Starships and zombies are targeting northwest Florida in February as plans for Pensacon 2017 continue to take shape.
Many people come to Pensacon for the celebrity guests. Others for the artists and merchandise. And most for the opportunity to spend a weekend with people who share the same likes and passions and lifestyle. "It is a lot of work but it doesn't feel like work" said Pensacon Chairman Mike Ensley. "When you do something that you really, really enjoy it's never a job."
Ensley says preparations for the convention are going smoothly as the event continues to grow. "We're going into our forth year so people have kind of come to understand that Pensacon sort of spreads out into the entire city." The three day event will be adding a new venue this year. The Pensacola Little Theater will be hosting events in addition to the Bay center, the Grand Hotel, the Rex Theater and the Saenger Theater. "It's gonna be even bigger [this year] and of course our trolley service will take [convention goers] to all those locations."
And the growth of the event is paying off. Over 22,000 people attended Pensacon 2016, bringing in over $3 million to the region’s economy. Economist Rick Harper, Director of the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity, says the event fills an economic need. "It comes at just the right time of the year. Hotels need those visitors. Restaurants need those visitors. So it's a super event both thematically, a lot of fun for Pensacola, and it's also a great event from the tourism perspective."
And one of the big draws of Pensacon are the famous faces people can meet and interact with. This year Ensley says there will be a number of guests from the Star Trek universe. "We have Terry Farrell and Rene Auberjonois from Deep Space Nine, so that's Dax and Odo. We have Walter Koenig (who played Ensign Chekov) from the original series. And we have even more guests that we are going to announce coming up soon that are Star Trek related."
One of those guests has just been announced: Gates McFadden, Dr. Crusher from Star Trek the Next Generation. But it’s not just actors. There are many behind the scenes creative people who will be speaking, mingling and giving presentations. "Our friend R. J. Haddy is coming back to talk about make-up effects again. So we'll have a lot of folks that that who are very interesting."
And of course, there are the fans. Every year hundreds of people can be seen around town in an amazing variety of costumes. Ensley says they are a vital part of the show. "Last year at the Saenger Theater on Saturday night when we had our costume contest there was pretty much full. And we had about 100 entries in the costume contest." He says you can find videos on YouTube of the different costumes and cosplayers from Pensacon over the years. "It is a huge part of the convention now."
Pensacon 2017 is scheduled for February 17 -19 at locations throughout downtown Pensacola. Ticket, guest and hotel information is available at Pensacon.com.