Spa Con

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Wearing a red jumpsuit and holding a puppet with a gumball machine for a head, fanfiction writer Riley Keener stood at the entrance of Spa-Con smiling. Keener was dressed as the main character Joel from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and holding the character’s puppet co-star Tom Servo. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a television series created in the ‘80s that now has a Netflix reboot and has acquired a cult following. Passersby complemented his accurate cosplay and asked to take pictures with him.

Fans of comic books, science fiction and fantasy, anime, video games, tabletop games and much more gathered at the comic book and pop culture convention Spa-Con on Sept. 20 through 22 held at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Many attending, like Keener, dressed as beloved characters from many different forms of entertainment and were able to visit over 100 vendors who sold nerd culture merchandise including art, figurines, replica weapons, pictures with celebrity look-alikes, and food. Workers and volunteers for Spa-Con hosted a slew of video games and tabletop games such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dungeons and Dragons. Spa-Con attendees were also able to meet individuals from famous television series and films as well as popular cosplayers. 

“My favorite part of acting is meeting different people, going to different locations, and having a chance to play different characters that I normally wouldn’t understand,” actress Michelle Harrison said.

Harrison has acted for 21 years and has been in over 90 films and television shows, including her role as Barry Allen’s mother in the CW channel television series The Flash. During Spa-Con, she sat at a booth where she autographed pictures and talked with fans. She says that her favorite costume at Spa-Con was Buddy the elf from the movie Elf.

“You never know where cosplay will take you,” cosplayer and customer service representative Briana DeCoster, also known as Utahime Cosplay said.

DeCoster works a full-time job and cosplays at conventions during the weekends. She says her most popular cosplays include Kira from the X-Men comic books and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. Her cosplay career lead her to meet the cast of Infinity War and Endgame.

“Cosplay is not about being a professional,” DeCoster said. “As long as you’re having fun and enjoying your fandoms, that is first and foremost. The opportunities that come from it are the cherry-on-top.”

DeCoster says that she started her cosplay career by going to conventions with friends and posting her cosplays on social media. She is now well-known for her accurate cosplays and is invited to talk to fans and sell merchandise at conventions all over the world.

 “Spa-Con is a lot like Comic-Con so it’s a lot more of a personal connection,” Spa-Con volunteer and dialysis technician Rachel Diggs said. “I’m an introvert; I don’t talk to people that much. All of us have, like, anxiety. So the interests we share make it a lot less awkward.”