Celebrities, games and more at this year's Conapalooza

Matthew Lane • Oct 9, 2018 at 8:00 PM

KINGSPORT — Organizing any type of convention or expo is both challenging and stressful. Not only do you have to recruit vendors, enlist special guests and celebrities, schedule daily activities and do promotional work, but you also have to literally run the event — and most likely be on site 24 hours a day until its conclusion.

And then the minute it’s over, you pretty much have to start thinking about next year’s event. It’s definitely a major undertaking.

Which is why the chairman of Conapalooza — Rob Metcalfe of Greeneville — has my thanks and gratitude for all of the work he and his hundred-plus workers and volunteers have put in over the years to make the upcoming pop culture convention a reality.

“It’s no small feat to pull this thing off. That’s for sure,” Metcalfe told me during a recent interview promoting the event.

And the best part about this year’s Conapalooza? It’s in Kingsport, at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center, just a few miles from stately Lane Manor.

“(MeadowView) gave us more room, so we’re able to get more vendors, add more events,” Metcalfe said. “We did more than we anticipated last year, and we packed the Holiday Inn (in Bristol, Va.). We just needed more room for folks to move around, and we wanted to bring in more vendors. Bigger name guests need more room too.”

This second annual Conapalooza boasts more than 300 hours of programming during the three-day weekend (Oct. 12-14). Excluding vendors, activities will be going on 24 hours a day at the convention. More than 1,600 people attended last year’s event, and with the move to the larger facility, Metcalfe said he’s hoping to bring in at least 2,000.

“We’ve been going to these things for 10 years, but we always had to travel so far to go to them. This is such a nice area, it really needed something,” Metcalfe said of why he decided to create Conapalooza. “We just wanted to bring something that was everything we love to travel to home for everybody else to enjoy.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the notable events taking place at Conapalooza this year:

Celebrities: Ernie Hudson is probably the biggest name on the celebrities list. Any child of the ’80s knows him as Winston Zeddemore from the two Ghostbusters movies. Other celebrities include the original red and black rangers and Zordon from the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” TV show, the actors who played Bib Fortuna and Salacious Crumb in “Return of the Jedi,” YouTube star Diemon Dave, a couple of “The Walking Dead” actors and Veronica Taylor, the voice of Ash from Pokemon.

“We try to be very careful (with our celebrity guests),” Metcalfe said. “We want to try and hit multiple genres to attract the biggest crowd possible. In most cases, we try and bring in more than one from a certain series to draw more people from that fandom out to the show.”

Vendors: The artists’ alley will have a dozen participants, while a quick look at Conapalooza’s website shows slightly more than 100 vendors are expected to be on site, selling their wares and services. From the list, I see toys, video games, comic books, plush toys, costuming items, candy, T-shirts, jewelry and books.

Events: Conapalooza will feature three costume contests — one for children and two for adults (one being late-night, adult-themed). A Stormtrooper ball and auction will take place from 8 to 11 on Saturday night. All proceeds will go toward Waiting to Hear, a nonprofit organization that helps deaf and hard of hearing children in our area.

Gaming: Two rooms will be running 24 hours a day during the convention for gaming — one for consoles and the other for stand-up arcade games. If you want to take a break from the electronics, you can always try your hand at Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Heroclix and Malifaux next weekend.

For more information about the event, visit www.conapalooza.com.