I have lived in Paragould, AR for 26 out of my 30 years on this earth. It is a nice, quiet town with just over 20,000 people. It is slowly growing, however, it is still a pretty boring town. We have a great movie theater, a decent bowling alley, and a community center that has a small water park. That’s it. Nothing else for entertainment. So when I found out that Paragould would be hosting a comic expo, I went through a series of emotions – shock, doubt, amazement, and finally excitement. My level of excitement rose to a whole new level when I learned that The Buzz Kill Magazine would be partnering with Jake Alexander and JJ. Everyone worked incredibly hard to make sure that the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo could go from dream to reality. My tiny contribution to this included cosplaying at the local theater on weekends proceeding the con. We would hand out comic books and spread the word of the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo. These were long days but I truly enjoyed them. Any day I get to cosplay is a good day. I also met some awesome fellow cosplayers, including my new friend Tiffany, who has continued to assist us at The Buzz Kill Magazine.
While preparing for the con, I did not know exactly what to expect. I did not know how much attending a con would differ from helping sponsor a con. I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, I would get the opportunity to casually meet some of our big guests. Maybe bump into them in the green room when getting lunch. That was the most I was hoping for. What actually happened still blows my mind.
Friday night before the con, I met Richard and other members of The Buzz Kill Magazine at the local theater for a special viewing of Clerks as a kick off party. When I arrived, I realized that while waiting for the movie to start we were to sit at a table with THE Brian O’Halloran. The Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo had not even began and I was sitting at the same table as an actor that played major roles in so many movies that I had watched in high school. I forced myself to sit quietly. I refused to act like a ridiculous fangirl. Especially when I had 2 days of the con ahead of us. Watching Clerks with Brian O’Halloran was awesome. Between his running commentary during the film and the Q&A following the movie, it was the perfect way to kick off the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo. (Later, during the con, I did actually talk with Brian. He is a super nice guy and incredibly funny!)
On the first day of the con, I arrived early to help put the finishing touches on our booth. This is when I would meet some of my most favorite people ever. Our booth mates (the table closest to us) happened belong to Edd and Kindra Sowder. Kindra is an author of fantasy, horror, and science fiction novels. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I literally consume books of these genres. (During the course of the con, I ended up buying all 7 of Kindra’s completed novels. You all really should check her out!) In addition to this, Kindra and Edd also own their own publishing company, Burning Willow Press. Not only do they publish Kindra’s works but many other authors as well. While this is enough to make me adore them, it does not stop there. They are incredibly intelligent, funny, and loving people. During the con, I truly bonded with this couple – making them promise to come back next year and even exchanging numbers so that we could stay in touch.
The other person that I met that morning was Santiago Cirilo from the Walking Dead (season 4). Except that I did not know it was him at first. All I knew was that the community center was nice and quiet while the vendors were working on their booths and then suddenly some man was yelling “Good morning! Good morning! HI-Yah!”. I am not going to lie, this was very jarring at first. I had been enjoying the near silence. The vendors also did not seem to appreciate his energy. So many people had driven long distances to reach our con and were going on little sleep. They had no desire to have an overly cheery person making so much noise. As the con went on, Santiago’s incredible energy did not die down. However, as the day went by, I actually got the opportunity to get to know him and his volume no longer bothered me at all. The more time that I spent with him, the more that I truly grew to love him. I began to learn about his projects to help support and improve care for veterans. Projects that are very close to his heart since he is also a vet. I discovered that he is working with my new author friend, Kindra Sowder, to help get one of her novels made into a movie sometime in the near future. He was so awesome, I even saw him give the shirt off his back to someone simply because they said that they liked it. So while I was a little unsure in the beginning, Santiago is actually down-to-earth guy really trying to make a difference in the other people’s lives.
The last people who I had the opportunity to meet was BritterBear and Tammy. For those who do not know, BritterBear (Brittany) is an amazing cosplayer, a twitch streamer with a huge following, and plays the harp like an angel. Tammy is also an incredible cosplayer, excellent photographer, and happens to be Brittany’s best friend. They came down from Canada to join us for the con. I had decided to take off work on the Monday after Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo. I knew that the weekend would consist of long hours. I figured that I would spend all day Monday in bed recovering. Instead, I was invited to go to lunch with a couple of members of our magazine and the few remaining con guests. This included the Sowders and the Canadians (Brittany and Tammy). We had a great time at lunch. Spent a long time standing in the parking lot, taking pictures, and saying our good byes. However, the lovely Canadians were staying for an additional day so I decided to hang out with them. I drove Brittany and Tammy around tiny Paragould shopping for American and Arkansas themed souvenirs. We even found a really awesome pop up duck hamper that was a must. All the shopping and warm weather, had us tired by mid- afternoon, so we ventured back to their hotel room. For the rest of the day, we laid around watching cartoons, eating cheesy puffs, taking pictures, talking about politics and 1800’s medicine, and taking quizzes to see what Hogwart’s house we belonged to (Tammy and I are Ravenclaw!). By the end of the day, I was absolutely in love with these girls. I was so glad that I was given the opportunity to get to know them on their last day before they returned home. I cannot wait to see them again. We are already making plans for when they come back.
This con was so much more than I could have ever imagined. I would have never believed that I would have ended up with so many new contacts and friends. The most I had hoped for was to see some of our guests up close – maybe to exchange a few pleasantries if they seemed approachable. I never imagined that I would be hanging out with them at lunch and dinner. Hugging them goodbye. Exchanging numbers. Having conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook. Making plans to vacation with them next year. I had just thought that attending cons were the best things ever. Co-hosting the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo, by far, is the most amazing thing that I have ever been a part of. It has opened up a whole new level of the world to me. I am so grateful to Jake Alexander and JJ for putting on the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo and for allowing The Buzz Kill Magazine to co-host. And, as always, I am so grateful to Richard Pruitt, great and fearless leader of The Buzz Kill Magazine, for allowing me to be a part of the magazine and to help with projects like the Friendly Neighborhood Comic Expo.
PS: Shout out to Norm Jurs and his guys at Mynerditure. If you are reading this and you do not know about them, find Mynerditure on Facebook ASAP. They make custom furniture – Life-size Tardis, Tetris bookcases, giant Jenga games, Transfromer beds, Rubix cubes storage chests, and so much more. Really… they are amazing. Check them out!