Denver’s StarFest convention, one of the oldest pop culture gatherings in the country, has announced its latest trip.
The 45-year-old event, which debuted just two weeks before Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, will hold its final convention May 13-15 at the Hyatt Regency DTC. Celebrities expected to attend: Brent Spiner (data from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Picard); Terry Farrell (Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space 9); Michelle Hurd (“Picard”); and Zach McGowan (“Black Sails” and “The 100”).
“My kids were about three years old when we started,” said Cathy Walker, who co-founded and continues to produce StarFest with her husband Stephen and sister Caroline Jobin. She said that the end of StarFest is not due to financial problems.
“Basically, we are retiring,” she said. “None of us have ever received a salary from StarFest because it’s fan-run and we’ve always put all the money into next year’s event.”
Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Francis Ford Coppola, Christian Bale and, of course, dozens of actors from various Star Trek series and films, including William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and the first woman in Star Trek, have attended StarFest. . Captain of series host Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).
StarFest is one of Denver’s first events for everything to do with Star Trek, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and more, following the also formative Mile High Con, which has continued to be literary since its debut in 1969. StarFest, though, was Denver’s first media-focused convention that attracted a passionate fandom of TV, movies, and comics.
In recent years, pop culture conventions have become a multi-billion dollar industry, steadily moving away from the kinship atmosphere of the original conventions.
“I know the big cons — they are there. The one that’s going to be in Denver right now, the Fan Expo… they have about 12 others that they’re doing all over the country,” Walker said. “StarFest is just a different show. We have families that have been coming here for decades, people who have gotten married here, and hosts and volunteers who have also been with us for decades.”
This kind of institutional knowledge will be impossible to replace in Denver’s pop culture scene, but it’s not clear how young fans care about that. In recent years, StarFest has given way to the event now known as Fan Expo Denver (formerly Denver Pop Culture Con, formerly Denver Comic Con), with its million-square-foot layout at the Colorado Convention Center and dozens of TV – and film conferences. , comics and literary guests among panels, shopping alleys, cosplay contests and performances.
This corporate event, like many others, is indebted to the groundbreaking StarFest, which eliminated excesses in its industry long before it was even considered one. His celebrity encounters and signings, cosplay (even before the term was coined in Japan), and cross-genre approach attracted nerds, geeks, and fanatics of all types who may have felt intimidated or ignored in other social media.
According to Walker, when StarFest started, it was promoted by face-to-face meetings, such as clubs that would get together to watch Star Trek episodes on VHS tape. Since then, StarFest has expanded into cons within cons such as ArtFest, ComicFest, GameFest, HorrorFest, KlingonFest, and ScienceFest.
“We try to do a little bit of everything and not just mess around,” Walker said. “But it has become so expensive. Hotel fees have gone up – and you can’t blame them during the pandemic because they’ve been devastated – and it’s become very expensive to bring in actors.”
It has been a hard road for many small events in recent years. In the late 2010s, San Diego Comic Con International forced many “opposing comedians” in the US to change their names by claiming copyright on the term. This included changing the name of Denver Comic Con to Denver Pop Culture Con.
StarFest has never had such a problem, and has clearly not experienced the spasms of expansion, contraction, and staff turnover that have plagued other major cons over the past decade. Its meager budget and hundreds of volunteers—there will be 185 this year to welcome the 3,000 to 5,000 expected attendees—supported an event inspired mostly by its creators’ love of Star Trek, rather than a business plan drawn up for the meeting. market demand.
Walker’s favorite memories are not just of the celebrities she brought in, like Cruz and Travolta. It’s also weddings, Klingon vow renewals, lifelong reunions, and the generational continuity she’s seen at the event, from friends who’ve been loyally attending for decades, to younger fans looking for a slower event that doesn’t depend on social media hype. networks or licensed facilities. (although such are presented).
“I just don’t see that kind of fandom being created (these days) because you can gobble up an entire show over the weekend and forget about it,” said Walker, who showed the first Star Wars trailer at StarFest’s debut the day before. Does anyone know what movie this is. (They’ll find out in two weeks.) “We’re lucky that so many people have stayed with us over the years. This is family”.
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