Metrocon has costumed characters swarming downtown Tampa

TAMPA

Snow White ordered an apple fritter (hold the poison). Tinker Bell requested a caramel frappuccino with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pixie dust. The Mad Hatter's order: tea and a scone, of course.

The employee at the cash register didn't blink an eye.

By Saturday afternoon, costumed characters had all but taken over the Tampa Embassy Suites Starbucks. Spilling over from Metrocon, Florida's largest anime convention, at the nearby Tampa Convention Center, dozens of attendees refueled in between shopping and faux sword fights.

Last year, Metrocon drew 8,000 attendees. Even more were expected this weekend, the convention's 11th year, drawn in by big-name voice actors, rave DJs and, most of all, the custom-made costumes.

Madison Nixon, an 18-year-old from Port St. Lucie, spent years and $400 crafting her Harley Quinn costume. Modeled after the Batman comic book character, her outfit included a short skirt, face paint and pleather that was becoming uncomfortable in the Florida sun.

With this being her first time at Metrocon, she was excited to show her look off to those who would appreciate it.

"You work so hard on it and other people are like, 'Oh, it's just Halloween,' " she said. "No, it's hard-core Halloween."

Such spectacles inevitably have their detractors. Chase Parrish, a slender 27-year-old with short blond hair, had come not to attend the midnight rave or pose for photographs as a sexy storm trooper, but to preach.

"You may be into witchcraft," Parrish roared into a megaphone outside the convention center, sweating through his T-shirt in the afternoon heat.

Before him stood a hallucinatory congregation that might have sprung from the mind of John of Patmos: humans wearing horns, tails, low-cut corsets, fishnet blouses, dog's heads, horse's heads and atavistic, tribal masks.

"A lot of you are laughing at me," he said to the conventioneers who pressed upon him in their dark eye makeup and strange hats, like a restive pagan horde. "I appreciate that. But the Bible is a serious game."

During a break in his sermon, Parrish explained that he did not mean to accuse the anime enthusiasts of being witches, only to hold up witchcraft as one of the "religions of the world" that is false compared to Christianity.

Such somber sentiments did not penetrate inside the convention center, where a group of young men and women in spandex and capes stiffly gyrated their hips to the South Korean rap sensation, "Gangnam Style."

Attendees crowded the floors taking photos, posing for others and shopping for everything from original artwork to furry animal ear headbands. Lines stretched along the halls for panels and special events.

There's something for everyone, said Cassi Salomon, 19, of Fort Pierce. Dressed as a cat, complete with collar and leash, she summed up the event in one sentence:

"It's just a bunch of nerds congregating to do nerd stuff."

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

.If you go

Metrocon

The anime and graphic-novel convention continues today at 9 a.m. at the Tampa Convention Center. Tickets are $30. Children 5 and under are free with a paid admission. For more information, go to metroconventions.com.

Metrocon has costumed characters swarming downtown Tampa 07/27/13 [Last modified: Sunday, July 28, 2013 2:39am]

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