f you’re ready to let your geek flag fly, SoDak Con is for you. Founder and executive director Shareece Tatum wants to give people who like geeky things a safe place to be themselves. She describes it as “a very welcoming place that lets you be who you are and let you geek out about your fandoms.”

SoDak Con is South Dakota’s largest geek convention. The three-day festival started in 2008 and has since grown to welcome 1,500 attendees per day. This year, it will be held June 24-26 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

Tatum started miniature manga (Japanese Comic Books) events at the Waldenbooks Store in the Rushmore Mall. She did the events for one year before attending Nan Desu Kan, which is Denver’s Largest Anime Convention. Tatum says that when she went to that convention, she developed a drive to bring that magic to the Black Hills Area. SoDak Con started out as an anime convention but rebranded two years ago as an all-over geek convention.

“We always welcomed anyone to come, but it wasn’t until we rebranded that we started to offer more content that wasn’t strictly anime,” explained Tatum.

If anyone is skeptical, Tatum says no matter what your geek is, you will be welcome. You can come have a fun time to enjoy meeting and hanging out with people that like the same things that you do.

“The event will feature special guests, including some big stars,” she promised. “We have Dante Basco coming – many know him as Rufio from Hook – and Prince Zuko from Avatar, The Last Airbender.”

A cosplay (costume) competition is a huge part of the event, and every year the contestants show up in outfits that look like that they came straight from the screen. One of the main events on Sunday is a high fashion show, which includes two designers and the winners from the cosplay contest.

Additionally, there will be panels, an art show, manga and geek library, a tabletop gaming room, plus a video gaming room and live video room. Another thing for attendees to check out is a vendor area and artist alley.

The vendor area features around 20 mass market vendors that come in from all over the nation, including those that sell figurines, Japanese candy, comic books, prop weapons, and just about anything you could want in geek merchandise. The artist alley is the event’s vendor area, filled with about 30 artisans selling wares that include fan art and fan art inspired crafts.

Since SoDak Con was founded, two great things have come out of it other than the convention. There is now a community outreach charity group called Bunny’s Heroes that takes cosplayers of well-known characters from Disney and comic books to visit hospitals and help at events for Make-A-Wish and Storybook Island. There is also a Masquerade Ball every October, where cosplayers dress in formalwear. A full court is appointed and there is a mixture of ballroom and dance music.

For those who are apprehensive or have never experienced anything like SoDak Con, don’t worry. Tatum says guests will be exposed to a completely different entertainment and artistic industry that they otherwise wouldn’t even know about, and a community that is welcoming and full of energy and enthusiasm. She hopes that SoDak Con will broaden the artistic value and acceptance of artwork that isn’t the norm.

Pre-registration is $40 for the weekend or $85 for “premium,” which includes front row seating at all main events, a convention t-shirt, early admittance into the dealers’ room, and a loot bag. Door prices are $45 for the weekend or $25 per day. For more info, visit sdcon.org.

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