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Friends of the Fair are hard at work planning a community event that benefits everybody. Left to Right are Ricca Charlon, Chip Holloway, Nick Wakley, Tony Brown, Scott Miller, and Deanna Lukens. / Laura AustinPhoto

Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival coming to DEF May 4

News Review Staff Writer –
It will be a family affair when you join all of your favorite superheroes at the Ridge-Con Fantasy Festival (Festival) at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds & Event Center on May 4 from 10 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $20, but keep reading to learn how you can get a discount.

The date, May 4, may resonate with some readers who are fans of Star Wars and say, “May the Fourth be with you.” This ties into the sci-fi imagination associated with the Festival.

There will be a dizzying amount of events within the event to keep you and yours entertained. If you choose to participate in cosplaying, you get a $5 discount at the door. This writer didn’t know what cosplay is, so Nick Wakley, Director on the Board of Friends of the Fair who hosts the Festival, tells us. “It is just costume play.  If you’re dressed up as a character, like on Halloween, you’re technically cosplaying.” (Who doesn’t like playing dress-up?) You can head to Joshua Hall to participate in a cosplay contest. “We have prizes at $500, $300, $100 for adults, and then we have a kid’s cosplay contest.

“This contest specifically is meant to represent a hero or somebody that you like and everybody knows. People will build elaborate costumes. They get to showcase their artistic work in this. So this is a contest to see whose artistic work put the most effort and time and who did the best. There’ll be a panel of three judges.” The judges are Nino Agostinacci, a special effects artist, a professional cosplayer, Darren Smith, who has been recognized by Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel Universe, and then Mayor Eric Bruen. “The person will get to do their cosplay. They’ll perform a little bit, and then the judges will ask them questions. And they will be judged on that. It’s free to enter.”

But wait. There’s much more going on in Joshua Hall. “Fistful of Cards is taking over Joshua Hall so that big hall is going to be full of tabletop gaming.” Games include Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering card tournaments, Pokemon tournaments, and the new Star Wars game. “The mayor is actually going to be playing cards against people.”

Almost all of the fairgrounds will be populated with events. “You can expect to walk in and, hopefully, have your imagination transported out of the desert into a time period of Renaissance and see your favorite characters. So that’s the Comic-Con blend.  When you first come the in the gate, what will happen is if you’re dressed up and have weapons like, let’s say you’re playing a knight, and you have a sword, then we do what’s called peace bonding. We attach the sword by string or whatever to your costume to make sure that you are not drawing it. You know, no sharp weapons are allowed.

“Then you’ll go through the gate. On the left, you’re going to see the SCA, which is the Society of Creative Anachronism. They’re going to be holding archery over on the left, and anybody who is six years old and above can participate in any of the demos that they have going on. And then, on the left in Desert Valleys Hall, you’re going to have vendors. We have 40 slots for vendors. Then, one-half of the building will be a court procession from the SCA. They’re going to do court proceedings and a herald call. They’re also going to do demonstrations of different things like brewing mead. They might have how to make armor and things like that.”

Partners Bar will be on hand. “We’ve got a bunch of pint cattle horn mugs that we’re going to be selling to raise money, and they’re going to be $20. And you can get mead that we’re going to get from the Twisted Horn in San Diego. So we bought a keg of that so you can get real mead, and then all the other beer you can get from Partners or drinks; they are donating 25% of the proceeds back to the Friends of the Fair. All the money that we raise is going back to Friends of the Fair.

“We’ll also have special appearances by a lady that’s coming out of Kansas City. Her name is Martica Daniels. She is a motivational speaker, sword swallower, fire spinner, and barbed wire hula hoop dancer. She can cut vegetables on her arm. We’ve got a harpist coming. Her name is Kathleen Finnegan. She allows people to come up and check out her harp, and kids can play it a little bit. She has a speaker system attached to it.

  “On the grounds where we normally watch our concerts and our fireworks, that’s going to be completely filled with the SCA doing fighting tournaments. So the Knights will be out there fighting. They’ll have rapier tournaments. And then there might be a special appearance from a dragon.”

Wakley joined the Friends of the Fair last August. “I just felt like I could add to it. As far as advertising expertise, you know, getting funds and things like that and helping organize the events.  I think my skill has always been networking.” Also on the Board who are making this event happen are Manager Chip Holloway, President Ricca Charlon, Scott Miller, Deanna Lukens, Chair-elect Vice President Tony Brown, and Scott Miller.

“Friends of the Fair is a nonprofit arm of the fairgrounds,” says Wakley. “So the fairgrounds is, I believe, a State program. However, the State doesn’t heavily fund fairgrounds; they are self-sustaining in a way, so they have to make money. Our job is to raise money to maintain, fix and improve the fairgrounds. And we can’t think of a better way to do that than to put on a community event that benefits everybody, right? So instead of just running around asking for money, like we normally do, we wanted to do an event and give back.“ The Friends of the Fair invested heavily so that this event can attract out-of-towners and local residents can be proud.

Next on the agenda for Friends of the Fair is a fireworks show in honor of the 4th of July.