Philadelphia, PA – Donning their finest supersuits, mystical mage cloaks, and meticulously styled, gravity-defying wigs, pop culture enthusiasts from across the region came together to celebrate “all things fandom” at the Philly FanExpo on Star Wars Day, Saturday, May 4th.

The doom and gloom of Philadelphia’s overcast skies did nothing to dampen the vibrant spirit of fans thrilled by an assortment of guest appearances from the stars of “The Office,” the “Star Wars” universe, and beloved voice actors from popular animated series.

The excitement extended beyond these headliners into an assortment of panels and breakout sessions held throughout the conference rooms of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

One such program was a special “Philly’s Got Talent” showcase which featured a line-up of stand-up comedy (from Spiderman himself), singing in both English and approximate Japanese, and a number of musicians, more than half of which were accordionists. Atypical, but upon further reflection, felt appropriate given the event’s unique charm.

Regrettably, no one thought to orchestrate an epic accordion showdown.

Among the performance highlights was an Otamatone rendition (turned sing-a-long) of the Pokemon theme song that quite simply brought the house down. To bring an Otamatone to a place like this, this performer clearly had the audience’s number dialed in.

A suggestion for next year – a non-traditional instrument showcase. I’ll bring my theremin.

The audience was fast to offer support and encouragement to the performers. Only the emcee drew the crowd’s ire, whose knowledge of Japanese anime, in their minds, was significantly lacking. This, he learned, was a major faux-paux at the FanExpo.

The event had an expansive vendor’s section that stretched nearly the entire length of the building, consisting of an eclectic assortment of goods and artisan creations.

There were stalls laden with leather-bound journals, drinking horns, and spell crystals. Nearby, other vendors displayed candles scented to evoke the essence of various franchises and their characters.

Further along, stalls adorned with posters, depicting images of samurai warriors and medieval dragons. Art enthusiasts had much to admire indeed, including hand-drawn renderings of characters from a variety of franchises. These works, like meticulous 100-hour pencil drawings, demonstrated the incredible dedication of their creators.

Just a stone’s throw from a menacing arsenal of swords, knives, and enigmatic weapons, sat a vendor peddling danger of a different sort: artisanal chocolate. This sweet temptation was a real crowd-puller, proving that the pen—or in this case, the praline—is mightier than the sword.

Adding another unexpected twist to the array, the US Army had set up an entire section dedicated to recruiting for their E-Sports team – a creative method to attract more computer-savvy recruits.

Walking around the expansive vendor’s section was the best way to view the eclectic array of costumes adorning the expo-goers.

Some personal favorites included Bella Goth from The Sims franchise, and a costume that might have been mistaken by the untrained eye for a founding father, but was actually Preminger – yes, that Preminger (if you know, you know).

Also among the highlights of the day was a fun Easter egg for “Zelda” fans. An accordionist costumed as Kass from Breath of the Wild stationed himself at different locations throughout the expo serenading guests with Kass’s iconic theme song, true to the bird’s random appearances throughout the Breath of the Wild game map.

You can find Jasper, perhaps even more renowned a juggler than accordionist, at @jasperjuggles.

Nearly all expo-goers were dressed up – but not all of them came to play.

Arguably the FanExpo’s crown jewel, the Cosplay Craftsmanship Championship saw contenders from across the region competing on the event’s main stage for the coveted championship cup.

The competition was organized into three divisions: novice, journeyman, and master, based on the participants’ experience in costume creation and cosplay competition. 

The grand prize featured a $500 cash award, a VIP pass for the following year’s event, and the Cosplay Craftsmanship Championship Cup. Judging criteria included elements such as craftsmanship, use of fabrics, fit, innovative material use, design, character accuracy, and stage presence.

Participants showcased a wide array of costumes representing superheroes, RPG, video game, animated, and comic book characters. They employed various techniques such as 3-D printing, paper mache, crocheting, wig styling, craft foam, woodburning, and electrical work to create their costumes and accessories from head to toe.

Many costumes represented years of effort, distinguished by meticulous details. These included prescription lens-equipped masks and helmets, mesh fabric that simulated a magical blue glow under stage lights, and pipes designed to emit steam on command.

Ultimately, it was Cobalt Cosplay as Foul Legacy Childe from Genshin Impact who clutched the overall championship cup.

Cobalt Cosplay as Foul Legacy Childe from Genshin Impact wins the overall prize.

To sum up this afternoon spent at the FanExpo, the event more than lives up to its name.

If you are a fan of anything – Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics, Game of Thrones, Naruto, bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica, or are generally a fan of people-watching or things that taste and smell good, the FanExpo is for you.

Olivia DeMarco is an Editorial Associate for Broad + Liberty. She previously served as a legislative aide in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from Temple University.

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