published Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Fantasy comes alive at Con Nooga in Chattanooga

Sarah Heming, dressed as Loki, Ben Rumsey, dressed as Thor, and Terry Sherer, dressed as Hulk, from left, pose for a attendee of Con Nooga to take their photo at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.
Sarah Heming, dressed as Loki, Ben Rumsey, dressed as Thor, and Terry Sherer, dressed as Hulk, from left, pose for a attendee of Con Nooga to take their photo at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.
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    Patrick Hackett looks through Star Wars action figures at Con Nooga at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
    enlarge photo

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    Carl and Diana Daniels, both dressed as dark elves, pose for an attendee of Con Nooga to take their picture at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
    enlarge photo

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    Susan Stringer, left, poses for a photo with Megan Kirk, right, at Con Nooga at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
    enlarge photo

IF YOU GO BOX

What: Con Nooga

When: Continues today, 9 am to approximately 4 pm.

Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St., and Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

Cost: $15 (without a Con Nooga badge)

Website: www.ConNooga.com

Masses of costumed superfans converged on the Scenic City this weekend for the seventh annual Con Nooga convention.

Conventiongoers, ranging in age from the young to the young-at-heart and dressed to represent their favorite characters and creations from entertainment genres ranging from Disney cartoons to gory horror flicks, filled the shops and streets downtown around the Convention Center and Chattanooga Choo Choo.

"The thing that draws me here is basically like-minded people who come here for the fun and the adventure of the sci-fi and the fantasy thing," said Jacob Whitt, 27, an employee in the emergency room at Erlanger hospital who was dressed as Powdered Toast Man from "Ren & Stimpy." "It's amazing to come here and see all the different costumes, and all the people here who do a lot of well-crafted, handmade costumes of their own."

And the fan costumes are an event in and of themselves, as cosplay -- short for costume play, where fans dress up as characters from books, movies, television, comics, videogames and other media -- has created its own attraction among conventiongoers.

"It's a creative outlet, and it's fun to dress up and pretend to be other characters," said Cassandra Bryson, a 30-year-old auditor for a finance company and paranormal investigator from Cleveland, Tenn.

"You become that character, and it's fun!" continued Bryson, who was in costume as Black Cat from "The Amazing Spiderman."

The Con, which covers 46,000 square feet at the Convention center and has filled the Chattanooga Choo Choo and surrounding hotels, is estimated to draw more than 3,000 attendees, said James Burns, the security shift leader for the convention.

And unlike many similar conventions, Con Nooga doesn't aim to serve a specific genre or theme.

"Rather than specializing in anime con or horror con or sci-fi con or Dr. Who con, this is deliberately meant to be a little bit of everything, so something for everybody," Burns said.

The two big-name attractions at this year's convention are a lifesize replica of the 1966 Batmobile and a meet and greet with Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl Grimes on AMC's "The Walking Dead," and both are available for photos. Also among the exhibition tables, fans could meet with sci-fi and fantasy authors, artists, actors and independent film producers.

The three-day convention also features vendors, panels and classes, burlesque shows, gaming, movies, bands, a costume contest, parties and dances.

Additionally, auctions of fan- and vendor-donated items are held to raise funds for charity. The funds raised will go to help local organizations such as the Hamilton County Special Tactics and Rescue Service, the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga and the Walter E. Boehm Birth Defects Center.

"The lesser-known local charities is who we're interested in helping," Burns said. "Putting money back into the community."

And it's not just the lesser-known charities that appeal to people involved with the convention -- some fans also prefer the lesser-known characters.

"There's a lot of characters like Batman, Superman, all those other huge, iconic characters, but there's so many other characters out there," Bryson said. "So when you get to the ones that aren't as mainstream, it's always awesome."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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