WasabiCon started in 2012 and is now the longest running pop culture convention in Jacksonville, FL. It’s a two-day weekend event usually held near the end of October. The name may lead you to believe it’s all about anime, but it covers all the fandoms and you’ll find a little bit of everything related to geek/nerd pop culture represented through cosplayers, special guests, panels and vendors.
Every convention is different, but there are always similar elements, which is what I’ll be covering at my panel. I learned early on that you can’t attend DragonCon and then expect the same experience at MegaCon. Conventions all have their own personalities and aspects that will appeal to some and not to others. Always keep an open mind when attending conventions for the first time.
By the way, I also wrote a children’s book about attending comic cons so kids know what to expect! Check it out on Amazon.
Here’s what you’ll see at WasabiCon:
Attendees: Wasabi is a family-friendly comic con and welcomes all ages, though the crowd does skew toward the younger anime set. In recent years they’ve been adding more “adult” options like drink specials at the bar and evening burlesque shows. You’ll see plenty of families, groups of teens and a wide variety of ages overall.
Famous People: At some cons you’ll see a mix of movie and TV stars, but voice actors are the stars of this convention – actors who voice characters in popular anime.
Cosplayers: People dressed in costumes representing all different fandoms and pop culture. Since Wasabi is always close to Halloween, a lot of people wear their Halloween costumes. All costumes are welcome!
Costume Contest: There is a always a costume contest, but the categories and format change a little every year. Wasabi doesn’t usually offer a big cash prize, so it doesn’t draw the larger cosplay competitors. This makes it a great starter contest if you are looking to enter something just for fun or entering for the first time. There is always a good turnout for the contest so make sure you find the sign-up table and get registered ahead of time.
Vendors: The vendor room is a little of everything – t-shirts, japanese candy, Funko Pops, Comics, DVDs, jewelry, unique accessories, collector’s items… There’s something different every year. This year one of the new vendors is STL Ocarina, which I did an article about last year, and wore one of their ocarinas with my Legend of Zelda Link cosplay.
Panels and Workshops: This is where you can learn something new, watch a movie or show, chat about your favorite things, gather with like-minded friends, or listen to guests speak about whatever their specialty might be. Check the schedule to find times and descriptions and try to attend at least one to see what it’s all about. I went to conventions for several years before I ever attended one panel! I had no idea they existed. And if this is your first con, I recommend stopping by my panel about What to Expect at a ComicCon at noon on Saturday in Programming Room A.
Artists: Artist Alley is where you can find artists and creators of original content from original artwork and prints to handcrafted goods. You can even commission some artists to make something unique just for you.
Gaming: Wasabi has both video and tabletop gaming areas, so you can indulge in a little old school Dungeons and Dragons or play the latest video games with friends.
Events & Shows: The events change every year and this year they’ve got the Idol Showcase, Maid Cafe and a performance by Noise Complaint.
Food & Drink: WasabiCon is currently held at the Lexington Hotel and Conference Center, so there’s the option of ordering from the hotel restaurant and there’s usually a small set-up offering simple fare like burgers and fries. Also on Saturday the Joyschtick Food Truck will be in the parking lot serving up gourmet burgers, chicken and wraps. The hotel bar is open if you’d like to indulge in adult beverages.