Last July I discovered that I was not alone in the state of Maine. That there were indeed geeks living among us! I discovered that Maine has its very own convention in the form of PortConMaine organized by someone who I worked with at my day job. Julie York and her husband, Ryan, own Weekend Anime in Westbrook, Maine. They’re avid gamers, new parents, and in their spare time, convention rock stars. As someone who never quite manages to get down to Boston for PAX, and gazes longingly at the pictures of SDCC, I was beyond excited to find out that there was a con right in my back yard. PortCon started in 2002 and calls itself a “celebration of geek culture interests including anime, gaming, science fiction, costuming, fantasy, video gaming, boffer combat, comics, pop culture, steampunk, and more!”
PortCon offers everything that its bigger brothers and sisters around the U.S. do. Purchase costume supplies, games, clothes, toys, figures, and well, pretty much anything you can think of from vendors based locally as well as some from further afield. There is always a solid roster of special guests. This year’s list includes anime voice actress Cherami Leigh and novelist Keith R.A. DeCandido. The schedule is a thing of beauty with time for gaming, panels, and a variety of cosplay events. One of the highlights of the event is the parade and fashion show. Cosplayers line up on Saturday morning for a march from the hotel to a nearby mall. Once there, participants vie for prizes in a fashion show. The event is sponsored by Newbury Comics and the Maine Mall.
This year’s convention runs from June 20 to June 23 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in South Portland. I got together with Julie recently to ask her a few questions.
GM: What led you to start PortCon?
JY: I ran an event at UMF called New England Mini-Con. It was the first anime convention in New England, back in March 1999. I had a lot of fun doing it and found out that I really, really, REALLY enjoy planning and organizing events. When I graduated college, I was already thinking of how to get a Gen Con style event in Maine.
GM: When was the first time you looked around and thought, “We’ve done it”?
JY: The year I started reserving hotel rooms for staff was the year I thought we finally made it.
GM: What seems to be the most popular thing at PortCon?
JY: Wearing costumes and having fun is the most popular thing to do at PortCon. We’re much more laid back and smaller in scale than larger events, so we’re a lot more friendly and community oriented. The most popular events include: Extreme Geek (an 18+ gameshow that’s hilariously crude), the Techno Dance Party (our rave without the implications of drugs the term “rave” gives), and the cosplay parade (the costume contest on Saturday).
JY: Seeing everyone once a year and celebrating all the things we like to do. I love how it’s not JUST one hobby, how we try hard to include everyone.
GM: Is PortCon family friendly? Do you allow for strollers?
JY: It is family friendly but strollers would not fit in our current venue. At the moment the largest venue in southern Maine that will host us is the DoubleTree, and once we’re all packed in it’s not particularly stroller friendly. The Holiday Inn is the next step in terms of a bigger space but they recently denied our group’s request to move there. There are over 2,000 people [in attendance], so strollers are a no go. I usually suggest that parents use baby slings or carriers. People will move if strollers are there, but it is very crowded.
GM: What do you hope people get out of PortCon?
JY: I hope they have fun, meet people, and they find something they love and something they might love in the future. I want them to experience new things as well as things they already know.
GM: Do you go in costume?
JY: Yup! If I have time.
JY: Cthulhu. (pictured here)
GM: What is your costume this year? Will your son and husband be in costume?
JY: I might not do one. I’m finding it hard to sew and have an infant. I have craft club time so maybe if I can do something quick. I was thinking of having my husband and son be in a matching costume of some kind: maybe Max and a Wild Thing? Or Nunu from League of Legends? Again, I’m the one who sews so it depends. It’s “A Year of Decadence” so I already have my fancy dress… The Geekling will only be coming on Sunday because he’s so young and we’ll be so busy.
GM: What are you most looking forward to this year?
JY: Seeing all my once a year convention friends. 🙂
GM: You’re a geek mom; what do you geek out over most?
JY: Events, fishing, hunting, family, and certain TV shows. Dr. Who and Game of Thrones are my current must-see shows.
I’ll be attending this year on behalf of GeekMom and PortCon would like to give a local GeekMom reader the chance to come along as well. Just leave a comment on this post and a winner will be selected at random. Open to U.S. residents only. A valid email address must be provided. Comments will be closed at midnight on June 18th.