This past weekend Walker Stalker Con made a stop in Philadelphia, marking their first time in this particular area. If you are not familiar with WSC, here is a brief description from their official website:
Walker Stalker Con is the fruit of The Walker Stalkers Podcast with James & Eric. The podcast began with an amazing trip to Senoia, GA where James & Eric were able to view the set of The Walking Dead and meet the incredible actors from the show. As a result of this experience, a podcast began and then the idea of a convention focused around recreating that same experience with the cast and crew of the show, along with talented actors and artists from other zombie shows, movies and art.
Walker Stalker Con is not just a convention. It is a fan meet-up and an opportunity for each guest to come away feeling like they’ve had an amazing experience and became part of a greater community of zombie lovers! Walker Stalker Con is [three] days of events, panels, and experiences that zombie fans won’t find anywhere else!
The first convention was held in Atlanta in 2013, evolving and growing ever since. With 10 events around the world, including a cruise to the Bahamas, their zombie focus quickly expanded to the horror and sci-fi genre. Although the convention appeals to a variety a fans, The Walking Dead clearly remains as the biggest focal point for the conventions. By inviting guests from the super popular show, fans are willing to shell out the cash for autographs, photo ops, meet and greets, and panels. Attending Walker Stalker Con is truly a unique event, one that I finally had a chance to experience for myself.
I was beyond excited when WSC announced they were planning on coming to Philadelphia, even more excited that it was being held in a surrounding suburb at a convention center about 25 minutes from where I live. A few family members and I purchased tickets on Groupon at a great price, due to scheduling conflicts we were only able to attend Sunday but we still had an awesome time. I have been to other comic cons before, but this one seemed different from the start. Picking up our tickets at will call was so simple and fast it almost seemed too easy. Walking out of the ticket tent, there were already things to do and see in the parking lot. They had zombie-fighting simulations, sponsorship activities, and most exciting of all, a very detailed replica of Dale's RV from The Walking Dead. The line to get into the RV was by far the longest - props to the WSC creators for their work and bringing it to every convention.
After we took a look outside, we made our way into the convention and I could instantly tell how organized it was compared to other conventions. The major celebrity guests were positioned along the outer walls of the convention floor while the vendors and other exhibits were spread out in the middle. They also had a open panel area sectioned off with appropriate seating. Some conventions have poorly designed layouts resulting in crowded areas especially near guests but it was easy to take a lap around the convention to see all the celebrity tables. This particular WSC featured many current and former cast members from TWD, a few members of Breaking Bad, Poltergeist, Fear the Walking Dead, and Comic Book Men. I tried to take photos of most of them at their tables from outside the line area but sometimes security doesn't allow it. I must add that each convention will have different guests and events planned so keep up with the schedule announcements - this particular con had an Emily Kinney concert and a Film Festival.
I was on a mission to meet Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh) and Emily Kinney (Beth Greene) from TWD but they were on breaks so I had a little time to explore the venue. We made our way to the vendor section to check out the merchandise. If you are on the search for Walking Dead related tshirts then this was the place to go! You could also find AMC official licensed products ranging from Rick Grimes sheriff robes to Daryl Dixon ornaments. They had a large selection of collectibles such as autographed props/photos from a wide selection of movies and tv shows as well as comics, action figures, and Funko Pops. (BTW, I am in need of a Hershel Greene Pop if anyone wants to help a girl out...) They also had booths set up for charitable organizations featuring exclusive products and contests. I always enjoy looking at artists' prints at conventions. Here is an exclusive for the Philly show:
I have met cast members at other comic cons and haven't had the best experiences, the people were great but the planning and line control was highly disorganized. Let me add - waiting for 2+ hours for a photo op with Norman Reedus was kind of worth it! The crowd control and confusing instructions could be worrisome and intimidating, but not at WSC. The volunteers were very helpful and knowledgable, they gave you an appropriate amount of time with the celebrity guest while somehow still keeping the line moving. For most of the guests you have the option of an autograph, photo at their table, or a combo for both while there was also an option for a professional photo op at scheduled times throughout the day. (FYI - there is also VIP options that includes early entry, special perks, and front of line options). Some guests even allowed FREE meet and greets, just walk up to them and chat which was awesome. I decided on autographs for Jon Bernthal and Emily Kinney, both of whom were extremely friendly. I also met RJ Mitte (Walt Jr. from Breaking Bad) and chatted like we were old friends.
Sometimes you forget these are real people and enjoy these conventions just as much as the fans. You never know what to expect from these people. Here is a taste:
After my adrenaline rush simmered down from meeting some of my favorite characters, we took another walk around to make sure we didn't miss anything. We stopped by the panel area in time to seeBrighton Sharbino (Lizzie), Kyla Kennedy (Mika), and Chad L. Coleman (Tyrese) on stage before a Carl look alike caught my eye and I had to ask him for a photo. Another cool thing about this convention is that there is no shortage of awesome cosplayers!
And hey, when the Pope is in town, nothing is off limits....
Attending a convention like Walker Stalker Con that focuses on a specific genre is a different experience in the best possible way. You can stand there and be surrounded by people who love the same things you do making for a very comfortable environment. I have decided if WSC comes back to Philly next year, I want to sign up as a volunteer. I am in the need of some new friends who share the same love of TWD that I do!
If you are interested in attending an upcoming event, the next stop in Atlanta in October followed by NY/NJ, London, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, and Chicago. For specific dates and more information, check out their official website and follow them on Twitter for guest announcements: @WalkrStalkrCon. If you attend, I highly recommend downloading their new app, it provides a guide that includes a map of the convention floor, schedules, FAQs, messaging features for schedule changes, among other important features.
Hope to see you at an upcoming WSC!!