Pop Culture Expo: A Personal Experience
When I think of conventions I would like to attend, I always pick Comic-con, or Otakon, or even my steadfast Anime Boston. The thought of getting lost inside a crowd, seeing multiples of the same cosplay, or wandering the hallways of artists and dealers, makes me feel like a kid in a candy store. Yet there was one, small, convention I barely knew about, and almost didn't go to, that surprised me in a way none of the other conventions could.
My GPS malfunctioned while I travelled down a quaint little two-way road. My destination, the Pop Culture Expo. Located in Wilmington, Massachusetts at the Shriner's Auditorium, I began to question why I even bothered to attend that Sundays' events.
It was small. There were no hotels attached, and my parking spot was unpaved. I could already tell that this would be nothing like what I have been to before. My car idled as I weighed my options; go in and see what happens, or just turn around.
Cheshire Cats and Hand Stamps
There were no badges to hang around your neck, no line at the admissions. As I received a stamp on my hand, I saw no indication of a crowd. What could this expo entail?
I imagined I would be waiting by myself to be let in; I was wrong. A small mob greeted me as I weaved my way inside. People started to trickle in behind me, finding their own place in the crowd. Beside me, a Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit, posing for photos. I couldn't help but introduce myself.
"We were here yesterday with our friend, but she couldn't make it today," the White Rabbit explained. The two ecstatically recanted their Saturday, telling me about cosplay competitions, panels, and general fun to be had. I suddenly became excited as I looked around to see if we could be let in.
"Make sure you show your hand stamp on your way in!" A volunteer announced, opening up the entryway. Finally; the crowd moved forward in one big swoop. We were inside.
As I walked the entrance hallway, my first impression started to falter as I looked upon a huge display of cages and barrels. I felt as though I was looking right at the deck of a mass pirate ship. Captain Jack Sparrow, Westley of The Princess Bride, and a mermaid, made it clear. This was pirate territory.
Yet I passed by, wanting to make my way through the convention halls.
Behind the Expo
Tables upon tables were jammed next to each other featuring everything from Star Wars and Star Trek, to 8-Traks, vintage figures, and comic books. Although the convention’s name should have been a dead give-away, I had never experienced all of my fandoms in one place, at one time. How did this all come to be? Who created this?
The Pop Culture Expo was created by none other than “The King of Pop Culture” himself, Gary Sohmers. The technologically inclined pop guru’s experience includes thirteen seasons as the appraiser of pop culture on “Antiques Roadshow.” Sohmers founded the company Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment, widely known as IMAGE alongside co-founder Deric Shea. Together, Sohmers and Shea took their knowledge and created a melting pot of pop culture, all confined into two days.
Anything from anime and manga, to science fiction and fantasy, you could find it here at the Expo. Nothing was left out.
- Official Site: About
See the official statement and learn more about Gary Sohmers, Deric Shea, IMAGE, and the King of Pop Culture.
Mighty Moose: Small Dog, Big World
I could barely take everything in; the Pop Culture Expo, in its smallness, overwhelmed me. After a lap around the auditorium, I decided to do what anyone might do, and went straight to Mighty Moose, one of the world’s smallest dogs.
The three-year-old Chihuahua was barely 28 ounces, or 1.75 pounds. Her neck was fitted with a ferret collar, the only one small enough for her size. Saved by the owners of Thrifty’s Second Hand Stuff, located in New Hampshire, Mighty Moose took in the attention like a pro. Her coat, a uniquely brindled black and grey, was just one of her many recessive genes. The runt out of the litter, she sported one blue eye, one green eye, and a massive overbite. However, she was keenly astute to her owners, immediately understood commands, and stayed calm and collected as everyone held her.
Although Mighty Moose may not have been a dealer or an artist, she was still welcomed at the Expo. In her own little way, she became a tiny celebrity in her own right that weekend, creating her own fandom.
What is Your Favorite Pop Culture Vehicle?
Vehicles of Sci-Fi. Or Nascar.
As I walked towards the back of the convention hall, I heard 8-Bit music playing, remixed on the spot by a DJ who performed right inside the hall while everybody milled about. A Tardis, straight from the Doctor Who series, stood tall as fans took photographs. Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 #3 NASCAR, parked silently next to The Doctor’s main mode of transportation, was just another part of a fandom included inside the Expo’s walls. The race car even shared company with the likes of Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters, and KITT from Knight Rider.
In this eclectic car show, there was finally a chance to pose next to iconic vehicles from the past, and even present. Fans could fully envelop themselves into the movies, shows, or races they have always liked. It was a chance to feel like a hero.
I wound my way through the growing crowds and noticed a stage set up, facing the wall. Three little objects, motionless, sat on the flat surface. They were no ordinary objects, however. They were NAO robots.
Created by Aldebaran Robotics, NAO robots stand only 58-cm tall with rounded, sleek features, and glowing eyes, ears, and foreheads. Their ears are made up of speakers, allowing them to interact via speech. Built to help bridge the gap between humans and objects, NAO robots are meant to be companions at home and at school. If a child needs help to learn mathematics, NAO is able to teach them. If someone were enthusiastic about robotics, NAO is the perfect vessel to help educate and train with. These little robots can even dance – and they did.
To demonstrate their ability to synchronize, listen, and move, Aldebaran Robotics had their NAO robots do a small, yet very impressive, dance together on the stage. That alone made me want one. Yet their abilities far exceed just dancing; they bring a new form of education into the world. In a way, NAO is dropping the fiction from science.
After viewing what Aldebaran Robotics had to offer, I decided I would make my way out. I had truly seen it all; at least, that is what I thought. However, before I exited the convention, there was one last stop I had meant to make. And it included pirates.
Pirates: A Brethren
The New England Brethren of Pirates greeted everyone as they passed through the hallways and I was too intrigued to pass up the opportunity to chat.
Derek and Sarah were both in full costume; multiple layers of intricately put together, even somewhat functional, pirate attire. Derek sported his gun-slinging skills as Sarah mused about how the Brethren create their own costumes, and build most of their props from scratch. I was impressed; rarely have I seen such efficient outfits in costuming. Having only been established for a little over two years, the New Hampshire group specializes in re-enactments, charity work, and general tomfoolery. Now growing in numbers, the Brethren are currently booked to attend multiple conventions this year, spreading their wings across New England and more.
“Have you attended this expo before? As a group?” I inquired, thinking they may say it was their first year here. Instead, I got a surprise, and an answer, to all my questions.
“[The Expo] is in its first year,” the two pirates stated almost simultaneously.
I was shocked; rather, I was slightly taken aback – at myself. The realization that this was a fledgling convention changed my entire perspective. I suddenly realized that this may have been the reason I had had no idea that the convention was taking place, that it wasn’t listed on convention websites, or that I knew no one that had attended. Then surprise took over.
Pop Culture; A Family
For such a small convention, Pop Culture Expo packed a punch. Not only were their cosplayers and con goers, there were artists, musicians, guests from new and old TV shows and movies, set props, panels, competitions, video games, and robots. There were dealers, back to back, and dogs. Families dressed as Jedi. Photo opportunities, autographs, meet and greets; anything a large scale convention could ask for. And on top of all that, it was the first weekend this convention ever existed.
Although I know there are other conventions out there that jam-pack multiple fandoms into one weekend, Pop Culture Expo felt different. I finally realized that I hadn't been going to just an expo, and that I hadn't just attended another convention. I had joined what seemed like a tight-knit family. And to me, that was the best part of all.