Athens’ own pop culture convention creates a fantasy world where attendees bond over their love of cosplay, fandoms and anything nerdy.
Ratha Con is a pop culture convention that started out with a focus on local artists, musicians and vendors, but in the past eight years has evolved into much more. The convention is a place where people can connect with one another over their shared interests of anything and everything related to comics, games, TV shows and movies. The 8th annual Ratha Con will take place Saturday at the Athens Community Center.
Ratha Con was started by the staff of ARTS/West eight years ago. Since then, Ratha Con has grown every year with attendance up to 700 people from all over Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Last year, Ratha Con became a non-profit organization. The organizers plan to give part of the proceeds from this year’s convention to Stuart’s Opera House’s arts education program.
If you go:
What: Ratha Con
When: 10 a.m., Saturday
Where: Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St.
Admission: $10 adults, $7 children
From the beginning, Ratha Con wanted to help local pop culture artists, and Alyse Carter wanted to make sure that was still the goal of the convention.
“Whether it’s a comic, costume or music artist, we want to promote them,” Carter, vice president of Ratha Con, said. “As long as it’s pop culture-themed, we wanna use the money to showcase them.”
This year’s convention will include a variety of tables for authors and artists, a costume contest for children and adults, and different workshops and panels where people can learn about what makes a hero and how to apply basic special effects makeup.
“We have a lot of photo-ops, including a life-sized Tardis from Doctor Who, music performances, as well as board and video game tables,” Carter said. “Everything and anything nerdy is happening.”
Ratha Con will feature special guests James Patrick, a former freelance artist for DC Comics, and Shawn Langley, an Upper Deck sketch card artist. The convention will also have David Pancake, a fantasy artist and sculptor, who will hold a demo on how he sculpts his fantastic creations.
A favorite sight of Carter’s to witness at Ratha Con are the amazing cosplayers who come decked out in their homemade costumes.
“You wouldn’t think this little town has these amazing people that are incredible cosplayers,” she said. “I’m always impressed with the extent some people go with their costumes.”
Carter herself is a big cosplayer, but unfortunately doesn’t have enough time to make a costume this year. Her most recent cosplay character was Dolores Abernathy from the TV show Westworld.
“I probably put 50 to 60 hours of sewing into it, but that’s probably on the lighter side of some of the ones I’ve seen,” Carter said.
It’s not required for attendees to dress up, but it’s an element of Ratha Con Carter believes brings people together.
“You have people who are really excited about costuming, and sometimes you might feel like you’re a nerd at home,” Carter said. “And then you go to a place like Ratha Con, and you realize there’s other people that love the exact same things as you do.”
Kelly Lawrence, the president of Ratha Con, was one of the original founders of the pop culture convention back when it was at ARTS/West. Seeing how much it has grown the past eight years has brought Lawrence much happiness.
“My favorite thing is, I always see little kids come in, and their eyes just turn into saucers,” Lawrence said. “That is my favorite thing to see; how happy those little kids are. And I see it on a lot of adults’ faces too.”
Lawrence has also seen how Ratha Con has benefited all kinds of people, and how the convention gives them a place where they can be comfortable and have fun.
“It’s something people really enjoy, and something I’ve discovered is how good it is for people who have social anxiety issues,” Lawrence said. “They feel they have a safe place to be, and that makes me very happy too.”
Brad Amstutz is a huge comic book fan who sports a superhero covered backpack and a Spider-Man tattoo on the back of his calf. Ratha Con is a place he thinks would be just right for him.
“I really like Comic Cons because it gives people a chance to immerse themselves in the comics they love to read,” Amstutz, a sophomore studying political science, said. “I’d go to Ratha Con because it’s close by, and I love that kind of stuff. But I hope one day to go to a really big convention somewhere.”