RodCon 2019

SOFIA LEGASPI, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

Rod Library welcomed about 3,000 visitors from UNI, the Cedar Valley and beyond to celebrate all things geek culture during the sixth annual RodCon on Saturday, April 13.

“It’s just really great to see all of these people come together,” said Jess Cruz, a member of the RodCon planning committee. “I know that this is an event that a lot of people look forward to every year, and to be able to see the library as both an academic space but then also a place where you can have fun.”

Cruz, who works as the exhibit preparator and outreach coordinator for the UNI Museum, is in her fourth year serving on the RodCon planning committee. Although she doesn’t consider herself to be a comic fanatic and knows that not everyone is, either, Cruz said there is something for everyone at the mini comic-con.

“I think it gives people a space to belong. Especially I think a lot of people, when you think of comic books, you think of nerds and you think of outcasts, and it’s really easy to be isolated in that kind of mindset,” Cruz said. “And when you come together for a con, it’s like, ‘Oh, here are my people.’ [ …] So there’s a place for everyone here.”

Cruz’s words rang true, as it seemed as though anyone and everyone was present at RodCon. Visitors sported cosplay of all kinds, from more popular characters like Mary Poppins and Spiderman, to lesser-known characters from anime, video games and a plethora of other universes.

One attendee, Heather Hammersley, cosplayed as a skeleton named Sans from the video game “Undertale.”

“It takes far too long to do the makeup, and this is actually my first time ever cosplaying him in public,” said Hammersley, a UNI senior majoring in earth science. “It’s an escape because you don’t have to be yourself while you’re in character and you can just appreciate all the other characters that you might know, that you might recognize.”

This was Hammersley’s third time at RodCon, and she said she plans to attend more cons in the future.

“I love seeing everyone else’s cosplays; it’s really enjoyable,” she said. “I like to see the stuff that people have worked on, and all the crafts and stuff that they bring.”

Among the crowd favorites of the day were the costume contests held on the main stage. This year’s RodCon offered a new category for teens, in addition to the children and adult divisions of previous years.

According to Cruz, one of the new features of this year’s RodCon were additional activities geared more towards teens and tweens, such as a facilitated Dungeons and Dragons game.

For the youngest of geek culture fans, RodCon offered a Kid’s Zone with crafts facilitated by UNI art students, including Harry Potter brooms and Pokemon stress balls, to name a few. The Spectrum Project also offered a quiet room for those seeking a sensory-friendly space.

This year’s RodCon featured a total of 52 vendors — both new and returning — selling art, books, games and more.

Ongoing events throughout the day included a green screen photobooth, trivia of all kinds, board games and video games, the Wall of Comic Art, a silent auction and an “escape room in a box.” Attendees were able to enjoy demonstrations from the UNI Sword-Fighting Club, witness a “Hogwarts Potions Class” by the UNI chapter of Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society and hear music from the UNI Pep Band. Various panels and presentations covered topics ranging from “Women in the Comic Book Industry” to “Black Panther and Black Excellence.”

The full day of activities was completely free and open to the public. Cruz stressed the crucial role of sponsors in keeping it that way.

“We rely on a lot of businesses to help us out, and we’ve been able to grow a lot because of that,” she said. “And so, we really appreciate all of that support that we’re getting both on campus and off campus.

RodCon 2019 was sponsored by The CW Cedar Rapids, 93.5 The Mix, Video Games ETC!, Copyworks, the Cedar Falls Tourism & Visitors Bureau, the College Hill Partnership, The CORE, Escapology and Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center.

Although RodCon’s average yearly attendance of 3,000 appears to have library bursting at the seams, Cruz says the planning committee hopes to continue expanding the event.

“We might look at different ways that we can use the library, possibly partner with other places on campus to actually have a bigger footprint for it would be really great,” she said. “We want it to keep growing and keep being a big thing.”

The seventh annual RodCon will be held on March 28, 2020.