Steel City Con in Monroeville breaks attendance records |
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Michael DiVittorio

Steel City Con, one of the largest pop culture and comic conventions in the nation and exclusive to the Monroeville Convention Center, broke attendance records this month.

More than 14,000 people visited the venue at 209 Mall Blvd. between April 12-14.

The con is in its 30th year, and just its second show for new owners Denise DeSimone of Uniontown and Bob Stein of Gibsonia.

“This event broke attendance records at the convention center without a single incident,” DeSimone said. “Even though the lines were long at times and we were at a sell out capacity on Saturday, all of the fans were patient and very respectful. Steel City Con truly has the best fans.”

Celebrity guests at the con included Hollywood stars William Shatner, Corey Feldman, Rob Schneider, Barry Bostwick, Lori Petty, WWE Hall of Famers Jim Ross and Mark Henry along with several cast members of “The Office” TV show.

Fans had an easier time getting photos and autographs thanks to some line changes and purchasing options.

The celebrity area had more clearly defined lines for each guest than in the past, and patrons were able to pre-buy photo opportunities online. More staff was also on hand than at previous shows.

“I thought it was much more organized,” said Derick Harper of Murrysville. “It was a good time.”

Harper took photos with Mark Henry and Laura Vandervoort, known to “Smallville” fans as Supergirl.

“We are always looking for ways to improve the customer experience, and we will remain committed to improving the show,” DeSimone said.

Yusef Saleh, 27, of Dayton, Ohio said he usually attends cons in Cleveland and wanted to check out Monroeville after hearing good things about it.

“So far I love it,” said Saleh, who was dressed as DC Comics’ the Red Hood.

The costume contest at the last day of the con featured children, adult and professional categories.

There were people dressed as Inspector Gadget, the late American painter Bob Ross, Spider Man, Groot from Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” and characters from the video games League of Legends and Fallout to name a few.

Kendall Szymanowski, 5, her brother, Blake, 9, and their mother, Christine Thompson, all from Erie took home top prize in the children’s division.

They dressed up as Ralph, Felix and Vanellope from the Disney animated hit movie “Wreck-It Ralph.”

Kendall was Vanellope complete with a candy race car.

Thompson said it took the family almost three months to make everything.

“It’s so much fun once you get all the pieces and put it all together,” she said. “Anytime we can dress up we’re really happy to.”

There were about 650 vendors selling the latest in pop culture items from posters to figures and apparel.

Several artists gave drawing demonstrations and folks from Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program showed how to turn your face into a spider queen. The program is taught through the Douglas Education Center in Monessen.

Food vendors such as Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream from Altoona had delicious treats.

There are usually three Steel City cons a year at the convention center.

The next show is set for Aug. 9-11.

Preliminary list of guests include George Takei, Ray Park, Shawnee Smith, Andy Dick, Sean Patrick Flanery, Costas Mandylor, Lea Thompson, Tobin Bell and Theo Rossi, who played Hernan “Shades” Alvarez in the Marvel series “Luke Cage.”

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