For its annual showcase event to raise funds for area charities, Clayton Rotary has gone from guns to comic book culture.
The 42nd annual Thousand Islands-Clayton Rotary Gun & Sportsman Show was held in August of 2019. The 2020 show was canceled due to the pandemic.
When the postmortem was held for 2019 event, Rotary officials decided a change was in order.
“Clayton Rotary said let’s get out of the gun and sportsman show and focus on a more family oriented event,” said Thomas LaClair, president of the service organization. “We tossed around several ideas.”
Those ideas included a drone show — an idea that fell flat.
“And then somebody mentioned, ‘How about doing a comic convention?’” Mr. LaClair said. “We at Clayton Rotary are primarily an older group. Many wondered, ‘What is that?’”
The organization invited someone who knew more about comic conventions — comic cons — to come in and talk to them.
“At the time, we agreed, let’s go for it,” Mr. LaClair said. “That was back in November of 2019, just shy of two years. We’ve been planning ever since then.”
AnchorCon, a three day comic and pop culture convention of panels, entertainment, artists, celebrities, gaming, trivia, vendors, talent meet-and-greets and other things related to the comic world, will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Cerow Recreation Arena, 615 E. Line Road.
AnchorCon features nationally known celebrities and experts. Attractions, designed for all ages, will include panels, gaming, cosplay and a “mask-erade” ball.
“We thought it would be quite the show in the beginning,” said Mr. LaClair, who has been Rotary president since July of 2020, when planning for the convention had already begun under then-president Tony Pisarski. “But it’s even gotten bigger. The more you plan, the more people hear about it and more people want to be part of it.”
Mr. LaClair said two local comic convention experts, Tanya Roy and Cindy Tyler, have joined the Clayton Rotary team to provide lots of the grunt work required to put on such a convention.
“Clayton Rotary is providing the infrastructure the finances, the volunteers,” said Mr. LaClair. “But when it comes to the true planning of this event, it falls back on Tanya and Cindy. They’ve worked so many hours. They’ve been living and breathing this for over a year.”
Ms. Tyler said the convention is a way to share a sense of community, fun and goodwill.
“Comicons have become events with the ability to bridge people past their everyday lives that are dragged down by real life struggles into something really fun and exciting to share with others,” she said. “Who doesn’t love to talk about their favorite TV shows or their favorite superheroes, and even dress up as their favorite characters? It’s something that can be shared across all ages and all walks of life. When Rotary Clayton approached us to help them build a new comicon, we knew we had found a fantastic partnership because Rotary itself is a wellspring of goodwill, honesty and excellent efforts that provide betterment of the community.”
“As a team, Cindy and I are passionate about bringing new and exciting things to the north country,” Ms. Roy said. “We don’t want people to have to drive hours away for the best entertainment and for fun events. We wanted to bring something we both love participating in to our own backyard.”
In addition to Ms. Roy, Ms. Tyler, Mr. Pisarski and Mr. LaClair, the AnchorCon planning committee consists of David Neuroth (chairman), Aileen Martin, Joe Martin and Thomas Neely.
“Meticulous and diligent planning has been in-work for nearly two years,” Mr. LaClair said. “Over a thousand hours have gone into planning the event and we are all anxious to share the event with the public.”
Vendor space at the arena, where there will be about 50 displays, sold out rather quickly, Mr. LaClair said.
“About three months ago, we had to start turning people away,” he said. “All the positions were sold out.”
As with any large event these days, AnchorCon organizers are wary of COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic.
“Thankfully, at this moment, it doesn’t seem it will be a direct effect on us,” Mr. LaClair said in late July. “But like four and six months ago, we were dancing around restrictions and contract waivers. And we’re cautious now with this Delta variant. But we don’t know what next week or tomorrow will bring. We’ve got our fingers crossed.”
AnchorCon will follow all New York State health guidelines. Guidelines do not require masks for fully vaccinated persons but do require masks for those who are unvaccinated. AnchorCon staff will not require proof of vaccination, but will rely on the honor system.
Clayton Rotary, a nonprofit, has invested heavily in the event.
“I don’t want to get into numbers,” Mr. LaClair said. “Let’s just say that we invested dearly and we really hope that this thing comes through.”
North country sponsors have supported the venture throughout its planning, he said.
“Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships?’ Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” he said.
But he added that Clayton Rotary has added a fifth element to that equation:
“‘Will It Be Fun?’ In all our planning, we have done our best to follow these guidelines closely.”
“With the success of AnchorCon, it will become a regional staple of summer entertainment,” Ms. Tyler said. “Businesses, celebrities, communities, and tourists will have one more reason to mark Clayton on the map every year for an event that will benefit and enrich all who support and attend it.”
n WHAT: AnchorCon, a multi-fandom pop culture convention hosted by Clayton Rotary.
n WHEN: Aug. 20-22.
n WHERE: Cerow Recreation Arena in Clayton.
n COST: Adult weekend pass, $32; family weekend pass, $52 and VIP adult weekend pass, $87. Cost of the Aug. 20 interactive movie is $5. Adult single day tickets for Aug. 21 and 22 are $22. Child single days tickets are $12 and $17 for members of the military and senior citizens. Children under age 6, with no strollers, will be admitted free. Mask-Erade ball single tickets are $15 and $20 for a couple. The ball tickets require an AnchorCon admission ticket.
n MORE INFO, FULL SCHEDULE AND TO PURCHASE TICKETS: Go to www.anchorcomicon.com n OF NOTE: Volunteers are sought for the event. For more information, contact Clayton Rotary President Tom LaClair at tom firstname.lastname@example.org.