Education and nerd culture collide at third annual event
Greater Fort Erie Secondary School library technician Matthew Vandervoet, second from left dressed as the Riddler, is joined by students, from left, Nicholas Gauthier, Jack Antaya, Tyler Horton and, in front, Shawn Petroff to promote the District School Board of Niagara's FanCon, which takes place Saturday, April 13 at GFESS. - Richard Hutton/Metroland
These days, it’s cool to be a nerd, but it wasn’t always that way.
“When I was a student in school, it was about the athletics,” said Matthew Vandervoet, the library technician at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School (GFESS). “I felt the nerdier kids were always overlooked.”
That’s not the case. Nerd culture, populated with superheroes, science fiction, cosplay, LARPing (live action role playing), video games and more are no longer the uncool thing. Comic cons, including the annual con held each summer in Niagara Falls, have become big business.
“I go to a lot of cons myself,” Vandervoet said. “At one there was a class on how to make armour.”
A conversation with and staff member at the District School Board of Niagara and one question sprang to mind.
“Why aren’t we doing this?” Vandervoet said.
That was five years ago. After marinating on the idea for a couple of years, Fan Con, now in its third year, was born. The one-day event, which takes place this year of Saturday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will be open to the public for the first time.
The approach to FanCon is education-based, Vandervoet said. Celebrity guests are brought in not only to discuss their work, but how they got there and the skills they needed to obtain to cultivate their success.
Guests on tap for this year’s event include voice actor Christian Potenza (Camp Lakebottom, Total Drama All-Stars) podcaster Tracy Gibbons (The Broadswords) and motion capture technician Andrew George (Red Dead Redemption II).
The con will also feature vendors, workshops and more, encompassing genres including television and movies, comics and anime, costuming and LARP, as well as board and video games.