Celebrities, cosplayers, fans attend FanX pop culture and comic convention

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FanX Salt Lake, formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con, brought geeks, nerds and fans alike together to celebrate pop culture and cosplay from Sept. 22-24.

FanX is not only the most attended convention in Utah, but the largest comic convention in North America per capita.

This year’s convention was held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City and hosted several celebrities, including but not limited to Giancarlo Esposito, Steve Burns, Leslie David Baker and Stephen Amell. It also brought celebrities from popular anime Dragonball Z, My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Final Fantasy and more.

Fans could participate in guest panels, autograph signings, photo ops, gaming competitions, cosplay contests, special events, KidCon and the Film Festival. In other words, there was something for everyone.

One of Saturday’s popular panelists, Giancarlo Esposito, packed the Salt Palace Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom full, answering fans’ questions and offering inspiration, life advice and laughter. Esposito is most commonly known for his roles as Gus Fring in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and prequel “Better Call Saul,” Moff Gideon in Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” and Jorge in “The Maze Runner.”

Esposito taught fans that it is okay not to have all of the answers to the questions life brings. He said how one envisions their life is how it will be and how one sees their life is how they begin to create it. (Megan Brugger)

“All it takes is to be able to listen, and really hear — not just with your ears, but with your heart, with your eyes, with your whole body. Then inspiration comes and the right answer is always at the tip of your tongue… It’s time for us to pay attention to each other again.”

Giancarlo Esposito

Esposito taught fans that it is okay not to have all of the answers to the questions life brings. He said how one envisions their life is how it will be and how one sees their life is how they begin to create it. “What you think grows,” he said.

Another popular panelist was Stephen Amell from the CW superhero series “Arrow.” Amell answered fan questions and offered insight into what life is like on set.

“Arrow” fan and BYU economics major from Frisco, Texas Brendan Armstrong attended Amell’s panel and said he met him beforehand.

“I watched like five seasons of Arrow and he is awesome,” Armstrong said. “The coolest part of today was definitely meeting Stephen Amell — being able to see him as a real person and not just someone on my TV screen.”

Armstrong’s sister Corinne Santiago had an equally enjoyable time at FanX, getting to meet Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean.

Siblings Brendan Armstrong and Corinne Santiago enjoy their time at FanX. Armstrong and Santiago are dressed in the Surfer Boy getup from TV show Stranger Things. (Megan Brugger)

“I have always loved Backstreet Boys — for my entire life — and I got to meet AJ McLean,” Santiago said. “He was so friendly and personable and I’m glad he was as nice in person as I thought he was going to be.”

Some fans agreed that one of the best parts of attending events like FanX is people-watching, the atmosphere and making friends.

“I even made a great friend in the women’s restroom. Everyone is so friendly, outgoing, fun and creative,” Santiago said.

Aryilan Balmforth, a writing major at UVU from Pocatello, Idaho, dressed as Jong Lee from the open-world, action role-playing video game Genshin Impact. Balmforth is a regular FanX attendee, having participated in several conventions years prior and each day of this year’s convention. She likes cosplaying becausae it allows her to get in the minds of characters to improve her writing.

This year, she enjoyed seeing the different cosplays and fandom art, attending panels, writing workshops and the mock-armor battle.

“I really love to see these small business fandom artists get recognition at a big event like this,” Balmforth said.

FanX enthusiast Christopher Reynolds dressed as Ash Ketchum from the anime series “Pokemon” and said he came to see costumes, get merchandise and attend panels. While Reynolds attended all three days of this year’s convention, he said Saturday was his favorite because he got to meet some of the cast from Dragonball Z.

“I’m here because I love nerdy things,” Reynolds said. “FanX is amazing and I recommend anyone who is a nerd and anyone who isn’t or thinks they aren’t nerds to give it a try.”

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