RidgeCon celebrates fandom, pop culture
What do Pokémon, scary stories, and a sing-along tea party all have in common? They’re all part of this year’s RidgeCon pop culture and fandom celebration at the Ridgefield Library.
RidgeCon, which will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, turns five years old this month and hopes to continue attracting fans of all ages to downtown Ridgefield.
“We want people to come dressed to celebrate whatever it is they like, whatever it is they’re passionate about,” said Kristina Lareau, head of children’s services and a self-proclaimed Harry Potter fanatic.
“There are kids who come in to the library and are just discovering Harry Potter for the first time,” Lareau added, “... that fan base keeps growing, and that can be said about a lot of fan bases. The excitement around them keeps growing with each rediscovery and that’s just fun to watch.”
This year hasn’t been shy to exposing yesterday’s culture to the youth of today.
In 2019, there have been live action remakes of Aladdin and Lion King — two of the biggest movies in Disney’s cannon of animated movies — and sequels to Toy Story, The Avengers, and Spider-Man. There have been the debuts of Detective Pikachu and Captain Marvel. And, still to come, are expected sequels to Frozen and Star Wars.
RidgeCon has all the new releases covered.
Whip Salon will be hosting a Frozen-themed hair braiding exhibit from 11 to 1 in the library’s lower level. There will be a Star Wars prediction wall on the main level all day where fans can write and post theories for “Star Wars: Episode IX —The Rise of Skywalker.” For crafts, kids can decorate a bamboo spork — an environmentally-friendly nod to Toy Story’s newest character, Forky.
“We’re always tweaking and adjusting throughout the year, adapting to whatever is big at the time,” explained John Casiello, the library’s adult collection specialist. “There’s a website with all the releases to movies that are coming out in a given year so we keep a pretty close eye on that and monitor pop culture, like TV and books, for anything that’s major. If there’s something that comes up in the middle of the year and is a pretty big deal, then we have the flexibility to make last second changes.”
Out this year is the annual obstacle course on the front lawn, the prosthetic makeup demonstration that made its debut in 2018, and quidditch practice for the Harry Potter lovers.
In this year are new attractions ranging from fencing demonstrations and superhero jousting on the front lawn to “The Great RidgeCon Bake Off” in the lower level.
“It’s a take on the Great British Bake-Off,” Lareau said. “We won’t actually be baking anything though. Kids will just be decorating cookies.”
Some events are making their return after being put on the shelf, like the Pokemon tournament in the lower level, Doc McStuffins Stuffed Animal Clinic in the children’s library and Royal Tea Party with Sing-Along Story Time from 10:30 to 11:30.
“Doc McStuffins is an animal clinic where kids can take their stuffed animals for a check up,” said Lareau. “We had it in 2017 and it was extremely popular. The RVNA comes with stethoscopes and fake bandages. It’s really cute.”
Some events are being expanded like the annual cosplay and costume contest that will run from 10 to 2:45 in the main level. This year’s RidgeCon will have a costume fashion show and finale — catwalk and all, running from 3 to 3:45 p.m.
There will also be a Fandom Fight in the Bossidy Commons on the main level. What’s a Fandom Fight? If you’re familiar with the NCAA tournament bracket, then it’s a pretty familiar concept.
“People are going to vote their favorite fandoms through this bracket we’re going to have set up,” Lareau said. “Votes can be cast every hour and winners will be decided at the fashion show and finale with all the raffle winners.”
Similar to the tea party and the stuffed animal clinic, the fan bracket is a retread of an earlier idea.
“We had a tournament with characters — heroes and villains — that people voted on at the first RidgeCon,” recalled Casiello.
“...A lot of these ideas are adaptions to stuff we’ve done in the past.”
Perhaps the most tailor-made demonstration for the summer of 2019 will be the tent set up in the corner room of the children’s library. Inside the tent, attendees can read stories with flashlights and get in the mood for the new film “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” — an adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’ short stories — set to premiere Aug. 9.
“That one really timed up nicely and we’re seeing more and more people get interested in it as the film’s release gets closer and closer,” said Lareau. “It should be fun to have people camping inside the library with books and flashlights.”
Casiello, a self-described Marvel Comics fan, said something like the Scary Stories tent or the Star Wars wall are obvious activities for RidgeCon organizers who are always looking ahead on the pop culture calendar.
“The questions for the Star Wars wall will be guided, it will be fun for other people to read the notes and predictions and then make their own,” Casiello said. “It’ll be the biggest event of the year, other than when The Avengers opened [in May].”
The event Friday night is for people ages 21 or older.
RidgeCon After Dark made its debut in 2016. This year, the event will be 1980s and 1990s themed featuring a special performance from emcee Summer Orlando.
“We’re going to have 80s and 90s trivia, karaoke, and a costume contest,” Lareau said.
There will also be a photobooth, games, and themed cocktails.
There will also be fandom snacks, like Gushers and Pop-Tarts.
“We’re so excited about it” Lareau said.
Last year’s After Dark was Megagame-themed and sprawled across the library.
“We definitely wanted to centralize it some more this year,” Casiello said. “We’ve done trivia before and had the whole team dynamic and really like it so we decided to keep that idea and build off it. We added karaoke and a drag performance from Summer Orlando.”
The inspiration behind turning the trivia and karaoke 80s and 90s?
“The 80s is always a big draw and with Stranger Things just coming out we knew we would have some passionate fans of the show interested in doing trivia,” Casiello said. “We broadened it a bit to add the 90s because there was a lot of stuff in that decade that’s coming back now, too. There’s Toy Story and Lion King and The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. A lot is coming out for people who grew up as children of the 90s and that seemed very fitting for an event that’s 21 and up.”
After Dark has a capacity of about 50 people and registrations can be made online at ridgefieldlibrary.org.
“We can’t think of a better way to celebrate two decades,” Lareau said. “We know they each have pretty passionate fandoms, too.”
Casiello and Lareau do more than just keep an eye on the pop culture calendar throughout the year.
They keep RidgeCon fresh by studying the industry of comic book festivals.
Casiello makes the annual pilgrimage to New York Comic Con every fall and hopes to go the original San Diego Comic-Con next summer.
With sequels, remakes and reboots becoming more and more commonplace in Hollywood and abroad, pop culture events across the nation have to be constantly changing to meet the needs of an evolving fan bases.
“The biggest question is why do people keep gravitating towards these fandoms? And I think it’s because they are good stories and they’re good characters,” said Casiello.
Lareau has a theory, too: People can’t help themselves from walking down memory lane.
“It’s all nostalgia,” she said. “The kids who grew up watching Toy Story are now having kids, and those kids are growing up on Toy Story 4.”
For more information, call 203-438-2282 or visit ridgefieldlibrary.org.