Can Tulare County Support Two Pop Culture Conventions?

Buzz Con, a two-day pop culture convention, will be held at the International AgriCenter in Tulare on September 13-14. This inaugural event comes less than six months after the Tulare Sci-Fi Con, which had its inaugural event at the same location on March 29.

“It’s more of a video gaming and cosplay (costume) event,” said Joe Chris, one of the three Buzz Con planners, noting that the show is about science fiction, comics, television, sports cards, movies, horror, toys such as Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels, and gaming.

“We love putting on these shows,” said Chris, whose experience includes planning similar shows in Bakersfield, Ventura, Palmdale and Lancaster. “But after a while, it gets tiring travelling city to city.” Chris lives just outside of Visalia. His partners live in Hanford and Bakersfield.

But can Tulare County support two similar pop culture events?

“This being a small town with many rural areas, it is unclear at this time whether Tulare can support two conventions of a similar type,” said Derek Mazer, exhibits director for Tulare Sci-Fi Con. “We will be looking at it closely.

“If Buzz Con does well, then it’s a good sign our community might be able to support two conventions in a single year,” he said. “It would make having a Tulare Sci-Fi Con in 2015 a bit easier of a decision. If Buzz Con doesn’t do well, the Tulare Sci-Fi Con board would have to seriously look at whether we can hold a successful convention in 2015. Tulare Sci-Fi Con, being a non-profit, looks for donations to pay all convention expenses or startup costs. So with that comes a disadvantage in competing with for-profit ventures.”

After Tulare Sci-Fi Con, Mazer was contacted by Chris and asked questions ranging from how the event went to how he felt about Chris doing another convention.

“I did express concern whether Tulare can support two,” said Mazer. “I asked if instead of a separate convention, he could just bring his XBox video gaming tournament and celebrities to Tulare Sci-Fi Con in 2015 and work together. But because Buzz Con is a for-profit venture and Tulare Sci-Fi Con is non-profit, we couldn’t come to an agreement. As our discussions progressed, I made an offer that if Buzz Con doesn’t do well to try and salvage and work together next year by merging the two efforts to at least have one successful convention in our community.”

“Basically, he’s looking to see how we do,” Chris said, adding that he hopes the two events can help build each other up by promoting the other event at their shows. “To me, it’s all about working together, not about backstabbing.”
There are differences between the shows. Mazer noted that Tulare Sci-Fi Con is non-profit with all of its proceeds in 2014 going to the Tulare Library Children’s Section. BuzzCon is a for-profit venture, with intentions to donate a portion of its proceeds to a charity. Tulare Sci-Fi Con was a one-day pop culture convention, which included participants from a cross-section of genres, such as sci-fi, Renaissance, horror, fantasy, anime and others, with a costume contest. It included writers, directors, producers, celebrities, artists, collectable toys, comics, demonstrations and a Heroclix (board/figures) tournament.

“Buzz Con was first explained to me as a two-day video gaming tournament convention,” said Mazer. “However, since my first conversation with the organizer, it has morphed into a little more like the Tulare Sci-Fi Con with vendors, cosplayers, an Xbox video gaming tournament and so far approximately 15+ celebrities, mainly from the sci-fi and video gaming genre.”

Scheduled celebrities at Buzz Con include Virginia Hey, Vernon Wells, Jennifer Hale, Kimberley Brooks and Ali Hillis. And “so far, it’s been going smoothly,” according to Chris. “The Ag Center has been very helpful.”

Chris doesn’t see a problem in attendance as a result of the Tulare County Fair being held the same weekend. “We never thought about the fair,” he admits, “but I think we’ll be fine because we’re going to pull our crowd.”
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