It’s a three cons down, so many to go deal!
Hi again - it’s Meghan, back with another Convention Review! This time, I attended Calgary Expo, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada from April 27-30; 4 days of merch, art, celebrities, and most important - cosplay! I (@maplesugarcosplay) was in attendance with two other members of Daily Cosplay Net - Arthur (@brightest_day_cosplay) and Keara (@Pynkpyro).
Arthur, Keara, and I would like to bring you a review from our perspectives; who we were cosplaying, what we were excited to see, our experiences and final thoughts at the end.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that Calgary is situated on the ancestral territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta. It is on these unceded and stolen lands that we meet, gather, and (cos)play.
Day 1: Thursday Evening
I arrived in Calgary in the early afternoon. I made my way to the Stampede Park via Uber. The Con opened at 2 pm for VIP, and 4 pm for all other pass holders. I was very lucky that a friend was working in a booth, and had a spare exhibitor pass for me so I was able to come inside and hang out before the Con opened.
The Con was spread out between two buildings. Ticket pick up was in a smaller building called the ‘Big Four’. They had quite a number of booths set up to give folks their badges, though the first day it was bustling with folks picking up their VIP passes and their 4 day passes. The badges themselves had to be activated, and con-goers had to scan in when entering a building, and scan out if they left the building.
The upper level of the Big Four is where Artists Alley was, alongside the tattoo area.
The outside of Big Four was lined with all different food trucks - at least 20 or so by my count!
The main con was held in the BMO Centre, a short walk from the Big Four. This was comprised of two adjoining buildings - one of the buildings was taken up with the Main stage, a few vendors, the Kids area, Cosplay Red Carpet, and a large 501st Garrison booth; the other room was merchants with a wide variety of items to get and the celebrity photo op/autograph area. Most of the internal food options were in the larger merchant hall - the con itself serving items like hot dogs, fries and chicken strips; independent food vendors had nerdy cookies, cotton candy, Ukrainian fare, lemonade, coffee and Albertan beef jerky.
|The calm before the storm|
I took my time to walk the hall early on; I tried on some corsets at my fav booths, investigated some cool laser-cut art, and the first round of cosplays. It was very quiet this evening; I heard from the locals a lot of VIPs use this time to look at everything, and do their major purchasing on the Friday/Saturday, which are busier days.
|Vanilla Cosplay as Mollymauk Tealeaf |
from Critical Role
My cousin is part of the local 501st - the Badlands Garrison. Her husband was just accepted into the 501st as Darth Vader, and Friday evening was his first ‘shift’ in his suit. I got a lovely introduction to the Badlands Garrison, who were extremely welcoming to me while I was there. I stayed with my cousin while her husband ‘Vadered’ for an hour, then we packed up and headed home for the evening.
|Darth Vader wants you to join the Dark Side|
Day 2: Friday
Friday was my first day in cosplay - I went as my Grey Warden from the Dragon Age video game series.
|Meghan as Warden Commander Tabris |
from Dragon Age
I used my Exhibitors pass to get in again, though this time I went to the Big 4 to pick up Saturday passes for my nieces and nephews. I did go a little later in the day, so I was able to walk in, grab the passes, and head upstairs to check out the art in Artist’s Alley.
I was really pleased with the variety of art I saw - some local folks who I’d never seen, and also some folks who I’ve seen in Vancouver before. There was a lot of art of the current popular characters - Genshin Impact, Demon Hunter, Arcane, Spy X Family, Critical Role/Vox Machina - to name a few. There was also a good mix of traditional superhero and Star Wars in there, plus some completely independent stuff that wasn’t fandom related at all. I usually try to pick up a piece of art from every show I go to, but I had zero space in my pack to bring something home!
I swung by the 501st booth again and got a picture with a friend, who was in her Mando armour.
|Myself and SweetSurreyGirl with the 501|
I attended two panels today: one on how to become a mermaid, as I joined the mermaid community in 2010 and wanted to make connections with some Alberta mermaids, and another about getting started in competitive cosplay, which was hosted by cosplay guest Austyn Larkham. Both panels were held in small, independent rooms just off of the main con room in the BMO Centre. The Competitive Cosplay panel was especially well run; Austyn was professional and so funny. It made me feel really inspired to try and document a larger cosplay build and maybe try my hand at competition!!
I met quite a number of the cosplay guests - one of them, Lucky Grim, was also dressed as a Grey Warden!
|Warden Commanders Cousland and Tabris|
|Warden Commander Tabris with |
a more different Cousland
The quality of cosplay at the Expo was phenomenal. I was so impressed not only with more mainstream cosplays, but the whimsical ones as well. I saw a Star Trek Commander in a cowboy hat, a couple Weird Als, and my fav of this day, a Nardwaur The Human Serviette.
I was able to walk the cosplay red carpet on this day, and I also got to meet Sirnotsir Cosplay, who I had met via TikTok - which was so awesome! It’s pretty wonderful meeting fellow cosplayers that you’ve known for a while in the flesh.
|Myself and Sirnotsir cosplay as Thanatos from Hades|
Near the end of the day, I ran into fellow Daily Cosplay Net writer Arthur! Once again, it’s so nice to meet people you interact with online in real life!
|Tristan and Cyclops!|
It was my first day at the Expo and the first time in a long time at a comic con without a cosplay. I landed in Calgary around 3:30 and checked into my AirBnB to get some rest and charge my phone before heading out to the Stampede Park at 6 PM. My original plan was to just go on Saturday and Sunday. However, since I had never been to this Expo before, I had to familiarize myself with the venue’s layout in order to be prepared for the next 2 days in cosplay so that no time was wasted in looking for celebrity autograph tables, photo op booths, main stage and red carpet. My decision to go on Friday even though I was exhausted from the lack of sleep from previous night’s birthday celebration (yep, I am 30 now and still feel like I'm 21) and traveling, was the right move as it also helped me get my free weekend pass from my Vancouver FAN EXPO’s VIP badge.
|Sailor Banana Cosplayer|
It was a warm evening and there were only a couple of hours left for the Expo that day. I was on the clock so I got cracking once I received my weekend general pass and filmed sufficient videos of the artist alley area whilst connecting with new cosplayers to promote them on our instagram page. It was at this moment when I met @missnicastone and @sailorbananacosplay at their table selling their prints, stickers and other merch. After a brief chat with them I noticed right opposite to their table was artist @sheldonbueckertart’s booth, who I had purchased a beautiful Batman artwork from at FAN EXPO Vancouver earlier this year. It was a delight to also see some tattoo artists in the same building with some incredible works on their tables while also tattooing some of the patrons.
|Sheldon Bueckert booth|
I embarked to the BMO Center building where the main stage, celebrity autograph tables and photo op booths were located. It was a massive space with multiple halls housing a variety of merchants. As I found the photo op booth and autograph tables for the celebs, I decided to spend the remaining hour interacting with more cosplayers and was fortunate to finally run into @higher_function who is from northern British Columbia and had followed me on Insta earlier this year. He sported an immaculate Sam Wilson Captain America costume. Right after that I ran into @lydiasteelecosplay_ who was dressed up as the wrestler, Orange Cassidy from the major promotion All Elite Wrestling. She helped me find @kidremington who owns @cancosplaycards who I had the pleasure to meet earlier this year at FAN EXPO Vancouver. Our love for pro wrestling made us good friends on Instagram since then and I was very excited to join him and his other friends at the Hitman Bar, a new establishment right next to Stampede Park in the Cowboys Casino building, built in tribute to the Canadian wrestling legend, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. As a long time wrestling and Bret Hart fan, this was a real gift for me.
Day 3: Saturday
Saturday was an early day for us, as my cousin-in-law had the first Vader shift of the day. So after an early wake up and breakfast, I put on my Tristan Thorn cosplay, from the movie Stardust, and the whole family (3 adults and 3 kids) piled into the car and we made our way to the Con.
I was told by multiple people that Saturday would be the most busy day and they were right! Even early on, the Expo filled up. There was a huge line outside the Big Four for ticket pick up - I was very glad I picked up our passes the day before!
I picked Tristan Thorn as my cosplay as I was intending on meeting Charlie Cox. Sadly, a couple days before the Con, Charlie had to cancel - maybe because of a scheduling conflict with filming Daredevil: Born Again? I loved Charlie in Stardust - his breakout role - so even without him being in attendance, I decided to wear the cosplay that I had worked hard on! I ended up being recognized by a few other attendees, which made my day.
|Meghan as Tristan Thorn|
The Con did attract some awesome celebs: Andy Serkis, Bonnie Wright, James MacAvoy, Vincent D’Onofrio, Emily Swallow, and Jonathan Frakes, to name a few. Plus lots of VA’s, like Peter Cullen (Transformers), Sarah Natochenny (Pokemon), Melendy Britt (She-Ra, Princess of Power), to name a few.
By the afternoon, the family and I toured the Con, and it was very crowded. Lineups were very long at every food station and outside at the food trucks. Moving through the con was hard at this point! However, I did have a wonderful moment - another cosplayer was having difficulty with her costume, and myself and a friend were able to safety pin her back into her costume - which she went on to display at the Cosplay Competition! She didn’t win, but it was wholesome participating in the spirit of ‘cosplayers helping cosplayers’.
|SewrentiyCosplay as Princess Serenity|
The day ended with Andy Serkis wanting to meet the 501st Garrison. After his panel, Andy came back to where the Garrison’s change tent was, and met many of the members in their costumes. The Garrison then paraded to the booth for a photo - the whole Garrison crowding in. It was quite the spectacle, with many fans recording the procession and photo taking session. It was so cool to see a celebrity interested in their fandom, and being so gracious as to interact with them!
|Can you spot Andy?|
After Andy’s visit, and 6 hours on my feet without sitting, myself and my family headed home just after 3 pm. On my way out though, I met another cosplayer whom I’ve followed for forever - BlaqueWidowe in her Ahsoka Tano cosplay - I love that cosplay brings us together!
|Meghan and BlaqueWidowe|
Tristan Thorn and Ahsoka Tano
Arriving around 10.30am I met with Arthur to stand in line to get our split second photo taken with James McAvoy.
Arthur and I got talking to many cosplayers all around us and where Meghan our other writer for dailycosplaynet found us in line and where we were able to catch up and share our experiences so far far.
Waiting for James McAvoy as Jean Grey I thought I would be more nervous but there was a time when I caught a glimpse of him and noticed his build was strong but he stood close to my height.
We walked swiftly into the photo booth Arthur on the left and I was on the right. I felt a slight squeeze and I held my breath as the photo was taken. I breathed out a thank you and with his strong accent he replied "My pleasure."
We walked out of the booth and proceeded in a well designed line to receive our photos.
Arthur and I walked to a booth nearby to quickly get protective screens to protect our new treasure. Once our treasure was secure Arthur and I had chatted up a few cosplayers to have a small photo shoot with.
I quickly ran to the car to do a costume change to meet with my friend Erich who is a great photographer. We met near the train tracks and enjoyed meeting these wonderful people and creating new memories!
Photographer 📸 (erich3d)
Scarlet witch (rescuekitteh)
Resurrection of Jean Grey (Pynkpyro)
X 23 (uvebeenaddled)
Soon it was 1pm, The James McAvoy panel was happening at the main hall. Arthur and I made our way as close as we could to the front but also so we could video Arthur asking James McAvoy a question. During this time we went Live for his panel so others could see Arthur talk to James.
After the panel we headed straight to the James McAvoy Meet and Greet. The line was always 5 rows deep but we waited patiently until it was our turn to move forward and to stay as close to the table as possible and this is where Danny Trejo accidentally bumped me trying to get back into his booth and bumped my rear and turned to me flushed and apologized.. stopped his line to genuinely say sorry and that he would get in trouble with his girlfriend if he continued talking to me. And gave me a hug and handshake and then I moved quickly forward to meet James McAvoy with Arthur.
Meeting James McAvoy was very humbling because he really is just like everyone else. His reaction to Arthur's comment to the earlier Q&A from his panel was humbling and James reached over to give Arthur a hug!. Overall all my experience with James McAvoy was very a humbled kind man. But if he is with his children.. just leave him alone respectfully.
After this I did decide to get back to the air bnb I was staying at and become a civilian but with vaporeon ears. And a few hours later I returned to the convention to take photos of some amazing cosplayers and makes some new connections with some new friends!
My friend dani (Saltinecosplay) was dressed as Ash Ketchum and my group of ladies with (missjessbennet) Jolteon, (uvebeenaddled) umbreon, (pynkpyro) vaporeon and (axxiecos) eevee ear we all walked by the voice of Ash Ketchum herself Sarah Natochenny stopped us herself to take photos and a live video! We stopped for at least half-hour to legit hang out with an amazing funny woman!
I had been waiting for this day for around 2 months. It was finally here, the day I am going to meet James McAvoy, whose performance in X-Men: Days of Future Past helped me through some of the hardest times in my life from 2014. Since I spent the first half of my day with Keara, I won’t repeat what she just wrote. I will however, say thank you to her for agreeing to split the James McAvoy meet & greet with me and also being my con buddy.
After parting ways with Keara, I was able to finally meet up with a close friend of mine from Regina, @spidermark82. I had met Mark at the Vancouver FAN EXPO in 2020 when he was cosplaying Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman while I suited up as Andrew Garfield’s Amazing Spider-Man. Ever since then, we developed a bond on Instagram and kept in touch until we met again earlier this year at FAN EXPO Vancouver for the first time in 3 years. He was my con buddy for the 2nd half of that day going forward.
I cosplayed Cyclops last year only a couple of times but Keara was the only other X-Men cosplayer in Vancouver who had collaborated with me. It was a real treat to run into multiple X-Men cosplayers at Calgary Expo this year to get some photos for my social media profiles along with my Cyclops cosplay. I had the great fortune of running into a couple of Mystique and Magneto cosplayers who did a great job with their costumes and makeup. If only Keara was still around in her Phoenix costume to snap photos with them too.
Mark and I made our way towards the Cowboys Casino around 6:30 with @analog__android who sported a great Two-Face makeup and costume, for a drag show where we watched the performances for an hour and then made our way to Hitman’s Bar for dinner.
Day 4: Sunday
Sunday was a chill day for me. I wasn’t going to be at the Con very long, as I had to be at the airport at 12 pm. Before I hit the floor, I helped my cousin-in-law bring his Darth Vader kit into the Con so he could work the Garrison’s booth, and then be Darth Vader later on in the day.
|Circus Baby from Five Nights |
At Freddy’s: Sister Location
I was only at Con for about an hour and a half; my highlight was running into another fan who had just seen Jonathan Frakes. I met Jonathan at Fan Expo Vancouver, and we both gushed about what a wonderful person he was.
I left the con with slightly damaged cosplays, swollen feet covered in blister tape from 3 days of Con where I hardly sat down, but a happy heart full of wonderful experiences, new friends, and old friends. I can’t wait to attend again next year.
Today was the day I was going to meet the man who made me fall in love with Spiderman when I was 8 years old, Sam Raimi. Hence, I suited up as the Ultimate Spider-man for the day and I headed to the Expo at 10:30 AM to be there on time for my 11 AM photo op with the legendary director. I made sure to take off my mask and wear a jacket over my costume for the photo op. When it was finally my turn to walk into the booth, I was met with a “WOW!” reaction by Mr. Raimi, who complimented my cosplay and reached his hand out for a shake with a big smile.
After the photo op, I met up with my friend from Regina, Mark again who was dressed up as the Insomniac Spider-Man and made our way to the artist alley building to meet @missnicastone and @sailorbananacosplay who were cosplaying as two different versions of Spider-Gwen. Luckily we also ran into a really cool Sandman cosplayer by their table at the building followed by a Silk cosplayer.
Mark and I then embarked to the BMO Center building again for Sam Raimi’s Q&A session but we were early and joined Shameik Moore’s panel for the last 20 minutes. I wanted to get there before Raimi’s session began so that I could be first in line for the questions. This panel felt very educational as Sam shared a lot of useful tips to young aspiring directors and moviemakers on how to begin their careers. After attending this Expo, I learned that attending Q&A panels is better than autograph sessions as you get to have a brief conversation with the celebrities and not have to pay for it. You could also get a con buddy to film the experience for you to look back on in the future during a Q&A.
I then made my way to the red carpet with Mark where we walked down individually after being announced. That was my last goal for the day as I had to head back to the AirBnB and get ready to check out and head to the airport.
Local 501: Badlands Garrison
I would like to give a special shout out to the Badlands 501st Garrison for this particular trip. I ended up spending a fair amount of time in the Garrison’s back area, where they would kit up or relax between time in their booth. Since my cousin-in-law was a Vader, if I wanted to spend time with my family, it was around the Garrison.
|R5-D4 and R2-D2|
They are an amazing group of people, and were immediately welcoming to me. They learned my name, chatted with me, and generally made it a safe/quiet place to go during the Con. I was extremely lucky to be related to someone attached to the Garrison, and they were willing to let me in their space.
The Garrison does a lot of fundraising for charity - so if you’re ever at a Con, make a donation and have your picture taken. I am all for supporting your local Garrison - I sincerely hope next year, I can help out at their booth for a couple hours as a thank-you.
Impressions on the Con
I was blown away with the Calgary Expo. I was really pleased to see wide hallways between the booths - which did make it easier to move around on the most crowded days. I was also really pleased with the food systems - the con itself gave out buzzers to folks, that would light up and beep when their meals were ready for pick up. They weren’t priced too badly as well, and the quality of what I ate there wasn’t bad for the price point either.
The independent food vendors also had a great variety - in the main room, there was a wide assortment of foods to choose from, and even more so from the food trucks outside. Including pizza, tacos, burgers, mini donuts and other sweet treats, there was a little something for everyone. The line ups were only bad on the Saturday - I spent about 30-45 minutes in line for lemonade that day.
The Con seemed well-run and organized as well. The ticket line ups seemed to move quickly, however the badges had to be activated so you could scan in-and-out of each building. No matter the building you went to, you had to scan your pass to enter or exit. This did make for some choke points where it was difficult to move or had long lines. Having an exhibitor pass was really handy during these times.
Artist Alley had some extremely talented artists this year, not just traditional art, but also 3D printed items, hand-crocheted critters and dolls, glasswork, dice, leather-wrapped books and bags, and I saw quite a number of laser-cut art as well.
The merchant hall had a lot of variety as well - some folks I knew from my local Cons and a lot of new vendors as well. Everything was well spaced, and was fairly navigable. The celebrity area was quite large as well, and never felt overcrowded.
I really enjoyed my first experience at Calgary Expo, and I hope to come back next year!
The Calgary Expo is the best FAN EXPO I attended in Canada since 2016 in Toronto considering the star power of the celebrities and the other festive activities such as the parade, and massive spider-verse meetups. I also loved the plethora of food trucks outside with lots of options for food. My favorite thing about this Expo was the space utilization. Unlike Vancouver, the majority of Stampede Park’s area was well occupied by the expo in order to give the patrons enough breathing room and have more exhibits instead of just local vendors selling their goods and services. FAN EXPO Vancouver Convention only uses up the lower level space of the convention center and oversold tickets this year which made it very crowded. I hope to come back next year for the Calgary Expo with more friends from Vancouver and other parts of Canada.
Calgary Expo is scheduled to run again April 25-28, 2024; get your tickets and we’ll see you there!
By Meghan Charles, Arthur Kaz, and Keara Gowan, staff writers at Daily Cosplaynet