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Expect ‘nerdy flea market meets circus’ at the first Des Moines Con this weekend


Two cosplayers at Central Florida Comic Con presented by Nerd Street. — photo by Katie Keeley

Des Moines Con, a self-described “celebration of comics, toys, TV, film, art, cosplay, anime, games and all things nerdy!” takes place this weekend at Hy-Vee Hall.

While the convention is coming to Des Moines for the first time this year, its presenter, Nerd Street, isn’t new to cons. Since the company’s formation in 2011, it has presented conventions all over the country, including the Twin Cities Con, Central Florida Comic Con, Annapolis Comic Con, Southern Maryland Comic Con, Star Con Orlando, and Alaska Comicon.

So how did the convention find its way to Des Moines?

“One of the agents I book through, Jacqui, lives in Des Moines,” said Ben Penrod, the organizer of Des Moines Con and president of Nerd Street. “I was looking for different cities to start cons and Jacqui reached out to me and said, ‘You should really do something in Des Moines.’ So I called the Iowa Events Center and we set up a meeting. And I’m like, ‘This is a no-brainer, Des Moines is an excellent place to run a con.’”

The lineup is packed with an eclectic group of performers and artists including Kel Mitchell of Kenan and Kel and Goodburger fame; former NXT champion Johnny Gargano, comic book author Amy Chu and many, many more.

Never been to a convention before? Penrod says Des Moines Con will be “like a cross between a nerdy flea market and a circus.” Exhibitors will be selling their comic books, toys and other wares. Local and regional artists will be selling their art.

“All the celebrity guests will have a Q&A session. And then we’ve got some workshops, panels, things like that that are gonna be happening all weekend,” Penrod said. “It’s an aspect of the show that makes it worth coming and staying all day, coming all weekend, because we’ll have stuff happening on Saturday that won’t happen on Sunday and vice versa.”

While the convention promises a good time for local nerds to enjoy a weekend of panels and shopping, there are also ways for local artists to get involved, including the Artists Alley. The Artists Alley is an opportunity for local artists to sell their work among the other vendors.

“So you’re walking through the exhibit hall and you just see artists, you know, left and right,” Penrod explained. “Everybody’s selling something different. Everybody’s got kind of a different style. And I just get into it so much. I think it’s the most fantastic part of the con.” 

In addition to the Artists Alley, attendees can also get in on the cosplay contest. Both days will end with a contest run by costume designer Mikal Mosely. The contest is all-ages and free to enter.

Whether competing or just watching, Penrod is confident that it’ll be something you won’t want to miss. “I haven’t been to a con like this in Des Moines before, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be pretty epic,” Penrod said. “I think the people, the cosplayers in the area are going to be ready. And they’re going to come like guns blazing.” 

Above all, Penrod said his biggest priority is making sure all vendors and patrons walk away happy.

“I want everyone who comes to the show to have fun. I want the people who need to make money at the show to make money at the show. And I want all the fans to be happy with everything they’ve bought from the exhibitors, with the people that they’ve met, with the cosplays. And I want everyone to just have the most amazing time.”

Tickets and the schedule for the convention can be found on Des Moines Con’s website.


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