Be prepared for lots of traffic on Interstate 4 this weekend as some 100,000 people are expected to descend on MegaCon Orlando to dress in costume as they meet the stars of Full House, Star Trek, The Mummy and Dr. Who.
Fans, who often dress as superheroes, zombies, wookiees or other Star Wars figures, also must wear a face covering this year, organizers said.
MegaCon is one of the biggest shows on the Orange County Convention Center’s annual schedule. It will flood the venue with fans starting Thursday to spend four days indulging in comics, science fiction, horror, anime and gaming genres, despite cancellations at the convention center blamed on COVID-19 infections.
Masks are mandatory, according to MegaCon Orlando's website. It also advises, "If you're not feeling well, stay home."
“We’re actually taking every possible precaution,” said Oriane Gurland, a spokesperson for the event, set for Thursday through Sunday. “It’s going to be a fully masked event. We will have hand-sanitizing at basically every corner of the room, in the middle and everywhere we possibly can.”
But infection concerns abound as the seven-day average for daily infections in Florida swelled Saturday to 19,250, the fifth straight record high.
The convention center lost four scheduled this month, as Florida and the county battle a resurgence of COVID-19 with record numbers of new infections and hospitalizations. The four canceled gatherings were expected to bring more than 17,000 attendees combined.
But Mark Tester, the convention center’s executive director, noted that two canceled groups are medical professionals who may be too busy fighting the pandemic to get away now.
“We understand the business decisions of each organization as the nationwide pandemic continues to change how different industries are individually impacted,” Tester said last week in an email. “We remain committed to the safety of our employees, clients, attendees and exhibitors and continue to adhere to the CDC’s guidelines.”
Both June and July were blockbuster months for the convention center, which hosted 33 events, including the Amateur Athletic Union’s annual junior national volleyball championships, which drew more than 135,000 attendees over 12 days in June. The event is the largest held at any convention center in the U.S., said Nadia Vanderhoof, spokesperson for the International Drive venue.
Some shows and venues are demanding more of attendees.
The annual DEFCON Hacker conference held Aug. 5-8 at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino required masks and proof of vaccination. A meeting of about 4,000 cardiologists at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center last month handed out three types of lanyards to attendees, depending on their comfort level with COVID-19 social distancing precautions, according to the Boston Globe.
MegaCon Orlando is the convention center’s second-largest show behind the AAU volleyball tournament. Fans come to be seen and to meet celebrity stars of the films, TV shows and games they love. This year’s extravaganza features appearances by John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier, stars of 1990′s sitcom Full House; enough of the cast of The Office to shut down Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton operation; Brendan Fraser from The Mummy; and Star Trek icons William Shatner and George Takei.
For more details on the show, visit fanexpohq.com/megaconorlando.
By Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel