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A Beacon of Geek Culture in The Valley of the Sun

Phoenix’s natural rock formations, cultural attractions, and year-round temperatures above 70℉ make it one of the top destinations in the Southwestern United States. The city has something for everyone from witnessing the latest art exhibition at the Phoenix Art Museum to a hot air balloon tour showcasing the wildlife of Tonto National Forest. Regardless of your reason for visiting, the city’s attractions and natural beauty may just convince you to extend your stay.


Phoenix Comicon is the Valley of the Sun’s leading nerd and pop culture themed celebration, attracting more than 100,000 people in 2016. It will take place May 25-28 at the Phoenix Convention Center Hyatt Regency which is located in the heart of Downtown Phoenix. Visitors will encounter costume contests, various workshops, games, fan panels, and even Light Saber Academy classes for all ages. If attendees get hungry they can visit the outdoor food truck festival that will feature a variety of meals and treats. Proceeds from the event go to various local nonprofits including Kids Need to Read, which promotes literacy in the Valley of the Sun. We got the chance to interview Kristin Rowan, Director of Marketing for the event, to learn more about this massive showcase of pop culture.


RAL: How long has the event been running?

KR: Phoenix Comicon started in 2002 at a small hotel in Ahwatukee and has grown every year. It was held at the Mesa Convention Center from 2003-2009 and then moved to its current location at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix in 2010.


RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

KR: In 2016, Phoenix Comicon had 106,096 total unique attendees. We expect a small increase in that number for 2017.


RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?

KR: Yes! We attract people of all ages, incomes, family status, and interests. We also bring in groups that are not related such as cosplay groups, gaming groups, and more. Attendees range from days old to well beyond 65.


RAL: What makes this event unique?

KR: Phoenix Comicon is a large event, but still a community event. We hire local companies to host activities, work with local agencies and nonprofit groups, and support local artists, comic creators, and authors.


RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.

KR: Phoenix Comicon is host to more than 1,000 hours of activities, panels, and programming across four days and 600,000 square feet. Activities encompass a wide variety of genres, interests, and age groups and include:

  • Writing Workshops

  • DIY Hands-On Classes

  • Fan Panels

  • Escape Rooms

  • Cosplayer Tutorials

  • Cosplay Meetup Groups

  • Light Saber Academy Classes

  • Costume Contest

  • Lego-Building Contest

  • TV Game-Show Type Panels

  • So You Think You Can Dance - Marvel Edition

  • Gaming Rooms

  • Poker Tournament

  • Geek Prom


RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?

KR: We have more than 100 television, movie, comic book, artist, and author guests at Phoenix Comicon this year. Most of them offer autograph and photo-op sessions, and many will sign your favorite comic book, art, novel, or other items. Most autographs and photo-ops are fee-based and can be purchased before the event on the website, or onsite at the photo booth table on the 3rd floor. Our television and movie guests will host spotlight panels and Q&A sessions with the fans.


RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?

KR: There is a food court inside the convention center, but there are also many options outside the convention center. Phoenix Comicon hosts an outdoor event with food trucks and kiosks. There are many local restaurants in the downtown area with enough options to please everyone. Most are a short walk from the convention center and remain open late on the weekends.


RAL: What is the environment like?

KR: Phoenix Comicon is a family-friendly event and, as such, we have regulations about the appropriateness of costumes and behavior onsite. We do host some panels that are age restricted for our over 18 attendees. Families are encouraged to play together in our youth programming area. With more than 100,000 people, it can be a hectic atmosphere and we encourage attendees to download our mobile app to see all of the programming options and get updates whenever anything changes.


RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?

KR: Phoenix Comicon partners with five hotels in the downtown area that offer discounts to Phoenix Comicon attendees. Follow the link to our website for more information.


RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?

KR: The estimated economic impact to downtown Phoenix for Phoenix Comicon is close to $10 million. Last year, the local commuter train, the light rail, added a car to its downtown run to accommodate the number of travelers.


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?

KR: Our signature non-profit is the local arm of the national agency Kids Need to Read, supporting literacy for disadvantaged students in the valley. KNTR works with Title I schools to promote reading and literacy beginning in kindergarten, and offers free books and magazines to children in need. The poker tournament and geek prom are both fundraisers for KNTR and proceeds are donated as well. Last year, Phoenix Comicon gave more than $50,000 to KNTR.


Phoenix Comicon supports other local non-profits on a smaller scale. Every non-profit cosplay group that attends Phoenix Comicon does so without a fee for the booth space. Likewise, United Blood Services and Be The Match bone marrow matching program are onsite all four days collecting blood and bone marrow from generous donors. Last year, Phoenix Comicon collected 490 units of blood for UBS. Phoenix Comicon also donates free admission passes to non-profit agencies like The Girl Scouts, The Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Club, Make-a-Wish, Child Help, local home-schooling associations, the Arizona Autism Network, and more.


RAL: Why should people come to your event?

KR: Phoenix Comicon is a place where everyone belongs. Geeks and nerds find a family to call their own. Cosplayers find like-minded people who are part of the same fandoms. Our tagline is "Discover Your Inner Geek". Phoenix Comicon believes we all have an inner geek and we celebrate them all.

For more information about Phoenix Comicon, please visit the event website.