In a rainy, overcast week, Sunday is expected to bring a spot of bright sunshine — in more ways than one.
Ethereal elves, superheroes in bright costumes, green and purple aliens, warriors and maybe even a grape or two will roam the Lodi Grape Festival grounds in search of fun.
Grape City Con — the annual celebration of pop culture, comic books, wrestling, games and more — will be in full swing.
“I love seeing people have a good time at these events,” organizer Mike Millerick said. “Sometimes in life, you need to smile.”
There will be plenty to smile at this year. Special guests will include Catherine Sutherland of “Power Rangers,” Victoria Atkin of “Fortnite” and “Assassin’s Creed,” Shannin Farnon of “Super Friends” and Chris Anthony, best known as the voice of Barbie.
“One of the coolest things is that Chris Anthony is signing autographs for free,” Millerick said. (One per customer.)
Superstars Marty Scurll of Ring of Honor/New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Jack Swagger of World Wrestling Entertainment will also make appearances, and fan favorites Bushido and Supreme Pro Wrestling will put on a show.
“There’s some little fun twists this year I can’t really reveal,” Millerick said.
The convention is hosting a variety of game tournaments, from video games to collectible cards, along with free play. “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” will be one of the titles played.
More than 150 vendors and artists will fill the space at the festival grounds.
But a fan favorite is the cosplay. Every year, dozens of people come dressed as characters from sci-fi and fantasy movies, comic books, video games and more.
“It’s hard for me to give you a number, even an estimate, because there’s so many,” Millerick said.
Some people combine their favorite characters to create a sort of mash-up, he said — for example, someone might combine elements of Superman’s costume with Marvel antihero Deadpool.
In the past, a few people have even come up with Lodi-specific costumes. One woman dressed as the Sunmaid Raisin girl, and a man dressed as a bunch of grapes, making his costume with purple balloons.
“We love to have that kind of Lodi-themed costume. We still have yet to have a flame (tokay) grape,” Millerick said.
There have not yet been any California Raisins, he added.
The costumes make the convention especially fun for young fans.
“My favorite part is when I see a little boy or a girl with their family, and the little guy or girl looks up and sees Spider-Man, and they point him out to their mom or dad,” he said.
For Millerick, keeping Grape City Con a family-friendly event is of key importance. All costumes must be family-friendly, using inappropriate names in the game tournaments results in automatic disqualification, and most importantly, the ticket price is very reasonable.
Children under 12 are admitted free, and general admission is only $5 in advance, so a couple with three young children can have a day of fun for only $10. Tickets are available in advance at Comic Grapevine, the Launchpad and the Grape Festival grounds as well as on the convention’s website. At the door, general admission goes up to $10 per ticket, though young children are still free.
“We try to make a family event,” Millerick said. “It’s for children of all ages.”
Grape City Con is presented by Utility Telecom. A portion of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army in Lodi and the United Way of San Joaquin.