'Getting our geek on': Fandemic Tour draws thousands of cosplayers, comic book lovers

Where can you find Spider-Man waiting for the bathroom, Disney princesses buying snacks and Stormtroopers patrolling the hallways?

Among towering shelves of toys, shirts, jewelry and – of course – comics, visitors of all ages perused merchandise and snapped photos with celebrities this weekend at the inaugural Fandemic Tour at the Sacramento Convention Center.

Thousands of cosplayers, comic book fanatics and movie lovers assembled for the three-day celebration of pop culture and geekiness.

"It's a great getaway to celebrate not only comics and movies, but it's a great way to meet people and have fun," said Rigo Davalos, 33, of Vallejo, who was wearing a skintight red-and-yellow costume with antennae and a hammer. He explained he was dressed as El Chapulín Colorado from the Mexican comedy series – think of Ant-Man, he said.

"It's a good break in the monotony of a Monday through Friday job," Davalos said.

Nearby, walking down the hall together was a pair of princesses: Merida from "Brave" and Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."

"We're a big group of friends that like to cosplay together," said Belle – Chris Tell, 29, of Chico. She said the Disney princess ensemble, which planned to compete in the costume contest, included other women at the convention playing Mulan, Ariel from "The Little Mermaid" and Meg from "Hercules."

"A lot of us have theater backgrounds, music backgrounds," Tell explained. "My friend's a hairdresser, another one's a makeup artist, so we all go out together."

Miranda Herman of San Jose dressed as Princess Sailor Moon at Fandemic Tour at the Sacramento Convention Center on June 23, 2018. Autumn Payne The Sacramento Bee

Fandemic attendees also had the chance to meet a variety of actors in small booths at the back of the cavernous exhibit hall, from James Marsters of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and Marvel's "Runaways" to Robert Englund, best known for portraying Freddie Krueger in "Nightmare on Elm Street."

At the front of the hall, Russell from Pixar's "Up" posed for a photo. Another cosplayer pet Kevin, the tropical bird from the movie that Russell – also known as Steve Gonzales – made out of a pool noodle and insulation foam.

"I've been Russell, the little boy, for a couple years now, and everybody kept asking me where the bird was," explained Gonzales, a 60-year-old from Freemont. "The bird's almost a year old, he'll be a year old in October. The bird took about six months 'cause it's all hand-layered."

Gonzales' wife, Janet, was not dressed up – "It's not my thing," she explained – but was there for support.

"She's my handler," Steve said. "This costume, I can't do anything by myself. ... She makes sure that I drink water and eat."

Some cosplayers dress up for a purpose. Members of the "Ghostbusters" exhibit, complete with the Ecto-1a truck and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the movie, are part of a charity fan group called the Sacramento Ghostbusters.

Ghostbuster Shawn Pugh, 32, said that besides going to conventions and "getting our geek on," the group has worked with the Women's Club of Citrus Heights and the California Highway Patrol's annual toy drive, but will help anyone out.

"Last year was a big year for us because of the Santa Rosa Fire. We actually did a massive toy drive for them," said Pugh, a Sacramento resident. "That entire back of that truck was loaded. It was about 110 toys we collected and donated to the Santa Rosa area."

Pugh said he's always wanted to be the one to call when there's something strange in the neighborhood.

"Something when I was a little kid just stuck to me. When I grew up, I wanted to be a ghostbuster," said Pugh, who has attended more than 20 comic cons in the past two years. "And now my dream's come true."

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