One glance around the parking lot and sidewalk spoke volumes: whatever was going on inside the Wytheville Meeting Center Saturday was not your average everyday meeting.
Zombies chatted with bloody monsters. Ghost busters hung out with “Star Wars” warriors. Business executives they were not. Science fiction/fantasy fans they were.
And they showed up by the hundreds for Wytheville’s very first science fiction/fantasy convention WyvaCon.
“The turnout has been great” said Melanie Hanshew of Rocky Gap who organized the event with her boyfriend Chris DeHart. By lunchtime nearly 300 people had signed in with more on the way. In all more than 400 people attended.
Hanshew and Dehart took on the task of organizing the event after several of their friends agreed Wytheville should host a convention. Until this past weekend the closest had been in Roanoke.
“We had never organized anything before” Hanshew said. “So after our friends suggested it we sat on it for a while. Then we started looking up the costs and went from there.”
DeHart is a local artist who sells shirts and latex prosthetics he designs. He enjoys turning people into zombies and demonstrated some of his techniques at WyvaCon.
The convention was set up to appeal to fans of science fiction horror games and steampunk (a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy).
Fans like Jessica Thomas 22 and her brother Nick Thomas 15 who dressed up as evil seamstress and a zombie respectively.
“We’re just nerds at heart” she said.
Among the guests were employees of local haunted venues like the Major Graham Mansion in Fort Chiswell and the St.Albans Sanatorium in Radford. If you are going to have a haunted house you’ve got to have paranormal investigators around: Proof Positive Paranormal Sisters of Salem Paranormal Research and Mountain Ridge Paranormal Research. Also on hand to speak with convention goers was local comic book author/artist Dan Delby and local author Kim Headlee.
Other vendors sold books comics various memorabilia jewelry and more.
GameStop and the Video Exchange of Wytheville sponsored various games throughout the day. In the back of the room Mike Taylor of Bland helped people play Warhammer 40K a tabletop strategy game where every move is determined by a roll of the dice. Not only do fans play the game they also make their individual game pieces getting as intricate as they like Taylor said.
“I love science fiction” said Brittany Lambert dressed as a “Star Trek” yeoman. “I’m so glad we have something to do here nerd fun.”
Lambert’s friend Heather Repass dressed as a “Star Trek: Next Generation” lieutenant agreed. “It’s fun people and a fun event” she said.
But the day wasn’t about all play. Convention-goers gave to charity as well. Members of the 501st Legion were on hand to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital a charity selected by WyvaCon organizers. Legion members are die-hard “Star Wars” fans who enjoy costuming. They come together to raise money for various charities. Last year the group raised $12 million.
Visiting Wytheville on Saturday was Doug Danco and Paul DePaola both of Roanoke. Danco who works as a senior network engineer for the city of Roanoke dressed as Boba Fett a “Star Wars” bounty hunter. DePaola who works for All State Insurance was dressed as a storm trooper.
“I enjoy it. It’s for the kids” Danco said. “We don’t accept any money; we just make sure you give to a charity.”
WyvaCon members raised about $130 for St. Jude.
Hanshew said WyvaCon will return next year.
“We will hold it once a year at the end of July at the same place. Next year we might need more space” Hanshew said. “We were really happy with the turnout. We couldn’t have done it without our friends helping us out. A lot of our friends worked for free and we couldn’t have done it without them.”
To reach Millie Rothrock call 228-6611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org