Attention all Phoenix Comicon fans, you no longer have to wait a full year to get your geek on! Here comes Phoenix Fan Fest to the rescue! Dec. 4th-6th at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona!
This would be the second year for the Phoenix Comicon off-shoot in what many hope will continue to be another annual event from the Southwests’ Masters of the Nerdy Universe.
I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Director of Operations, Jen Palmer and Joe Boudrie, Director of Programming, as well as Jillian Stark Squires, Fan Fests’ Director of Marketing and, as you might expect, the conversation was as a lot of fun, as well as very illuminating! Let there be no doubt, the Force is strong with these folks and this years’ Fan Fest promises to be another “don’t miss” event!
When did you first become a part of the Phoenix Comicon Crew?
Jen Palmer, Director of Operations: I moved here in 2007, and attended my first Phoenix Comicon in 2008, as a member of the Dune Sea Garrison, the local 501st Legion, (Star Wars costuming group), I worked their space in the hall, doing photo ops for people and, after doing that for 3 years, I transitioned into being a volunteer with Phoenix Comicon. I started out being one of the costume managers in Programming and when the position for Director of Operations came up, I interviewed for the job and here we are.
Jen Palmer with her husband, Lee, also a Director of Operations, (photo courtesy of kidsneedtoread.org)
Joe Boudrie, Director of Programming: I was one of the team members who came on for the 2006 (Phoenix Comicon) convention, which was when it had grown into a multi day event.
Joe Boudrie, (photo courtesy of kidsneedtoread.org)
Director of Marketing, Jillian Stark Squires: I just hit 5 years!
(R to L), Jillian Stark Squires with Press Coordinator Tom Kuipers. (photo by Denise Meridith)
What motivated you all to create Fan Fest?
JP: It seems like every year our attendees have been telling us, ‘you need a Winter show’. There are many attendees who aren’t able to wear the costumes, they spend so much time on, because the weather in May or June is too warm for them. Fan Fest gives them the opportunity to let them wear those more detailed and bulkier costumes.
JB: One, we were getting a lot of feed back about our dates, we also were hearing, ‘hey you guys are downtown now and you’ve done stuff in the east valley, what about the North West?’ Also, Fan Fest is sort of us getting back to our roots. In our early days, back in Mesa, the Comicon had a really relaxed, small con vibe, you could see everything, you could get face time with the guests, and as Phoenix Comicon has grown, and you get 70,000 people, it’s very difficult to maintain that intimate, local con vibe, and we wanted to keep that alive.
JSS: There’s actually three answers to this, people have been asking for years for a second event. Two, they wanted it when it was colder so they could do the cosplays they can’t do in the summer and three, we were starting to hear people say, ‘I miss the old days, when the Comicon was smaller and I could have a more intimate experience’. So we’ve chose this specific venue because we actually wanted limited growth potential, because we don’t want it to be huge, we don’t want this to be a second comicon, but rather a Fan Fest, a small show.
What are your Biggest Challenges with this new event?
JP: Our exhibitors, the entire exhibitor floor actually falls under Operations, we determine what the layout looks like. Our exhibitors who are attending Fan Fest were personally invited by us, developing more of those personal relationships for me is very important, it’s nice to be able to walk up to them and call them by their first name, they recognize me, I recognize them, that is definitely a work in progress because we’ve got over 200 exhibitors.
JB: Well, from my standpoint, my biggest challenge is that we’re in a football stadium and they didn’t build any rooms for us to do panels in. My purview is hosting and creating the content, panels, events and contests. We’ve got three rooms to do all of our guest programming, contests and all our other fan based content that we present. We’ve also got some outdoor areas too and we try to do some original and entertaining things outside in these areas. For an example, this year we’ve got Star Wars coming out so, we’ve got a BB 8, remote controlled obstacle course going on outside, so fans will be able to come and try to pilot their BB 8 droid through this fun little course.
JSS: Getting people to know about it, we pushed last years Fan Fest out in a total of 10 weeks, it was put together fairly quickly and most of the people who were there are our hardcore Comicon fans, but now we’ve got to educate everyone else, the more casual fans.
What are your own, personal earliest geek memories?
JP: I read a lot of Anne Rice, over and over and over again. Not too long ago I found a picture of my brother and I in Star Wars costumes, I was C3po, so apparently I was introduced to Star Wars when I was very young, though I don’t actually recall it, (laughs).
JB: I was probably about six or seven years old, growing up in Toledo, Ohio and they had Super Hero Day at the Toledo Zoo, they had Captain America and Spiderman and the Green Goblin, and I can remember my parents taking me to see them and then, years later, I moved to Columbus- to go to Ohio State– and by that point I had gotten into reading comic books and was buying comic books and I met a guy there who was making costumes, and this was in the 90s, people didn’t costume in the 90s. He was doing 90s era X-Men and my first costume was Arch Angel, he had constructed wings out of Venetian Blinds that he strapped to my back, (laughs), I actually grew out a mullet…which in the 90s you could get away with! I spent many years going around to conventions and doing appearances as part of an X-Men team so, I guess it all really started with that trip to the zoo where I got to meet Spiderman.
JSS: I did not grow up in a geeky home, I grew up in a sports home, all 6 of my siblings played sports, my dad was a big sports guy, so I was home alone, because I didn’t like sports, I was flipping through channels and I found Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and then I found Buffy, and I watched Buffy religiously! Then my mom bought me Star Wars– the movies- I was recovering from surgery and I watched them all back to back, the first trilogy, the ones that matter, (laughs).
What do you collect?
JP: Biker Scouts, anything to do with the Star Wars Biker Scouts and Dragons.
JB: Star Wars and Transformers!
JSS: Costumes, I have three costumes I’m working on right now and I probably have a total of 12 in my closet right now, I make some for myself and I buy some.
What’s your favorite aspect of Fan Fest?
JP: The Masquerade, which has really turned into a phenomenal event and we’re working to make it bigger and even better.
JB: It’s all about the process for me, working on something and then seeing it come to life during the convention really is exciting and fulfilling
JSS: The Costumes!
Alright, last question, finish this sentence: The Greatest Movie Ever Made is…..
JP: Star Wars!
JB: The Empire Strikes Back, if you ask me again in ten minutes I’ll probably have another answer…
JSS: Return of the Jedi! It’s my favorite, I just love how it makes me feel!