Look around Calgary this weekend and there will probably be a few more superheroes, caped crusaders, and even a few costumed outlaws about.
The Calgary Expo is back for its 16th year, letting fans connect with their favourite fandoms and celebrities, and helping local Calgary businesses connect with some super customers.
“We’re just delighted, honestly,” said Andrew Moyes, Vice President of FanExpo HQ, which runs the Calgary Expo.
“Fandom as well and truly back across Canada, the US, and the world. And this is a time where community comes together and shares their passion, so excitement is kind of integral to this weekend and we couldn’t be more delighted.”
Moyes said that anticipation for this year’s expo has been big, and mega-hit shows like The Last of Us which were filmed in the city, have heated up that interest even further.
Added to that is a must-see celebrity lineup of actors, comic book creators, and voice talent behind some of the biggest television shows, movies, games, and anime worldwide.
“We do 16 of these events across Canada, in the US, so that really helps us engage and connect with top talent and find opportunities to bring them to all our different cities,” he said.
“The Last of Us being filmed here, I think that’s definitely helped pique people’s curiosity about wanting to come here… but we’ve been doing this for 16 years, so we have the relationships.”
Among the celebrities at this year’s Calgary Expo include Andy Serkis, James McAvoy, David Harbour, Vincent D’Onofrio, and the entire cast of legendary Canadian sketch comedy Kids in the Hall.
Plus, Darth Vader himself, Hayden Christensen.
“I am excited to see Hayden here on Saturday. A lot of people are coming to meet him… I think that’s going to be really special and unique. Because you just don’t see that sort of celebrity every day,” Moyes said.
Parade of Wonders unique to Calgary
Moyes said that the annual Parade of Wonders, which takes over the downtown in the colors and costumes of pop culture, is something wholly unique to Calgary.
“We don’t do a parade like this in any other city, So it’s a really special element,” he said.
“Fandom takes over the city, and nothing defines that more than taking over Stephen Avenue and then it all culminating in Olympic plaza with a ceremony.”
Unlike last year’s parade, which was derailed by a shock snowstorm, the weather is forecast for Friday to be sunny and warm.
He said that the parade going ahead this year was an important thing because of the community building that comes from it.
“It’s about passion. And it’s about discovering that sense of actually, there’s a safe space for me to go and celebrate my fandom at the Calgary Expo,” Moyes said.
The Parade of Wonders this year will once again be headed by Calgary’s mayor Jyoti Gondek.
Participation in the parade is free, although participants are encouraged to pre-register on the Calgary Expo website. Staging for the parade is at 8 Avenue and 8 Street SW.
Fan viewing zones are set up along Stephen Avenue for people just wanting to take in the spectacle. The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and culminates in at Olympic Plaza at 11:15 a.m.
Cosplay at the heart of the expo
Visitors wandering the aisles of the Calgary Expo for any length of time are bound to run into someone wearing the most amazing costume, only to turn around and see it topped by someone else.
The Calgary Expo this year is also featuring professional cosplay artists who have built large online followings for the creative work they put into creating some of pop culture’s most recognizable outfits.
Kristy North Peigan, a local Blackfoot cosplay artist (who goes by kristiclesgg on social media) and founder of Cosplay Skilltree, is one of the individuals at the show this year bridging the divide between professional cosplay and those who want to start creating for themselves.
“It’s a great way for people to not only meet like-minded individuals that love the same fandoms, and it’s a great way to actually interact with cosplayers in various areas of expertise,” she said.
At the expo this year they’re selling kits to help individuals learn how to create their own pieces out of foam, glue, and paint.
“You can’t just go on Amazon and buy a big Batman costume or, you know, a Thor costume. You have to sometimes get into the nitty gritty and make it yourself,” North Peigan said.
“So having that opportunity to have people come through and find the resources that they need so that they can start, really empowers people, especially when they’re beginning. And it’s all ages.”
She said that she began the business after looking at what people needed to get started in the cosplay world beyond watching YouTube videos.
Being a vendor at the show, said North Peigan, was almost like a cheat code for her and for her customers.
“People come here for specific reasons: for the cosplay, the fandom, the love of all these different enterprises that we all love communally,” she said.
“It kind of feels like cheating, because it’s not like we’re necessarily trying to put a wild idea out there. People kind of come and meet us on a level ground. So, it makes it really special in an expo environment.”
Show important for fans and vendors alike
Moyes said that connecting fans with unique merchandise that is authentic to fans and isn’t duplicated across vendors, is important to the expo.
“I think it’s very important to us. Number one, we do curate our show floor,” he said.
“We want a real diverse selection for our fans are things that they can’t necessarily get over the shelf at other stores outside of the expo. And I think that is definitely seen in artists alley.”
Among the local vendors at this year’s expo were long-term returning local artists Rawry and Pohly and first-timer Sweet Cuts.
“We’ve done the Expo for a number of years. It’s one of our favorite shows to do,” said Jamie Mason, one half of the Rawry and Pohly duo.
“It’s really exciting to actually be back to a full show and to be able to bring all of our stuff back to our customers. And see people in person again.”
She said that a show like the Calgary Expo was really important to a business like theirs, where they rely on selling art directly to customers.
“It does a lot for our actual ability to sell our artwork and keep being our full-time artists,” she said.
Among those would be some limited stock and rather whimsical pieces that the pair have not created for the past few years.
“So we have a year of the dragon Canvas, we have a very large print of our $2 Bill, and then we have some smaller items like floofy punch or prime squish that we haven’t had out in a number of years,” Mason said.
“So, it’ll be interesting to see who gets to take these pieces home.”
Jason Ashley, owner of Sweet Cuts, said that he was attending the show as a vendor because of his love for all things Marvel.
“If you look at my stuff, a lot of it is the older, more original items, and that’s what we’re, we’re all about,” he said.
Sweet Cuts, he said, prides itself on creating custom metal art out of Canadian steel, and was happy to bring that to the expo this year for the first time. Ashley said they had worked hard to create a variety of different comic-themed items for fans for the weekend.
“We are in the business of making dreams come true, and I think the world more than ever needs those moments.”