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Tampa Bay excited at first Comic Convention since pandemic

Masks, both as part of costumes and as personal protection, filled the halls of the convention.
Roxanne Weir and Harold Weir, of Utah, greet Brooke, 22, and David Broxterman, 62, of Lakeland, while dressed as characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series” at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention at the Tampa Covention Center on Saturday, July 31, 2021. “Thank you commander,” the Weirs’ told her.
Roxanne Weir and Harold Weir, of Utah, greet Brooke, 22, and David Broxterman, 62, of Lakeland, while dressed as characters from “Star Trek: The Original Series” at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention at the Tampa Covention Center on Saturday, July 31, 2021. “Thank you commander,” the Weirs’ told her. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jul. 31
Updated Jul. 31

Patrick from Spongebob, Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars and Kyle from South Park are all in the same room.

Welcome to the 2021 Tampa Bay Comic Convention.

Making a return after last year’s celebration was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event started Friday and ends Sunday at the Tampa Convention Center. The comic-con, as it’s widely known, is always a joyful release for its most devoted geeks and nerds (self-professed). But that’s even more true this year, even as the coronavirus’ infectious delta variant is shadowing their summer of reunion, spiking cases across Florida among the still-large population of unvaccinated young people.

“More than anything it’s just nice to be back,” said Tammy Kingan of St. Petersburg. “This is such a cool event and I’m such a huge nerd.”

Tammy Kingan, 36, of St. Pete, gets an autograph from the creator of her cosplay character Admiral Thrawn from Timmothy Zahn’s Star Wars books Thrawn Trilogy at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention.
Tammy Kingan, 36, of St. Pete, gets an autograph from the creator of her cosplay character Admiral Thrawn from Timmothy Zahn’s Star Wars books Thrawn Trilogy at the Tampa Bay Comic Convention. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Kingan said she tries to go to a comic convention every year and had been missing her “nerd-dom” and all the fun costumes, people and creativity that come with it. She dressed as Admiral Thrawn from Star Wars, covered head to toe in blue paint.

Related: Tampa Bay Comic Convention returns to Tampa

There was no shortage of creative costumes at the registration for the Cosplay Contest. Masks were recommended, but not required, and there was a mix of attendees with and without face coverings.

Some incorporated masks directly into their costumes.

Natalie Rychel was dressed as Bane, who wears a mask with metal clasps, from the Dark Knight Trilogy. She went to the convention half-vaxxed, and though excited, felt it was important to be “super cautious” while there.

Many did not wear a mask, with some feeling that it was not necessary because of how many of the attendees at the Comic Convention they believed already had the vaccine. People posted in numerous Facebook groups beforehand to share that they were vaccinated, said Kat Andersen, 38, of Pinellas Park. She came with her daughter Aryona, 12, both dressed up as a version of Marvel’s Loki. Andersen said they still would have attended if masks were required, even though they did not wear them Saturday.

“We would have came to see our friends and cosplay family and everything,” Andersen said. “We come here more for the socialization than anything.”

Julian Tristani had a mask on with his costume and was surprised at how many people did not don face coverings. He was waiting in line with two others, and all three agreed that the vaccine makes them feel much safer attending events.

The line for the Cosplay Contest started early, stretching four ballrooms back. Connor Champlin, 17, and Chloe Sciuto, 19, or probably better known respectively as Joker from Persona 5 and Kyle from South Park, came excited for the contest. Both are frequent attendees of comic conventions and said being at this year’s was extra sweet after the last one here was canceled.

Kimberly Smith, of Tampa, always brings a speaker to conventions. She danced and blasted music, and threw up the “rock on” hand signal to a group of people who also enjoyed Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Smith tries to get people to join in on an impromptu dance party. On Saturday, she succeeded.

Doors opened at 9 a.m. Saturday and The Showroom, the place with all the gadgets and gizmos Comic Conventions have become known for, had a line piled out the door. A worker started a slow clap a few minutes before opening, and eager Comic Convention fans shuffled in. Blake Schwochert, 26, was one of the many, making his way dressed up as Tidus from Final Fantasy X.

Schwochert said he enjoys everything about the costumes, from dressing up himself to taking photos with some of his favorite costumes throughout the day.

The Showroom was chock-full of comic books, graphic tees, drawings and ... bows and arrows.

Dielast Archery is a company owned by Fred Castagner that specializes in beginner bows. They can be deployed however the purchaser desires, but a popular use is for live action role play. Don’t worry though, Dielast makes special foam-tipped and rubber-tipped arrows for safety.

Die Last Archery co-owners Fred Castagner, John Small, back, and Marisa Shaw, front, pose for a portrait at their booth during their first Tampa Bay Comic Convention.
Die Last Archery co-owners Fred Castagner, John Small, back, and Marisa Shaw, front, pose for a portrait at their booth during their first Tampa Bay Comic Convention. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]