Upon arriving in my hometown of Toronto on Friday morning, checking into my hotel and making my way down Front Street to pick up my wristband for FanExpo 2016, I was already at a level of excitement that could only be matched by the thousands in the crowds and lining the streets behind me. After waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity for my wristband, and walking through a series of security checkpoints, I entered into the upper level of the North building, where most of the vendors and celebrity guests were. This being my first experience of FanExpo, I was nothing short of taken aback at how they had transformed the 600,000 square foot Metro Toronto Convention Centre into a celebration of media, fandom and pop culture. To say the experience was overstimulating would be an understatement.
In the South building of the convention centre, fans explored the basement area of the Artists’ Alley and the massive array of exhibitor booths, including Ubisoft, EB Games, and none other than Brock University (complete with Boomer!). Upstairs on the 7th levels of the South building held smaller panel rooms as well as the Bell-sponsored Northern Arena LAN Finals, a competitive gaming tournament for teams from across the globe. Tournaments for Hearthstone, Clash Royale, and the popular Counter Strike: Global Offensive were held, with the latter being broadcasted live online.
FanExpo 2016 was a convention like no other. One of the most hyped features of the massive event being panels and meet and greets with comic book legend Stan Lee and space-age actors Mark Hamill and William Shatner. Among the sea of vendors and continuous opportunities for money-spending ($12 for an egg salad sandwich?), there was an underlying theme amongst the sea of con-goers: community and fan culture. FanExpo is not only an opportunity for fans to connect with their favourite celebrities and artists/vendors, but also to connect with one another and find mutual-interest friends. Be it through “geeky speed dating” or through cosplay ventures and even just lineups for panels and events, thousands of fans find connections in one another and leave the con after an exhausting weekend with an improved sense of belonging.