SALT LAKE CITY — Saturday evening marked the end of Salt Lake City’s Comic Con, a three-day pop culture convention that attracted approximately 130,000 participants and exhibitors from all over the world.
This year’s Comic Con drew almost twice as many attendants as the inaugural event last fall, causing extreme crowding and forcing some visitors to wait hours for admittance. But despite these issues, many would say the event was a huge success.
“You people have the greatest Comic Con in the world,” said famed Marvel writer Stan Lee during his panel, eliciting cheers from the packed Salt Palace Ballroom.
Nearly every panel was filled to capacity, offering information on a multitude of topics from photography and costuming advice to Batman trivia and an exhibition of video game glitches. An array of movie and television actors appeared for photos with fans and to host their own panels.
Fans of virtually any popular entertainment franchise, comic book, movie or animation were able to find merchandise or people in costume as their favorite characters. Artists set up several rows of booths, displaying paintings and drawings or creating works on commission. Notable exhibitors included WETA Workshop of New Zealand, which created the props for “The Lord of the Rings” movies, and Evermore, an elaborate set that gave attendees a preview of its upcoming Utah adventure park.
BYU’s comedy sketch troupe, Studio C, appeared at the convention on Saturday for signings and a panel. Record-breaking event attendance, combined with the group’s widespread popularity, made it difficult for fans to meet the members and led to more than 100 people being turned away when the panel reached its roughly 1,500-person capacity. Studio C was also chosen to host part of the closing ceremony of the convention, which featured a costume contest and YouTube celebrities.
Despite the well-behaved attendees and army of volunteer organizers, Salt Lake City Comic Con 2014 still suffered some of the growing pains of its exploding popularity. Lines for registration stretched around the Salt Palace Convention Center, leaving some fans outside for hours. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowding on the show floor made traversing the convention hall difficult, especially for families attending with children. On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of attendees who returned to the Salt Palace after lunch found that the convention center was completely full, and they were not admitted back in.
“We’ve stated publicly that if people want their money back, we’ll do that,” said event co-founder Bryan Brandenburg. “(But) we think 98 percent of the people are satisfied.”
Organizers are already planning for next year’s convention and looking into expanding the show to nearby hotels and the Energy Solutions Arena. The show currently rivals the size of the country’s biggest pop culture conventions, San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con, and could eclipse them next year if its growth rate holds steady.