Early in the week before I left Jamaica for Yakutsk, one of the team members from my new job emailed to invite me to an event that would take place on my first Sunday here. The company was a sponsor of the event and was therefore participating in it. The event was Yakutsk Geek Fest 2017. Of course, I said yes.
You all know that I’m a nerd, right? I love books. I love The Lord of The Rings (best book ever, best movie ever, best book to movie adaptation ever). I love Harry Potter. I love Murder Aboard the Orient Express. If I could spend days squirreled away from life with my nose in a book, I absolutely would (and have!). My eyesight suffered during my adolescent and teenage years partly due to late nights reading in bad light and by flashlight (back when I had school the next day and was supposed to be sleeping but stayed up all night since I just couldn’t put the book down because it was so darn good. Wait, I’ve done that since I’ve been working, too!). I also love fantasy, sci-fi and action TV shows and movies. I love Game of Thrones. I love Star Wars. I love Star Trek. And I love superhero movies, although I’m not a big reader of superhero comic books.
I say all this to make the point that I’m a proud nerd and have no apologies for it. Which is how I ended up like this…
Geek Fest is basically the Comic Con of Yakutsk. People dress up as characters from movies, books, comics, cartoons and video games and hang out all afternoon at a convention site. Comic Con has been hovering somewhere on my bucket list for a while now so it was pretty easy for me to decide to attend Geek Fest. However, I had not planned to go in costume since I had brought nothing costume-y with me and really had no interest in getting elaborately dressed up – that’s not really my thing. I wanted to go because I thought that it would be a good way to observe a well-attended local event, to hang out with my new team members, and to see this kind of dress-up event for the first time in my life.
But on the Wednesday of my first week here when my team members told me that they had a costume for me and that they were all going as elves from The Lord of The Rings (best book ever! Best movie ever! Best book to movie adaptation EVER!), I did not hesitate to try it on. Even better, they wanted me to be Tauriel, who is a fierce, skilled, tough, beautiful warrior elf lady from The Hobbit. They even bought a ginger wig for me to wear, like Tauriel, but I don’t do wigs (ever) so I told them that I’d fix my hair myself (it’s practically ginger anyway) and go as an alternative, short-and-curly-haired Tauriel.
On Thursday, I tried on the dress and it fit perfectly so on Sunday morning at 8 am I joined my team members at the office, where we spent the next two and a half hours doing makeup – I’m super basic when it comes to makeup so I had someone do mine. Then we donned our costumes and headed out. There were fifteen of us altogether, four in branded t-shirts and jeans and eleven in costume. The costumes were really well made. I was surprised because I expected them to look cheap up close but they weren’t. They were well cut, well stitched and made from excellent fabric.
The day was sunny and fairly warm and the event was held in a local small-ish athletics arena. I went with no real idea of what I would see but I have to give these guys props. This event was miniscule compared to Comic Con, I’m sure, but many of the attendees went all out, and I had fun! Guys, I’m telling you, some people are serious about their cosplay, a term with which I was unfamiliar before Geek Fest. It’s a shortening of ‘costume play’ and is a hobby where people dress in costumes, accessories and makeup as a specific character. I won’t say that I would do this dress-up thing on my own, as many attendees did, because while I’m definitely a nerd, I’m not much of a geek. I don’t love playing dress-up generally but it sure was fun doing it with my work group, especially since we were doing it for a specific reason.
We weren’t there for fun; we were there for marketing purposes. Our goal was to promote our language school, to get new leads, and to interact with those of our students who were participants in Geek Fest. The fun was just a happy side benefit. What was so fun about it, you ask? Why, the costumes, of course!
First of all, the babies and little kids. I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t to see toddlers dressed in costumes. They were adorable!
There were also adolescents and teenagers running around in costumes of all kinds. Then there were the people who built their costumes, not just made them. Those were particularly impressive.
And let’s not forget the ones who made theirs. They weren’t as impressive as the ones that got built but most were interesting or funny.
All of the expected worlds were represented, of course: Narnia (a whole family dressed as Aslan, Susan, Lucy, Edmund and Peter); Hogwarts (the odd Harry or two were running around here and there all day); and Westeros (the mom was Cersei, the baby buggy was the iron throne with the baby as Tommen riding in it, and the toddler was Joffrey holding mum’s hand – it was hilarious!). And, in my opinion, there were far too many capes; anyone who watched The Incredibles should know that’s a no-no. There were also game stations, where a life-sized Jenga game was in progress, as well as board games.
Unsurprisingly, some costumes were gory (think blood-spattered mad scientist) but I don’t go in for gore so I ignored those. And some costumes showed a total lack of effort; however, I didn’t judge because perhaps those people like to watch this type of activity but not participate fully, like I would do if I wasn’t part of a group. But overall, most costumes were well done.
I think most of us non-geeks would look at the type of people who participate in events and activities like Geek Fest and Comic Con and say they’re weird or even “fringe”. But I don’t think most of them are. They’re just people who come together around a common interest about which they’re hugely passionate, much like every other group of people – lovers of adventure sports, reading or aero-modelling, for example.
In the end, it was a long and tiring day, eight hours of which I spent on my feet; they were still sore and burning hours later when I went to bed. If I had attended as a regular participant I would have stayed for no more than three hours, and then only to see as many of the best costumes as possible. So despite the weariness, I really am glad that I got a glimpse into the cosplay world.
But I’m still going to Comic Con.