PEORIA — Amid a sea of color and cosplay at PeoriaCon, one character stood head and shoulders above the rest:
In part, that’s because he was more than 7 feet 4 inches tall, towering over hundreds of visitors and merchants at PeoriaCon, a gathering Saturday at Exposition Gardens for aficionados of comic books, games, anime, collectibles and other fun. The wookiee was part of a booth run by the Peoria contingent of 501st Legion, an international club devoted to “Star Wars” cosplay.
At mid-afternoon, club member Marc Casey, 51, was inside the Chewbacca outfit, which includes 10 inches of stilts. He had taken over for fellow member Brad Hartsock, who was worn out from a long shift of shaking hands and taking photos with PeoriaCon guests.
“It’s really hot in there,” said Hartsock, 53. “It gets really sweaty.”
But Chewie draws attention for the realism of the costume, which was handcrafted by Hartsock’s wife, Charlotte Hartsock, also on hand Saturday. The wookiee’s long, flowing locks were attached to an underlying mesh grid, sort of like a latch-hook bodysuit. Creating the hirsute ensemble took 40 hours a week for a year — essentially, a full-time job.
“That was the first one,” Charlotte Hartsock said. “The second one only took seven months.”
The wookiee had plenty of company among comic characters. Good guys (Captain Marvel, three Ghostbusters, Deadpool) seemed outnumbered by villains (Darth Vader and multiple Stormtroopers, Scarecrow, The Riddler). But everyone played nice.
Guests ranged from wee ones to old-timers. Vendors hawked art, comics, action figures, games and other memorabilia. Several clusters of attendees engaged in fantasy card and tabletop games.
Organizer Jason Johnson called it a good mix. Peoria doesn’t have a successful record with such events, which tend toward one niche or another. But in appealing to various interests, the inaugural PeoriaCon — which Johnson hopes to make an annual gathering — drew a nice crowd. More than 700 people paid $10 apiece from the 10 a.m. opening through 1 p.m., and more streamed through the doors as the assembly pushed toward the 5 p.m. conclusion.
“We’re trying to appeal to many genres,” Johnson said.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.