Fifth annual HawaiiCon crashes Waikoloa

  • Director Dave Minkus and programs director Jackie Seaquist share a selfie as chief financial officer David Steiner watches at the welcome ceremony for the third annual HawaiiCon Science Fiction Convention at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows. (Cameron Miculka / West Hawaii Today)
  • Justin and Talon Bugado of Hilo dress as Jawa from "Star Wars" at HawaiiCon Saturday at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today
  • Anna Lane Hall, dressed as Saki Miyu competes in the Keiki Cosplay Costume Contest Saturday at HawaiiCon at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. (Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today)
  • (Peter Chiapperino/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — A smaller convention than its more famous, mainland counterparts, granted, but this weekend’s HawaiiCon offers a more intimate setting for fans to get to know their favorite stars.

In its fifth year, HawaiiCon serves as a convention for Big Island fans of television shows, films, comics and gaming to come together and celebrate the works of pop culture they love.

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“It’s not as daunting,” Colin Ferguson said of the size at HawaiiCon, which runs Thursday through Sunday at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel in Waikoloa. “I know when I meet people, if I have questions, sometimes they don’t come up right away. So if I’m going to bump into that person three or four times over the course of a weekend, I’ll probably get the chance to ask my question. And it becomes a more satisfying experience.”

Ferguson, best known for playing the main character Jack Carter on the television show “Eureka,” is one of several actors who will be at the convention to meet fans and host workshops and panels. Other actors in attendance will be Kate Vernon, Femi Taylor, Luciana Carro, Garrett Wang, Jeff Parazzo, Kevin Duhaney, Steve Huff and Herbert Jefferson Jr.

Ferguson said conventions, even smaller ones like HawaiiCon, are a rewarding experience for the actors who attend.

“It’s not really entertainment until the audience sees it,” Ferguson said. “And if you’re doing theater you know instantly what works and what doesn’t work, and you don’t get that benefit with film and television. So it’s only by doing these conventions and interacting with the fans that you actually find out what works.”

Jefferson has been actor in the business for five decades and is most famous for his role as Lieutenant Boomer on the original, 1970s run of “Battlestar Galactica.” He often attends bigger conventions then HawaiiCon, and agrees with Ferguson’s assessment of the reward of a smaller atmosphere.

“I can only meet one person at a time. It doesn’t matter if there are 5,000 people out there or five, I’m going to enjoy their company just as much.”

Jefferson said he attends as many conventions as his professional and personal schedule allows in order to meet the fans that have made his career a success.

“I get an invitation to do a convention for a pop culture event somewhere, I like to go out and meet the fans that have made us all so very famous,” Jefferson said. “We have to thank the fans, because you guys are the ones who tune into the shows and buy the tickets. So when I get the chance to go out and do a meet and greet, shake hands and answer questions, I enjoy it.”

Also in attendance at this year’s convention will be people from the comic book and gaming industries who make their home in Hawaii. Chris Caravalho is the creator of Mana Comics, based on Oahu, and he will be in attendance this year to talk at panels on the comic book industry and how to successfully create a comic book and superhero.

“They really have a high caliber of guests, and I think it is a really good thing for Hawaii residents to be exposed to it,” Caravalho said. “It’s basically laying that foundation that people who are a fan of comics, movies and cartoons have a safe haven on the Big Island to come to and enjoy that camaraderie.”

Guests for the gaming side of this year’s convention include Stefan Pokorny, Jeff “Duck” Leason, Adam Thompson and Heidi Gygax, daughter of “Dungeons &Dragons” creator Gary Gygax.

Gygax runs her own convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, called Gary Con, where she runs games and networks with other individuals in the gaming community. As a resident of Oahu, she recognizes the need for a similar convention out on the remote islands.

“I think it’s important to have a convention here. Because, first of all, it’s fun and it’s really great for people to get together,” Gygax said. “And what I’ve learned about HawaiiCon and what I’m really looking forward to seeing is how it’s really on an educational track and it puts a lot of emphasis on children. I think it gives a lot of really positive, fun things for children to do.”

Jessica Gauthier, CEO of HawaiiCon, said the volunteer-run, nonprofit convention’s main focus is to promote STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, art and math — to adults and children alike on the Big Island.

“The thing that makes us really different from these types of conventions on the mainland or another locale, is we have a huge real science part of it,” Gauthier said. “A large percent of our programming is science talks. People love that it’s very accessible, very provocative presenters who are stars in their fields.”

Some of the scientists who will be in attendance are astronomer Lou Mayo, planetary scientist Gary Fujihara and astrophysicist George Djorgovski. Gauthier said having a science-focused convention is a natural fit for the Big Island, where geology, astronomy and oceanography studies happen all the time on the island’s volcanoes and in its ocean. Gauthier hopes the convention inspires the younger generation to continue into those fields of work.

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“When you give people something fun to do, open their minds, have them in a relaxed atmosphere and then introduce them to all the possibilities for their lives or their kids’ lives in the realms of science, art and technology, I think really amazing things can happen.”

Info: For tickets to the 2018 HawaiiCon and a full schedule of events, visit hawaiicon.com. Passes to the convention range from $15-$499. Events begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Evening events begin at 7:30 p.m.