A Celebration of Geek Culture: Awesome Con Returns to D.C. (photos)

After a 28-month hiatus, Awesome Con, the premier pop culture festival in Washington, D.C., returned to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this past weekend, Aug. 20 to 22.

Awesome Con began in 2013 as an upstart version of San Diego’s Comic-Con International. It started small, drawing just 7,000 and occupying an 18,000-square-foot corner salon in the convention center. By 2017, it grew to 70,000, having swallowed the entire building — all 2.3 million square feet of it.  Like many other public events in the District, and after two postponements, the 2020 convention was canceled due the novel coronavirus.

What began as an event with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture has evolved to encompass a wide range of the pop culture landscape, including animation, video games, motion pictures, toys, pop art, manga and science. As in past shows, the National Science Foundation and NASA set up informative tables in the show’s exhibit area staffed by scientists. 

CDC and local venue guidelines were adhered to including mandated masking and social distancing. Sanitation stations were ubiquitous throughout the building and eating areas were greatly expanded for safety purposes. Celebrity guests signed autographs behind plexiglass barriers, but were allowed to be maskless from the safe distance of the main stage. Cosplayers were particularly adept in working their masks into their costumes. 

According to Lauren Dabb, the director of marketing at LeftField Media, the show’s organizer, this year’s attendance is estimated at 48,000, down from recent years. However, she said, “We were focused on ensuring that the floor felt safe and comfortable at this capacity, especially for our first Awesome Con since the pandemic began…. One challenge we faced was the constantly changing landscape of Covid. There are many decisions that need to be made a year, six months, and three months in advance of the Con and that was difficult to do without knowing what was going to happen and change with Covid in that time. “

Celebrities at this year’s event included William Shatner, George Takei, Christina Ricci, Michael J. Fox and Carl Weathers, among others.

To many, the great appeal of attending a pop culture convention is the opportunity to express themselves in costume, especially on center stage during the Awesome Con Cosplay Contest on Saturday night. Cosplay, originally a Japanese word combining costume and play, is the activity of dressing up as characters from a comic book, anime, a video game or a fantasy-based movie or TV show. Costumes range from the simple to elaborate creations consuming many months of preparation in some cases.

Added Lauren Dabb: “We are committed to returning to Washington, D.C., and continuing to grow our fan community in the city. We look forward to seeing everyone again June 3 – 5, 2022!”

View Jeff Malet’s photos from Awesome Con 2021 by clicking on the photo icons below.


2 comments on “A Celebration of Geek Culture: Awesome Con Returns to D.C. (photos)”

  • LL says:

    Where are the other costume contestants

    • Jeff Malet says:

      My purpose in writing the article was to take a representative sample from the show, and the contest. This was for an article about Awesome Con so there wouldn’t be room for each of the contestants.

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