Updated: February 24, 2014 at 7:45 am
Local sci-fi, fantasy and anime enthusiasts had their otherworldly spirits lifted in Colorado Springs over the weekend.
Several hundred fans geeked out at GalaxyFest 2014, a pop culture event in its third year that ran Friday morning through Sunday night at the downtown Antlers Hilton Hotel.
The convention, or con, offered such things as zombies, independent filmmakers, dancing and fashion shows, at times continuing into the wee hours of the morning.
"It's GalaxyFest. All sorts of fun stuff happens here," said local leather artist Emily Davis, 21, who sold her leather bags and purses, all hand-stamped and painted with dragons and Jedi symbols (ponytracksleatherart.com).
"In real life you can't fight actual monsters," said 10-year-old repeat attendee Alexander Hagen as he played "Super Mario Galaxy 2" on a GameCube in one of three gaming rooms. He sported a fez, or red brimless hat, from the Doctor Who series. "It's my favorite show."
Attendance beat last year's con, with about 400 three-day passes and 250 VIP passes sold for each of the days. Some came from as far as the United Kingdom.
"There's a big enough (sci-fi) community where people will travel if it's a good enough con," said David Wacks, the festival's creator.
For local sci-fi fans, other than a literary event typically held in January "there really isn't anything here," Wacks said, adding most cons don't make it past a second year. "The fact that we're in our third year says quite a bit."
Gary Weston, a vendor dressed as Doc Brown from "Back to the Future," sold steampunk lamps and miniature TVs, his most popular items a Jelly Belly robot bank (save a coin, eat a jelly bean) and R2-D2 ice bucket ("or cookie jar").
A retired Liberty High School math teacher and current track and cross country coach, Weston repurposes scrap metal from thrift stores and flea markets in "The Laboratory," a workshop hidden behind a bookshelf in his basement. He's sold 350 steampunk pieces in four years (garyalanwestonstudios.com). "I'm as busy as I was teaching," he said.
Guests were greeted by scores of zombies, storm troopers and ghoulish characters, and flocked to a talk by paranormal investigator Paul Bradford, one of the most popular speakers.
"This is the con where everybody feels like a VIP," said professional Phoenix-based costumed role-player Cara Nicole, or AZ Powergirl as she's known. Over the weekend she dressed as comic book heroine Power Girl, Phoenix from X-Men and Jill Valentine from the Resident Evil franchise.
While her online audience consists mainly of men 18-55, Nicole said, "children love me." Still, mothers of blushing pre-teen boys may not be her biggest fans, detouring around the scantily-clad cosplayer and her signed prints.
The PG event went R-rated after 8 p.m. each day, Wacks said, when the lineup included burlesque, body painting and kilt blowings - "guys in kilts, girls with leaf blowers."
Organizers, already in talks with The Antlers, hope for an even greater turnout next year.