Swamp Con 2016: An Inclusive, Free Weekend for Fans of Popular Media

Alberto Martinez could only think of one thing as he exited the highway into Gainesville. He had only been here once before, to visit a friend. Although the UCF student could only think about what the convention would have in store for him, he did not realize that it would turn out to be what he considered one of the best weekends he had in a long time.

He was one of the roughly 3,000 people who attended 5th annual Swamp Con. The convention was for fans of a variety of popular media.

21-year-old Derek Delago, one of the organizers, said Swamp Con prides itself in being an inclusive, multi-genre convention. He said that whether you’re a fan of anime, science fiction, tabletop gaming, or video games; the convention will have something for you.

Jennifer Andersen-Peters, 20, found something for her at Swamp Con. She said she was extremely excited to meet the YouTube video game reviewer Dookieshed, having been a fan of the convention guest of honor for over three years.

“This was the first famous person I ever met,” said Andersen-Peters. “It was surreal, I never really thought I would meet him.”

However, as the weekend came to a close, she said she realized that this was not the true highlight. It was meeting new people and experiencing Swamp Con with them that she said she will remember the most about her first convention.

Martinez said he had a similar experience. He said that Dookieshed’s appearance was one of the main reasons why he took the trip from Orlando. However, spending time with new friends was what he said he will remember most.

Roughly 1,000 people went to the first Swamp Con in 2012. This year welcomed a record 3,000. According to Delago, one of the contributing factors to this high turnout is not only quality, but price.

Since its inception, Swamp Con has been free.

“We take a lot of pride in being an inclusive con, and the free price reflects that.”

He said that being a non-profit allows the convention coordinators to use properties that are trademarked for events. Examples include a talent show based around the video game Undertale, and a fan show for Japanese computer characters known as Vocaloids.

“For a free con, it was very well put together, I think it can only get better next year,” said Martinez.

Both Andersen-Peters and Martinez said they were unhappy with the structuring of the schedule, and that it could be made more clear where and when events were being held. However, this complaint didn’t stop either of them from saying they planned to come back next year.

“If you have hesitations about going, just go, for the experience,” said Andersen-Peters. She proceeded to recite the Shia LeBouff quote, “just do it.”

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