Ithaca College hosts the community’s 41st Ithacon
Costumes, comics, videogames and more made their way to South Hill for Ithacon, Ithaca’s comic convention. The convention ran April 16 and 17 in Ithaca College’s Campus Center and brought guests and vendors from all around the Finger Lakes region. This is Ithacon’s 41st year in existence and its third year at the college.
Although a majority of the characters may have existed a “long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” stormtroopers, R2-D2, Ewoks and other members of the Star Wars universe were present at Ithacon.
Some guests might have done a double take, as the costumes were extremely detailed for a small comic book event like this one. These detailed costumes seemed to belong more at San Diego’s Comic Con rather than Ithaca’s much smaller version.
But Darren Blum assured me that guests oftentimes are surprised to see the details put into these costumes. Blum is the executive officer of the upstate New York branch of 501st Legion, Garrison Excelsior.
Blum described 501st Legion as a “Star Wars costuming club that was formed in 1997.”
501st Legion’s official website has a more detailed description. The 501st Legion is “the world’s definitive Imperial costuming organization.” For those who don’t know Star Wars, or understand the basics of it, the Imperial Army includes the humans, clones, machinery and aliens that support the “Dark Side” and Darth Vader, who was characterized as a villain in the original trilogy.
This organization, which according to Blum has 9000 active members in over 150 countries, focuses on costumes and events from the “Dark Side.” However, these individuals support charitable causes as well.
According to their mission statement, “The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work.”
In order to make contributions to the local community, Garrison Excelsior used Ithacon as a way to raise money with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit that grants the “wishes” of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
“We oftentimes work with different charitable organizations to raise money,” Blum said. “This month we are working with Disney’s Force for Change and they’re actually doing a dollar-for-dollar match on any money raised for Make-A-Wish.”
In order to raise that money, the Excelsior chapter of 501st Legion sold Star Wars Legos, collectables and even asked event attendees for a donation if they wanted to take a photo with someone in an elaborate Star Wars character costume.
“This is my first year here, but I know other members of the legion were here last year and they had a table and they were costuming,” Blum said. “We had a lot of positive reactions from the crowd. It’s always a lot of fun to see the kids interacting with the characters, especially R2.” (R2-D2 is a masculine drone in the series. In the original trilogy, he works with protagonist Luke Skywalker.)
Blum said Garrison Excelsior participates in about 40 events per year.
“Typically we try to raise money for different charities,” Blum said. “But with this being a smaller convention, I’m guessing [the money we raise] will be in the 2-to-300 dollar range.”
3D GAME MARKET
Aside from elaborate costumes and bringing awareness for specific causes, some vendors come to Ithacon to promote current and future projects.
Vince Lindow is a partner at 3D Game Market, a business that works to optimize the video game experience for players.
“What we do is we provide information so that you can take existing video games and play them in 3D,” Lindow said. “We can do this either with glasses-free 3D, or a 3D TV, or on regular 2D Monitors.”
Lindow started the businesses with his friend with a talent for coding in August 2012. The two wanted to learn how to use the monitors to make glasses-free 3D.
“It’s been almost four years now, and we’ve come quite a ways since we first started,” Lindow said.
At first, Lindow said, the two were just trying to figure out how to make glasses-free 3D. Now they have learned how to do that and they also know how to change video game coding in order to enable them to be played in 3D. Currently Lindow said that the two are working on producing a glasses-free 3D monitor that can be sold at a more affordable price for consumers.
“We hope by the end of the year to just have a monitor we can sell, something that could cost under 900 or 800 dollars,” Lindow said. “Right now we are just here to spread awareness.”
3D Game Market had a booth at Ithacon and at another event at Ithaca College, Ed Tech Day. Lindow said both events were successful in creating attention for his product.
Before attending the event Lauren Wudro, a Dryden native, did not even realize glasses-free 3D existed. I spoke with Wudro as she played the glasses-free version of a Transformers video game.
“Sorry if I seem spacey in my responses, I’m just really trying to focus on this game,” Wudro said. “It’s crazy that I’m playing this without the glasses. Of course the 3D isn’t anything too crazy, but this seems better than having to get a headache from wearing glasses.”
Lindow said reactions like Wudro’s are pretty common when it comes to glasses-free 3D.
“I just love seeing people’s reactions to the 3D gaming,” Lindow said. “This is our second year doing Ithacon and we’ve had just so much fun here. Who knows what our stand will look like next year. We’re just really getting into 4K gaming.”
In addition to promoting projects, vendors at comic cons also, surprisingly, sell comics.
Comics for Collectors is a local comic shop located in downtown Ithaca. Although the owner of Comics for Collectors had a table at Ithacon, his businesses wasn’t closed during the event. Melanie Walker, who worked at the store during the weekend of Ithacon, said the convention impacts business.
“Anybody that has a booth up there is hoping to draw in customers,” Walker said. “Our store owner and one of his colleagues is up there right now. The point is if you don’t have it up there, you can come to the store and try to find it.”
Walker said the Ithacon works to provide cross-promotion with the comic shop.
“You try to maneuver people back and forth from here and there,” Walker said. “We’ve been handing out flyers for the convention all day. There’s a lot of cross-promotion.”
Walker also said the date of Ithacon worked better for the comic shop this year.
“Last year Ithacon was on Free Comic Book day, which is a big deal for us,” she said. “We have artist and writers that come and sign stuff in the book. It was bad because we forced our customers to pick. ‘Do I go to the show? Do I go to the store? Which do I go to first?’ Most people that do Free Comic Book day come here first because it’s free. This year they kind of moved it back a couple of weeks, which was good.”
Next year’s Ithacon is already scheduled at the college for March 25 and 26, according to Ithaca College coordinator Katharine Kittredge. This date will be weeks before next year’s Free Comic Book Day, planned nationally for May 6, 2017.
Elena Piech is a freshman journalism major who’s always down for a good convention. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.