For most of Saturday afternoon, the streets around the Sacramento Convention Center looked more like the "Star Wars" cantina than the winter gloom of downtown.
Thousands of Japanese anime fans, video game enthusiasts and devotees of science fiction many donning exquisite costumes flocked to the convention center, site of the SacAnime festival.
More than 10,000 people were expected to attend the three-day convention, which started Friday. The convention's popularity has risen quickly so much so that it necessitated a move to the convention center from its former base at the Woodlake Hotel. Last year, 7,700 attended the semiannual convention, held in August and January.
A hallmark of the anime convention is the willingness of its fans to produce and wear intense and vivid costumes.
One of the most professionally rendered belonged to 36-year-old Ron Garrido, a postal worker from San Jose.
Garrido was dressed, head to toe, as King Boo from the "Mario Bros." video game franchise.
A self-taught costume-maker, Garrido fashioned the white, ball-shaped head, replete with extruding tongue, from a hamster ball. The costume took 60 days to complete, and closely matched the video game character.
"Some people have tried to commission me to do costumes for them, but I just don't have the time to do it even if I wanted to," he said.
Garrido said he has been to just about every anime and comic book festival in the nation from Seattle to Florida. "I usually only do the larger cons like Comic-Con but I wanted to check this one out," he said.
The opportunity to make costumes is a job that 22-year-old anime fan Ariel Wilson relishes.
Wilson was attending in a Hatsune Miku costume. That character is one of the mascots from Yamaha's voice synthesizer Vocaloid.
"I like to dress up," Wilson said.
Wilson ran out of time to sew her own costume for the convention. Instead, she shelled out $120 for the costume and another $20 for the green wig that completes it.
"When I started making costumes I realized I had a knack for sewing and a love for it," said Wilson, who works as a bank loan processor. "I would really like to get into doing costumes or commissions, or sewing for theater."
Ibrahim Mumir, a 19-year-old from Fairfield, came dressed as a variant of Boba Fett the metal-clad bounty hunter villain who appeared in both "Star Wars" films "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."
The Fett costume was homemade and took 1 1/2 years to finish, Mumir said. He had to buy and mold several grades of plastic to complete it.
The costume drew more than just stares.
"It's kind of how I got my girlfriend," Mumir said.
He said he met his girlfriend at a similar convention last year in San Jose.
"It was at a rave. She was dressed as Liz from the 'Soul Eater' manga series. I asked her to dance," he said.
The two have been together for seven months.
The convention was not all about costumes. The convention offered classes, performances, guest speakers and competitions.
And like nearly every convention, there were wares for sale. One of the more interesting vendor tables belonged to comic book artist Donovan Patterson.
Patterson, 31, a recent transplant from Pontiac, Mich., was eager to show off his comic books and drawings - and was one of the few black comic book artists at the convention.
"There are not many African Americans that do a lot of manga work," said Patterson of the Japanese-style comics. "When you read a lot of manga, the artists get into a lot of Chinese and Japanese mythology but there is not a big play on African mythology."
Patterson is focused on changing that with his "African Voodoo Girl" series, which tells a tale about a girl raised in the U.S. sent back to Africa and forced into a polygamous marriage. Another comic series explores a world where terminal cancer patients smoke marijuana and gain certain powers that allow them to help mankind.
"I'm just trying to come up with something original and new," he said.
Where: Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St.
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today
Cost: Admission $15