by K. Hopson
My home state just had its first real convention, guys.
SOPOCU Con, which stands for Southern Popular Culture Convention, was on June 21 in Jackson, Miss.
Yes, I am aware Mississippi is late and infamous for underachievement. Precisely why this is a big step for us! I’m beyond pleased and proud. I don’t care how small it was! *waves I
No, but seriously, there was a good turnout for this little indie con! Very good, especially considering the organizers only had five months to put it all together. John Hanks and Jay Branch said they got about 1,800 through the doors for the one-day event by pounding the pavement and using old-school marketing tactics. It worked though, because they exceeded their 1,000 goal. applause If you want that Maserati, you better work, bish.
There wasn’t much in the way of programming, and the guests weren’t exactly what you would call an all-star lineup, but I think they made up for it with enthusiasm and informativeness. And there were a lot of cute things on sale.
As you know, that’s enough to keep me occupied for a couple of hours. I caught the panels for Q&A sessions with Mary Kate Smith and Kelsey Syers, from TBS’ King of the Nerds, and Theodus Crane (aka Big Tiny), from The Walking Dead. His panel was so endearing. The audience was kind of shy, so he ended up turning the questions on them instead of the other way around. Just adorable.
It was really cool to know that Smith is a real-live rocket scientist, and so down-to-earth and funny! I’m late on that, but I have a valid excuse since I no longer have cable. Syers also revealed that she speaks like…four languages fluently. Actually, the panel just before theirs was a lecture from Dr. Angelle Tanner about extrasolar planets in science fiction universes (and, I think, their hypothetical locations in the solar system? I only caught the end of it.) It’s always good to see chicks doing cool, smart-people shit. Now that I think about it, there was a good bit of racial and gender diversity at this con. Here’s what organizer John Hanks had to say:
“I told Jay [Branch] that I was putting the show on for selfish reasons. I basically wanted a show where I could show my daughter a bunch of cool things that come from Mississippi and the South. It was cool for me to have a female rocket scientist, female artists, and a great diversity in the vendors and artists for her to see.”
Heart-warming, right? Btw, Hanks owns a company called Southernerds, which aims to combat stereotypes about us all being unexposed, cousin-marriage-supporting hicks. (Bought one of their shirts.)
Dude also burst my bubble and revealed that this was actually not the first Mississippi con.
“It’s actually not the first Mississippi based convention, but a lot of people keep saying that. There has been the aforementioned MS Pulp Con, Mississippi Anime Invasion, and CoastCon has done like 40 conventions,” he said. “There are cons upcoming like Anime Invasion, Geekonomicon, and Hub Con. However, I will take the compliment. It means we are doing something right and our face to face, old school marketing plan is working.”
Wow, how did I not know all this?! Going to play that off now…
Hanks said they were very happy with the attendance numbers and hope to branch out next year:
“We hope to do it all over again next year and possibly expand into two days, while also leaving room to grow in the future. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and ruin the great thing we think we are building. In the future, we want to have more programming, more vendors, more options and things for people to do throughout the day. Just try and make what we did even better.”
And because I had a good time, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with for next year’s event. This will be on my to-watch list. (GO MISSISSIPPI, WOO!)
With roots in the Magnolia State, I am pleased to hear this! Hooray!