KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in about two-and-a-half years, Planet Comicon Kansas City welcomed pop culture fans back to a convention. Fans expressed their joy at stepping back onto Bartle Hall’s expansive floor with fist pumps, jumping, and audible squeals while face masks hid their smiles.
"When we left Bartle Hall on March 31, 2019, we had no idea it would be this long until we returned," said Planet Comicon Founder and CEO Chris Jackson. "People have been through so much over the last two years and we are committed to providing a safe, fun, and entertaining celebration of pop culture fandom at Planet Comicon Kansas City. We are so happy to open the doors once again."
While ticket sales numbers are not available at this time, Planet Comicon organizers said they are very enthusiastic about the weekend.
"Fans, guests, and exhibitors love being here in Kansas City. We've received a great response about the show. People are happy to have the opportunity to get together again and celebrate with the community they love."
Celebrities are also enthusiastic about the return of conventions.
“I’m excited to be back here because I get the instant gratification with the fans,” said Lou Ferrigno, the man who first brought the Hulk to life on screen in 1977. “People want to get out and make that superhero connection with the celebrities. It makes me feel good because, for me, it’s three decades of fans and I hear a lot of stories they want to share with me.”
Masks are required for everyone regardless of vaccine status at this year’s event due to the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide and to comply with local guidelines. Some fans went the extra mile to incorporate their facial coverings into their cosplay outfits.
During Felicia Day’s panel, she thanked fans in the audience for complying the mandate. She said she chose to wear a mask while on stage in order to protect her four-year-old daughter at home, who cannot get vaccinated under current regulations.
With a convention floor equivalent to about eight football fields, guests have adequate space to social distance. They also have easy access to hand sanitizer if they didn’t bring their own bottle.
A statement from event organizers said, “Under the guidance of Global Biorisk Advisory Council, the Kansas City Convention & Entertainment Facilities has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention in its facilities.”
“Everyone is wearing a mask, which is uncomfortable, but we’ve got to take these precautions,” Ferrigno said.
He and his staff wear special masks with clear portions so he can read lips. Ferrigno dealt with hearing loss most of his life but got his first cochlear implant four months ago. That “life-changing” procedure allows him to hear fans at this event with more clarity than at prior conventions.
Planet Comicon also encouraged attendees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with an onsite vaccine clinic. The Kansas City Public Health Department is staffing the weekend-long clinic. The shot is free and proof of insurance is not required.
“Planet Comicon celebrates the heroes we love from pop culture but visiting the vaccination clinic is a great opportunity to be a real-life hero and make a difference in the community,” Planet Comicon said.
Ferrigno hopes fans take full advantage of the opportunity to get their shot as well as invest in improving their immune system through nutrition and exercise.
“Your health comes first,” Ferrigno said. “I suggest that if you want to live, get the vaccine.”
Planet Comicon does not require proof of vaccination to enter. This week, Atlanta’s Dragon Con and New York Comic Con announced they will have a vaccine requirement for this fall’s events. Those are scheduled for Sept. 2-6 and Oct. 7-10 respectively. Wizard World is currently scheduled to bring pop culture conventions back to St. Louis in May 2022.
PHOTOS: Planet Comicon Kansas City
Tickets are still available for Planet Comicon’s remaining two days. It runs Saturday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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