In his famous song, Andy Williams sings about Christmas as “the most wonderful time of the year.”
But as far as we know, Mr. Williams was never in Pensacola in mid-February.
That’s when pop culture fever takes over the city as Pensacon returns, turning a trip to Pensacola into an out-of-this-world experience.
How “out of this world”? Well, if you’re flying in for the massive pop culture gathering scheduled for Feb. 22-24 and celebrating all things nerdy, you aren’t just flying into a regular, everyday airport. Your plane will land at one of the Stargates at Pensacola Intergalactic Airport as you find yourself transported into the worlds of science fiction, fantasy, horror, comics, anime, gaming, cosplay and much, much more.
You’ll find that same spirit of fun and fandom echoed throughout downtown Pensacola. You see, while many fandom conventions take place in a single building, Pensacon’s campus extends throughout the downtown community.
So don’t be fooled into thinking that all there is to see is at the ground level of the Pensacola Bay Center — that’s a rookie mistake. While there is a lot to see and shop for there, that’s really JUST the beginning.
On the second floor of the arena, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and greet more than 100 celebrity guests. Among the biggest names this year are Capt. James T. Kirk himself, the legendary William Shatner, along with Disney Princesses Paige O’Hara (“Beauty and the Beast”), Linda Larkin (“Aladdin”) and Irene Bedard (“Pocahontas”); “Doctor Who” stars Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Catherine Tate and Alex Kingston; Summer Glau of “Firefly,” “Arrow" and “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”; actor and director Jonathan Frakes, best known as Cmdr. William T. Riker on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”; “Hercules” star Kevin Sorbo; and “Battlestar Galactica” stars Tricia Helfer and Tahmoh Penikett, as well as multiple guests from “The Walking Dead” and the Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek and Power Rangers franchises.
Cast reunions range from Indiana Jones franchise alumni “John Rhys-Davies, Karen Allen, Julian Glover, Paul Freeman and Wolf Kahler to the voice cast of “Batman: The Animated Series” (Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester and Diane Pershing) and the stars of “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” Gil Gerard, Erin Gray and Felix Silla.
And you’re not done in the Bay Center yet! The third-floor concourse is Artist’s Alley, where you can meet dozens of professional artists and writers from comic books and other fantasy realms. Many artists will be selling their work, including original art, so this is a great place to pick up something unique, directly from the artist.
Immediately outside the Bay Center, there is entertainment and food vendors in parking lots on both sides of the building, including Poseidon’s Bay, inside the Ninth Avenue parking lot, featuring a wide variety of live entertainment including demonstrations and other fun activities.
One of the best aspects of Pensacon is the panels. At multiple venues downtown, attendees can enjoy moderated discussions with convention guests including actors, writers, artists and more, discussing their work and even taking questions from the audience. Panels take place at the Saenger Theatre, Pensacola Little Theatre, the Rex Theatre and the Pensacola Grand Hotel, and can range from full houses at the Saenger for top celebrities to intimate community discussions at some of the smaller venues. Some venues will also host workshops, the Pensacon Film Festival and other creative activities.
The Pensacola Grand Hotel is also the gaming epicenter of Pensacon, with 24-hour tabletop gaming including role-playing, card and board games.
Along with gaming, there’s plenty to do after hours. A number of bars and restaurants join in the spirit with decor and themed offerings, as well as after-hours celebration. Many of these have official tie-ins with the convention, such as the popular themed parties at the Fish House complex, including Star Trek, Star Wars and Harry Potter themes, as well as a display of authentic, screen-used movie props from the Merrill Movie Museum. The Museum will also present exhibits at the T.T. Wentworth Museum and the Pensacola Museum of Art, conveniently located next to the Pensacola Little Theatre venue. Other venues participating with after-hours events include Vinyl Music Hall, Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom and The Tin Cow.
And don’t miss the biggest after-hours event, Saturday night’s huge costume contest at the Saenger Theatre. This is a visual feast showcasing some of the best cosplays of the convention.
A convenient, free trolley system offers transportation between venues throughout the weekend for all attendees, and it runs late into the night, so there’s no need to call it an early evening.
For more information on Pensacon, visit www.pensacon.com.