dead and the Damned”) and a host of other amazing actors from popular shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Power Rangers: Time Force.” There will even be an appearance by MWF Wrestling Hall of Fame member Stro “The Maestro,” who is also known by his hereditary wrestling nickname “Gorgeous George III.” Guests are encouraged to bring a few extra dollars to buy autographs and take pictures with these iconic celebrities.

The fun doesn’t stop at celebrity appearances, though. The Con also features an impressive array of science fiction and fantasy authors – many of whom are local North Carolinian success stories – as well as costume contests, themed food and drinks, and vendors selling items like the steampunk memorabilia of Curious Goods Curios or the green-screened photo ops of Geektography. Milter stressed that there will be giveaways and door prizes for guests, too – beautiful gems, signed comic books, artist renderings and all sorts of wonderfully nerdy collectibles to tickle the itch of the inner-geek. There are even game tournaments that last throughout the day. In the past, games like Halo and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe have been featured.

Of course, no convention would be complete without special sideshows to intrigue and inform the guests, and the Crystal Coast Con is no exception. This year’s event includes a Hollywood-style make-up demonstration by none other than the man who holds the world record for number of special effects/make-up characters played throughout a career – Bill Blair.

“He’s played a Klingon, a Romulan, and everything in between,” joked Milter. Guests at the convention will be offered the exciting treat of watching Blair become a Klingon before their very eyes. “We’ll take him from plain to Klingon in three to four hours,” Milter said. And, afterward, guests will have the opportunity to take pictures with Blair in front of an official Klingon banner from one of the “Star Trek” films.

The convention’s popularity has been steadily growing in the five years since its inception. Milter said that the first year of the con saw 30 tickets sold in advance and a total of about 300 guests, while the second year actually presold 300 tickets and saw 800 attendees. This year, she expects to see well over 1,000 people at the Con.

Joey Harker photo

Joey Harker photo

It would be easy to see the event as MacDaddy’s-turned-sci-fi. After all, plenty of changes are made to the local business in order to accommodate guests of the Con. Ecto-1, of “Ghostbusters” fame, will be stationed out front as in previous years, and as Milter said “we change our [food and drink] menu … we go all out.” But at the heart of the Con is a remarkable and charming local, small-town mentality. “People who go to the bigger Cons say they love coming to our Con because it’s so intimate,” said Milter. There are no five- or six-hour waits standing in line, no sense of big corporate giants dictating all the fun. Instead, the feel is of a group of people who all love the same things getting together, having a great time, and meeting some of the people who have worked on their favorite shows or written their favorite books.

Though her team works incredibly hard to ensure the enjoyment of all the guests, at the end of the day, Milter said, even the event coordinators have smiles on their faces. “It’s like being at an awesome party all day,” she said.

Tickets for the fifth annual Crystal Coast Con can be purchased in advance for $20 or at the door for $25. The fun starts at 10am on Oct. 17. A full list of celebrity and event information can be found at crystalcoastcon.com.

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