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Characters flock to ShadoCon in Tampa

TAMPA — Ashley Sears walked into the ladies room at the Hyatt Regency on Saturday afternoon carrying a pink hot glue gun.

As it heated up, she used a mirror to adjust the white bunny ears perched atop her head. Then she went to work on her broken shoe.

The extra red strap she attached had come loose. Though a minor detail, it was part of a costume she had spent 18 hours perfecting.

For one day, Sears, 19, of Orlando, had the opportunity to be Riven, one of her favorite characters from the online multiplayer game League of Legends. And she wasn't the only adult playing dress-up this weekend.

Hundreds flocked to the downtown Tampa hotel for the third annual ShadoCon, a video game and comic book convention.

The three-day event, which goes through today, features numerous panels, such as Pokémon Battling 101 and The Great Brony Meetup for male fans of My Little Pony. Dozens of vendors sell everything from toy guns to costume pieces and collectibles. Each night, the event hosts a rave with DJs who spin video game tunes.

But for many, the main focus of the weekend is the fashion.

"I appreciate the work other people put into their costumes," Sears said. "It's just cool that it is art that you can wear."

The costumes, known as cosplay, are usually homemade and, often, over the top. Just ask Zack Santiago, 23, of Tampa, who dressed as the Green Lantern. Clad in head to toe spandex, Santiago even had a green light-up ring.

Currently unemployed, Santiago said becoming the Green Lantern, a comic book hero known for his willpower, even for just a day, is a way to escape.

"It's a chance to step out of your whole life and step into the shoes of a character," Santiago said.

Teri Standiford, 27, of Tampa, brought her 5-year-old son Owen to the event. She dressed as a Ghostbuster and her son resembled a pint-sized Green Arrow. She created his entire costume from scratch.

It's something Standiford has done since she was a little girl and her parents dressed her for Halloween. Now, she has a child to dress up, too.

"When he was born, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to make little characters," she said. "And he likes it, he likes all the attention."

Owen couldn't finish his lunch without being interrupted by someone asking to take his photo or reaching over for a fist bump as his mom looked on.

"It's become a mother-son bonding thing," she said.

Dressing up, though, does have its price: comfort. High heels, cardboard armor and hot masks can make a day of traipsing through convention halls tough. Then there's all the super heroes in spandex.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at or (813)661-2442.