iblings Stella Shoaf, age 13, and her nine-year-old brother Solomon, of Arvada, rarely find common interests these days. But last summer, they united in their love for all things superheroes after a trip to Denver Pop Culture Con (previously Denver Comic Con), says their mom and Colorado Parent copy editor, Lydia Rueger. “Denver Pop Culture Con was one of the only experiences that they both wanted to go to, and enjoyed equally.”
Janetta Wieneke, of Westminster, and her husband Dan, take their two daughters to Denver Pop Culture Con each year. “It’s a family tradition for us. We’ve gone to all of them since they started,” she says.
A three-day extravaganza for fans of superheroes, comic book characters, movies, television shows, and all things popular culture, Denver Pop Culture Con (DPCC) provides a lineup of activities, celebrity appearances, and educational programming for all levels of child and adult fans. “We’ve really tried to create something for everybody,” says Robert Keosheyan, marketing director for Pop Culture Classroom, the educational nonprofit that produces DPCC.
That was definitely Rueger’s experience. “Both of my children enjoyed the con, but for totally different reasons,” she says.
For her nine-year-old son, the best part was the DPCC Kids’ Lab, an approximately 10,000-square-foot space in the middle of the main floor, filled with hands-on experiences for kids, teens, and families. In addition to making slime, Rueger’s son tried virtual reality for the first time and experimented with green-screen technology, inserting himself into a movie he created.
Rueger’s daughter enjoyed the DPCC Kids’ Lab, but the 13-year-old’s favorite aspect of the convention involved meeting actress Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter movies.
Celebrity Summit gives fans an opportunity to encounter dozens of big-name celebrities. Visitors have to line up for autographs, but professional photographs can be scheduled in advance on the website.
“We always get passes to all three days, and during that time we visit with lots of stars,” says Wieneke. “We’ve met stars from Stranger Things, Val Kilmer, Sean Astin, Anthony Michael Hall, and John Cusack to name a few.”
“There are different types of guests,” Keosheyan says, pointing to artists and authors who are stationed in Artist Valley and Author Alley. While TV and film guests require fees for autographs and photo opportunities, most artists, authors, and comic creators offer free autographs, selfies, and plenty of good conversation.
Many guests participate in Q&A-style panels. This year’s con will feature 700-plus hours of panels and programming, including sessions with science fiction and fantasy authors, techniques for educators on how to incorporate pop culture in their classrooms, and discussions with filmmakers about what goes on behind the scenes in movies.
The Merchant Mesa offers a can’t-miss shopping experience where kids and adults find an array of goods, including superhero prints and T-shirts. This is where costs can add up quickly. “Our girls save up so that they can buy whatever they would like including artwork and collectibles,” says Weineke.
From monsters and cartoon characters to celebrity look-alikes, costumes are a staple at DPCC. Wieneke’s girls dress up each year, with their dad making many of their props. “Typically we make their costumes,” says Wieneke. “It’s a fun way to bond with them. Someday we’ll do a family costume, but right now the girls like to dress up in different costumes.”
“We love when cosplayers show up,” Keosheyan says. “But we also want families to understand that they don’t need to be professional cosplayers to come to the convention in costume.”
Rueger and her family didn’t dress up in 2018. “We felt comfortable in our jeans and T-shirts,” she says. After seeing so many creative costumes, though, her children are already planning their outfits for this year’s Denver Pop Culture Con.
3 Tips for Families:
- Pay close attention to the day’s schedule and carry a map so you don’t miss special events that are only offered at specific times.
- Bring snacks and drinks so you can save some money to spend it on other things.
- Consider a three-day pass, because, says Wieneke, it truly is a lot to experience in just a day.
- Check it Out:
- Colorado Convention Center. 700 14th St., Denver
- Need to Know:
- Denver Pop Culture Con takes place Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
- Adult and teen tickets range from $44 to $93.50, and a three-day pass for children ages three to 12 is $8.25. Babies and toddlers under age three get in free.
- Insider Secret:
- Denver Pop Culture Con draws large crowds, and Saturday is typically the busiest day. For a more casual experience with shorter lines, try visiting on Friday or Sunday.