FantasyCon debuts in Salt Lake

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John Rhys-Davies signs autographs and meets with fans at FantasyCon. FantasyCon is a 3-day festival that debuted in Salt Lake City on July 2nd.
John Rhys-Davies signs autographs and meets with fans at FantasyCon. FantasyCon is a 3-day festival that debuted in Salt Lake City on July 2nd. (Elliott Miller)

The first-ever Fantasy Convention hit the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City this weekend, with thousands of Middle Earth lovers participating in the three-day event.

“I came to FantasyCon because I wanted to geek-out with fellow geeks,” said Dani Grange, an Ogden resident. “It has been so much fun. I got a picture with Sean Astin, and that has definitely been my favorite part. I can’t wait to come again next year.”

The convention kicked off with a Night of Dreams special preview for families with special needs children or critically ill children. In partnership with the Utah chapters of the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Helping Hands, FantasyCon welcomed children of all ages and disabilities to experience the event free of charge and free of the crowds.

A three-story-tall dragon, face-painting, glass blowing, Jedi battles, Disney princesses and more contributed to an unforgettable night.

“This is such a cool event for the kids and something I am definitely going to volunteer for again next year,” said Kayla Whitledge, from West Valley, a volunteer at the Dragon Training Academy booth.

Elijah Wood, Frodo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, DJed the kickoff party at The Complex opening night. The launch was open to fans of all ages and rocked on until after midnight.

Panels, vendors, cosplay, parades and celebrities filled the last three days of FantasyCon.

“I feel great about being a part of the first FantasyCon. This is my first time in this part of the states, and the people have been so nice and friendly. Flying in was spectacular and reminds me of my home in New Zealand,” said Peter Hambleton, Dwarf Gloin in “The Hobbit” film series.

Live action role-players compete in the Battle Arena at FantasyCon. (Elliott Wood)
Live action role-players compete in the Battle Arena at FantasyCon. (Elliott Miller)

“This is my second time in Salt Lake, and it has been fantastic. I love the city; there are so many lovely and nice people. I would love to come back next year,” said William Kirchner, Dwarf Bifur in “The Hobbit” film series.

Fans dressed in their fantasy best for the convention. Jedi, Trekkies, Orcs, elves, zombies, princesses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and hobbits larped their way through the convention.

“FantasyCon has definitely been one of the most impressive conventions I have been to; they did an incredible job. Along with seeing the fans, it is great to see the people from the movie again, and I am just delighted to be here. This is my second time to Salt Lake,” said Graham McTavis, Dwarf Dwalin in “The Hobbit” film series.

A Middle Earth panel was held in the main ballroom on Thursday, the largest gathering of Middle Earth actors, artists and writers ever at a convention.

“We must acknowledge Mr. Tolkien because he is the true starter of FantasyCon. He invented worlds and languages and loved fairies. He didn’t invent wizards, but the wizards he wrote became ‘The Wizards,'” said Josh Patel, founder of FantasyCon, at the panel.

Stars commented on their experiences making fantasy films.

“Making the films was such an adventure; it was just so wonderful,” said Billy Boyd, who played Peregrin “Pippin” Took in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “We had tons of laughs and support and fun.”

Royd Tolkien, great grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, also attended the convention and led the July Fourth FantasyCon parade as grand marshall.

The convention wrapped up Saturday night with a street party and fireworks show at The Gateway.

“FantasyCon is amazing; much bigger than I was expecting. This is my first time in Utah, and everyone has been so lovely. I would love to come back next year to FantasyCon,” said Adam Brown, Dwarf Ori in “The Hobbit” film series.

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