Fandomfest: Keeping Louisville nerdy

The next in a trio of comic-nerd-culture-oriented festivals, Fandomfest returns again this weekend with a host of big name celebrity guests and a slew of geek-culture events: film festivals, pop culture conventions, anime conventions, horror conventions and comic book shows.

In recent years celebrity guests have included actors from Star Trek and the Walking Dead, and this year includes Carrie Fischer and Kevin Smith. It started small. According to the festival’s founder, promoter, CEO Ken Daniels, “Fandomfest evolved out of a long-standing convention called Fright Night Film Fest. In 2011 we branched out to include more popular culture events and celebrities.”

The festival started here and has remained here over the year, although it has grown to include franchised fests in other cities. But Louisville is and always will be its home. Daniels explains, “Fandomfest Louisville is our home show. We grew up here and love our city. Keeping Louisville Weird is something we believe in very strongly.”

It goes without saying that there are ample obstacles to overcome in getting everything set up. Daniels notes, “There are lots of challenges. Like the Derby, volunteers are important, because these festivals are expensive and it takes good teams to run things. Most challenges are out of our hands. Weather is one, celebrity’s schedules are another but all in all we are always working toward improvement.”

But Daniels remains optimistic. He continues, “It’s a challenge sometimes, but what isn’t? Anything worth going for is challenging. With the construction downtown it’s a little harder, but we love our city and the Convention Bureau staff have been great.”

As advertised, this is an event by and for fans of niche entertainment, which more often than not translates to people interested in fantasy, sci-fi or pop culture, more commonly known as nerds or geeks. So how does Daniels identify his core audience? He says, “A nerd to us is someone who specializes in something so much that to others it seems like a waste of time. A geek is someone who loves something so much that it seems irrelevant to others. Example: ‘They geeked out over it.’ See what I did there. They are actually interrelated.”

He continues, adding, “They are immensely relevant because they have led the pack for this new world of the Internet, gaming and life as we know it today. They drive most things. Fandomfest is striving every year to service them by exploring all the worlds they live and work in on a daily basis.”

It’s difficult to know for certain what will work and what won’t, especially in a crowd that can be as a fickle as the nerd/geek community. What makes for a good festival? Daniels replies, “That’s a tough question. It’s really personal to the individual and can’t be quantified in a general statement. One person loves to shop. Another loves the panels. Some love to party and hang out with like-minded souls while others love to cosplay.”

There will be cosplay. A festival tradition Daniels notes, “Cosplay is huge. We love our cosplayers,” and that he believes that this year there will be “four or more competitions going.”

In fact, there will be plenty for everyone. You can expect a ton of vendors on the floor, and Daniels promises that there will be “everything from geek wear and T-shirts to authors signing and selling their books and artisans selling their crafts, art, music, toys, comics, collectibles, games, posters and records. Most items for sale are unique to these types of venues and can’t be bought in stores.”

This year is also billed as the first Fantasmagorical Film Festival. Daniels explains that the film festival “is our all-genre film festival for the fans. In addition to our Horror Film Festival and Fright Night Film Fest, we were constantly being asked to add another festival that wasn’t strictly horror. Since we had success with that, we wanted to add another one to our stable. We are extremely proud of it because of our success with having one of the largest genre film festivals in America.” Daniels says that attendees can expect “some really amazing regional and international work that will blow your mind, sci-fi, fantasy, animation, fan films and YouTube entries this year.”

In addition, there will be gaming tournaments, and a host of celebrity guest panelists. Fandomfest has a tradition of great guests, and, as such, Daniels has had a lot of fun meeting people in the past. Daniels explains of his upcoming favorites that “Carrie Fisher and Billy Piper, Kevin Smith are some that come to mind. The Legends of Baseball are cool, because we have our beloved Louisville Slugger here in town,” pausing to note of previous guests, “Stan Lee, Gene Simmons, Gillian Anderson, William Shatner are some of the ones that have been special to us as well.”

The party continues well after the festival too. Daniels explains that, “Kevin Smith will be performing and showing “Mallrats” after the show on Saturday. There will be parties, VIP parties, dances, cosplay events, panels, movies, celeb meet and greets and several activities that I can’t mention here yet. It’s a surprise.”

 Children 12 and under are always free accompanied by an adult (two children per paid adult). Active military families are 50 percent off admission because, as the the web site explains, “We do this for the love of it all.”