BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Kami-Con packs more fun than one could have in a single day, and more costumes than one could make in a lifetime, into the BJCC every year.
On its website, Kami-Con bills itself as Alabama’s largest convention in the realms of cosplay, pop culture, anime, comics, and gaming. And for all of these things to come together under one roof takes its fair share of planning at the hands of Con-Chair Raymond Lenzner and the event’s dedicated board.
The organizers not only put together the events that make up the con itself, but also invite well-known guests from all fields.
The schedule is packed from start to finish with anime screenings where people can check out the anime series that they’ve always heard about, fan panels like “I Ship It,” where fans discuss their own ideas of fictional pop-culture pairings and appearances from voice talent of shows like Steven Universe or Azumanga Daioh, the landmark slice of life series.
Not only is passive participation in planned events encouraged, but fans can also make their own fun in the form of cosplay, the creation of costumes to represent one’s fandom in real or fictional characters.
Aside from the expressions of fandom, the con itself works with the outside world in ways that may not be so obvious at first. For example, regional billboard fixture and lawyer Alexander Shunnarah made an appearance at the event, where his line of admirers made navigation of the vendor’s room more than a little difficult. Shunnarah even had his own hashtag (#shunnarahatkamicon) that let you follow his exploits throughout the day.
Besides Shunnarah’s appearance, other organizations throughout the state made appearances to advance their missions of helping others. The Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club showed up with a plan to help Alabama charity Blanket Fort Hope in their quest to protect child survivors of human trafficking.
According to Merc Taylor Neal, the Mandalorian Mercs are a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit with around 2,000 members with a mission of helping others before they help themselves. On their website, they announce their quest to “serve the global community by inspiring creativity, creating positive fellowship, and encouraging volunteerism in the local communities we serve.”
Neal joined the Mandalorian Mercs in 2011, having been a fan of the Star Wars series since he was about 7 years old. Though he describes the organization as a “labor of love,” he believes that they help fill a role in the community that’s larger than it may initially seem.
“It’s hard enough with what we’ve seen to believe that what’s there is enough,” Neal said.
The Mercs have an organization called Little Warrior International that serves as a fund that the Mercs use to help children in families in need at times of crisis or during the holidays. In addition to their own charity, they team up with local organizations like Blanket Fort Hope to provide care for people where they can.
Blanket Fort Hope (http://www.blanketforthope.org) is a charity that works to provide a “fortress of safety” for those young survivors, which they hope will set them on the path to a brighter future. At the con, The Mercs ran a “Jail and Bail,” an event in which they would lock people up for a dollar per minute, where they raised over $1,000 for Blanket Fort Hope.
The con ended Sunday night, and as Lenzler and the crew begins planning for next year, only time will tell what’s over the horizon, but the magic for those in the con’s orbit will continue long after the lights are out.