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HawaiiCon: Take 5!

  • Photo: Peter Chiapperino
    From left, Nichelle Nichols, Chase Masterson and Rod Roddenberry discuss Star Trek's 50th Anniversary during the 2016 HawaiiCon.
  • Photo: Jon Teves Temuera Morrison and Daniel Logan talk during HawaiiCon 2017.

Pop culture connoisseurs can soon celebrate.

HawaiiCon returns for its fifth year Sept. 13-16, at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows on the Kohala coast, bringing with it four days of family-friendly fun and learning.

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“We’re a traditional pop culture convention … melded with science and keiki activities,” said convention chairwoman Jessica Gauthier.

Entertainment includes visits from guest stars, discussion panels, science, comics, games, workshops, exhibitors, movies, cosplay and more.

Among the guests this year are Colin Ferguson, who portrayed Jack Carter on SyFy Channel’s “Eureka!”; “Battlestar Galactica” stars Kate Vernon and Luciana Carro, and original BSG actor Herb Jefferson; fantasy author Terry Brooks; and Heidi Gygax, daughter of Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax, along with other actors, artists, writers, gamers and scientists.

According to Gauthier, HawaiiCon is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support and promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) education for children of Hawaii.

“The annual convention is our platform for doing it,” she said. “It’s four days of entertainment and we’re the only pop culture convention of this type on the Big Island.”

Many similar conventions exist in big cities or in areas where a larger population can drive to the event, said Gauthier.

“That’s been one of our challenges — balancing our budget while bringing as much entertainment as we can,” she said.

But there are perks to hosting a convention of this nature on Hawaii Island.

“One of the amazing things about the Big Island and about having a convention like this here is we get this incredible opportunity to talk about the science of the island,” Gauthier said. “So we talk about the volcano with scientists, and we talk about the environment and the ocean and sustainability and the mountains. Basically, we talk about life on planet Earth in this environment of science fiction. So we might have a panel where scientists come and discuss the technology of ‘Star Trek’ with a ‘Star Trek’ actor or director. So we have these fun mash-ups of pop culture and science.”

The science, she said, is what sets HawaiiCon apart from other such mainland conventions.

Gauthier said the cosplay contest, scheduled for Sept. 15, is one of biggest events.

Shane Molina, an artist originally from Hilo, grew up and pursued art in Vancouver, Canada. He now lives in Keaau and is one of the artists set to participate in HawaiiCon.

Molina won a HawaiiCon poster contest and was chosen to design the event program cover and passes. He’ll also be at the event selling his art and doing a panel.

“I would say for me, when I found out I got to do this art, it was like a dream, because not only am I from Hilo, but I get to share my art here on the Big Island,” Molina said, adding that he is “trying to show you can stay in Hawaii and make it as an artist.”

Molina said he’s grateful to have such a convention in Hawaii, “especially here on the Big Island.”

His winning poster features a number of pop culture icons, from Darth Vader in a flower lei to Moana, and items to symbolize Hawaii, like lava and waves.

According to Gauthier, organizers have listened to attendees who say each year they want more entertainment at a lower price.

“We actually have managed to do that this year,” she said.

Thursday’s programming was extended to be a full day, so the event is a full four days, Gauthier said, and organizers have created a kamaaina pass as well.

Gauthier said so far ticket sales are “a little higher than they were last year.”

In 2017, there were about 1,400 total attendees, she said.

About 65 percent of those who attended came from the Big Island, 20 percent came from out of state and the remainder came from other islands, according to Gauthier. The goal this year is 1,600.

It’s important to offer events like HawaiiCon because “we create a really fun, inclusive environment and give people the opportunity to play and have fun, but also immerse themselves in an atmosphere of education, science, learning about sustainable living practices,” she said. “As our world grows and our population grows, especially as our population starts to expand here on the Big Island, it’s really important that we learn how to live sustainable in our environment and we discuss all of those things in a really fun, inclusive environment.”

Gauthier said it’s also important to share the meaning of aloha and ohana with visitors.

“This is nerd culture, right?” she said. “This is a group of people who didn’t grow up necessarily feeling included or feeling honored, and so by honoring and including geeks and nerds and weirdos, we’re giving them a seat at the table to talk about what’s important and … to me, that’s what aloha is.”

A four-day kamaaina pass is $129 with a valid Hawaii ID. Regular four-day passes are $169 and four-day passes for kids ages 6-12 are $50. Children 5 and under are free. Adult day passes run between $30 and $50 and keiki day passes run between $15 and $25. A VIP pass is available for $499.

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For tickets and more information, visit hawaiicon.com.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.