You never know how a big showroom can be until you go to a convention like the Orange County Convention Center. Their marketplaces are practically the size of airplane hangers. From independent artists and comic book authors to photo-ops and tattoo parlor, the merchandise hall is a great place to get your bearings, see some amazing collectibles, and maybe add one or two or fifty to your collection. And like the costume display above from UD Replicas, you get to see and own some amazing replicas from your favorite fandoms.
The Vendor Room is also home to charities raising awareness for special causes. Several exhibitions offer fans the opportunity to have their photograph taken with a special prop or celebrity in exchange for a donation such as Dolorean Time Machines which benefits St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It's a great way for fans and organizations to create lasting memories and help make a difference.
In the Artists Alley, you can always find some rising stars. Independent writers and artists showcase their latest work from comics and graphic novels to limited edition prints and original artwork. Last year I had the opportunity to meet a longtime friend and author Chris Widdop from the Velcro: The Ninja Kat series. I'm excited to see which local artists I can continue to support this time around!
Cosplayers Red Carpet
Conventions are not the same if there aren't cosplayers. Fans who craft their cosplay ware can strut on the red carpet and take photos with fans, and even on the way to and from panels or the vendor room. Cosplayers are in for a real treat this year with the Master of Cosplay Southeast Qualifier, a costume contest where the entrants can compete for compete for the ultimate prize of $5,000 and to be crowned as FAN EXPO’s very first Master of Cosplay Champion. From Belle in Beauty and the Beast to Newt Scamander and Credence Barebone from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, you never know what you're going to see!