PANAMA CITY — The world hushed last Saturday evening. As I stood on the shore of St. Andrew Bay and the sun slipped behind the Hathaway Bridge like a fluorescent tomato, the incessant rumble and exclamations of the day began to fade.
Fish skipped on the rippled surface close by, and children splashed ankle-deep. Adults sat on tailgates, speaking in hushed voices, and a man in a lighted wetsuit floated on columns of water, “moon walked” and flipped.
It was a long walk back to my car, still parked in the Gulf Coast State College lot near the Student Union, where I had put it early that morning to offload books and collectibles. I had spent the day at Panama City Creative Con, which took over the Student Union and Amelia Center Theatre for comic, costume, game, film, art and other shenanigans.
It was a blast that I didn’t want to see end. From swing dancers on stage, cosplayers cramming corridors, artists working as you watched, and children coloring masks — to vendors, authors, artists, costumers, and vintage games and comics for sale.
Only the grinchiest of Grinches could look at the smiles, the energy, hear the laughs — the obvious joy so many experienced at being able to share creative pursuits that thrill them — and still be unimpressed.
Attendance hit about 1,300 paid tickets, according to organizer Jayson Kretzer, plus countless “visitors” and complimentary guests. Jayson said he received “very positive” responses from post-con surveys, as well as numerous emails, texts and messages from con-goers to thank him and his volunteer team for putting the show together.
“People loved seeing (award-winning ‘Star Wars’ and comic artist) Dave Dorman and (GCSC alumnus and movie actor) Michael Papajohn there,” Jayson said. “The kids’ room was a huge success — especially the ‘make your own costume’ part of it — and everything went off without a hitch.”
Jayson even had a few people pledge sponsorships for next year’s event, which he hopes to expand to two full days.
“One of my favorite moments took place during the Kids’ Costume Contest, where I saw multiple kids donning outfits they created that day in our Kids’ Room,” Jayson said. “It really felt like we got it right this time. We’ll keep improving of course, but we’re on a good track now.”
I can hardly wait. I even started thinking about a cosplay for next time. Consider that fair warning.