First Annual Salt Lake Comic Con Breaks Records, Turns Away Thousands

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Salt Lake City’s first annual Comic Con drew a record number of eager cosplayers this week, with apparent thousands being turned away at the door on Saturday due to issues with building capacity. Previously compelled to switch venues due to unexpectedly high ticket sales, not even the Salt Palace Convention Center could contain all the costumed cargo that flooded its decks.

With between 50,000 and 90,000 tickets sold for the three-day festival, the first annual Salt Lake Comic Con has already set a record for the largest first year con. Hours after the venue opened on Saturday morning, a massive line of hopeful attendees still stretched for several blocks. Packed shoulder-to-shoulder and what seemed like miles from the front entrance (see picture above), many potential attendees were confused and frustrated, not knowing why the line refused to move, or if they were even in the right line in the first place.

Moments later, a Comic Con rep with a bullhorn announced to the crowd that they were “out of tickets”, and that no further entries to the convention would be permitted. He politely apologized, but told the crowd it needed to disperse. Keep in mind, this is thousands of people in a line stretching for several hundred yards, around a few city blocks. Many booed and yelled, holding up their pre-paid tickets in protest, and several screamed for immediate refunds (see video below).

After a brief delay, the Comic Con staff relented, announcing that they would allow anyone with a pre-paid ticket to enter. Having run out of Saturday wristbands, the staff began dispensing leftover Thursday wristbands in their place. I heard a rumor that the fire marshal had expressed concern regarding the building’s occupancy, which was essentially confirmed by press contact Kenny Caldwell, who told me via email that the convention did, indeed, reach its maximum occupancy of 48,000 for “a brief period on Saturday”, but that he was “not sure of the approximate time”. (Caldwell would not confirm how many potential attendees were turned away.)

Predictably enough, there was little room to maneuver on the convention floor on Saturday afternoon, with attendees slamming shoulders and stepping on toes. Friday (I did not attend on Thursday) was a vastly different experience, as I was able to move freely from booth to booth, talking comfortably with authors and artists. But Saturday was crazy. Finding a few feet of free space was like discovering a glorious desert oasis: somewhere you could breathe, and think, and live, and maybe check your cell phone. In short, agoraphobics should stay the hell away from the Salt Lake Comic Con.

The guest list included super-studs like Stan Lee, William Shatner, Manu Bennett (“Crixus!”), and Lou Ferigno, but based on the handful of brief interviews I had with random strangers, celebrity interaction wasn’t the primary draw. Interestingly enough, the majority of the people I spoke with cited cosplay as the main reason they came––the ability to be someone else for a few hours, as elaborately and creatively as possible. Even those who weren’t dressed up mentioned their eagerness to see those who were.

Regardless of the crowding issues, the first annual Salt Lake Comic Con will undoubtedly be viewed as an astounding success. Of the dozens I asked, only one attendee told me he wouldn’t come back next year. (And he probably will.) Based on this year’s numbers, I can only imagine that 2014’s Salt Lake Comic Con will draw bigger celebrities, bigger artists, and more out-of-staters. We’re gonna need a bigger venue.

  • HorrorFancy

    Never underestimate the power of cosplayers. High water or burning desert they, will, come…

  • spmeans

    Not all of the Salt Palace was used for Salt Lake Comic Con this year. There’s still another hall that wasn’t opened. It probably will be next year.

  • Ryan Daley

    Yes, I believe the open portion of the Salt Palace was originally set aside for the Draper cop’s funeral….before they changed the venue at the last minute.

  • PhotoVenom

    First annual?? Come on guys, I don’t expect the Washington Post in terms of journalistic basics when it comes to visiting BD daily for my horror news, but you’re better than this. As a fellow journalist and horror enthusiast, I go to this site instead of any of the others because I respect you all so much and trust what you post. You all are the pros in our eyes when it comes to this genre. But, recently in the last few months I feel like I have seen a rapid decline in simple journalistic standards found in a number of articles and posts. It has me frustrated because I love coming to this site, but simple things like a proof-read, seem to be gettting overlooked quite regularly. Good, well written articles, reviews and news posts are being overshadowded by silly mistakes more often than they should frankly. This site is the leader when it comes to horror related news, but just because the subject matter and content on the site is not of “typical standards” does not mean that professionalism and presentation should always follow in suit. You guys are the best at this shit! Give us the best version of it is all I ask!

  • molochi

    @PhotoVenom We’ll I’m told they’ve signed up for 6 years of future cons. Should be the first of an annual event barring disaster.

    @Everyoneelse
    I only went Saturday but I’ll confirm that they only had about half of the Salt Palace for the Con. The rest wasn’t closed off tho’. There was a largish (say 100 kids) group of tweens doing their anime cosplay thing and many older cosplayers hanging out in the(otherwise) empty half of the convention center. So, for geeky socialization, there was a ton of space. But you couldn’t go outside the building (on Saturday) if you didn’t want to stand in line and wait to get back in.

    Hopefully next year it’ll be the whole center. It would have been fine if they could have booked the whole thing. My understanding was they expected ~5K people and booked the convention hall in Sandy but realized their mistake and had to settle for the space they could get in SLC on shorter notice. The draw was amazing, people from all over the Midwest, Colo, Arizona, Nevada, and the West Coast. There’s a whole lotta geeks between Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego.

    Hopefully next year one of their main draws won’t decide to get married on the weekend of the Con. So the event book can list what occurs where and when.

    Also, I met many people at the con that didn’t realize that there were a ton of bars in the area. Everyone seems think SLC is dry. LOL