By Rachneet Randhawa, October 5 2021—
Superheroes, anime, video games and comic book fans rejoice as the fan-favourite pop culture Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo reunited once again for a three-day event at the BMO Centre. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview with the Show Manager for Fan Expo HQ shows in Western Canada including Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, Fiona Standing, to learn more.
For starters, as they say, the show must go on for one of the most coveted public events in Calgary. Despite the challenges of organizing the event regardless of COVID restrictions, they forged forward and adapted to prevailing circumstances.
“Again, reaching back out to our advisors that Alberta Health Services were able to help us navigate,” says Standing. “And as well as talking to other events within the community and making sure that we were doing everything we needed to make this [as] safe as possible for our community and making sure that we had those contingencies in place in case anything were to change.”
Next year Calgary Expo will celebrate its 15th anniversary. Standing mentions how the event’s massive popularity is all thanks to the community of followers.
“It’s so tight-knit — they’re so passionate, and over the years it’s just been able to kind of expand its role in its own network, it’s really amazing to see everybody come together. I actually had someone come up to me yesterday and say the part that they missed most was an opportunity to get together with like-minded people and [share] their interests — that was the part that they miss most about the community was that camaraderie and friendship.”
The original idea for the Expo was inspired by the love of comic books and smaller communities that came together which later expanded to include celebrity guests and incorporated new-age pop culture, like anime.
“It was inspired by a love of comics and pop culture and being able to mold something new and different as it related to the community itself,” said Standing. And eventually, a strong volunteer community emerged.
“The volunteer community is like the heart of what we do on a day to day basis. It really started to grow and shift from there,” she said. “And I think it was 2016 when they really started to see the peak of the impact that they had on the community.”
For first-timers, they may be overwhelmed by the amount of activity at a convention such as Calgary Expo, especially when it comes to shopping, which is endless. Standing suggests that it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
“[There are] so many different kinds of community touch-points in regards to your fandom, and so I think it’s important to plan ahead because there are so many pieces.”
Best of all, many of the participants in the Expo — from the vendors to costume creators to workshop hosts and panels — are fan-generated and are locally based from the Calgary community with up to 76 per cent of shop vendors and retailers from Alberta.
“[These are] people in our community that are developing things from scratch — the amazing minds and creativity that we have in our community,” says Standing.
Standing also mentions that this is so crucial to showcase not only their craft and personal creativity but also do business and continue to thrive.
As for what youth and students can do to get more involved in the arts and culture scene here in Calgary, Standing mentioned the volunteer program.
“It is such a great way to one, experience the show and two, be a part of a community that is so incredibly skilled and passionate and just loves everything that we do. They know this show inside out and without that community, we could not operate. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have them -— they are the heart and soul of it, She says.”
Standing says that volunteering is a great way for students to experience the show for the first time and try something new like sitting in on one of the panels, and it’s a great way to get yourself immersed in the pop culture community and meet like-minded individuals.
The Calgary Expo: Limited Edition ran from September 10–12 and will return next year in April 2022. Be sure to check out the next one — who knows, you may find a newfound appreciation for dressing up in cosplay and make a new friend or two.