How to build a con: UI alum launches campaign for 2016 Cedar Rapids Comic Con

Cedar Rapids Comic Con 2015
More than 3,500 comic and gaming fans attended the previous convention, dubbed NewBo Con, held earlier this year at NewBo City Market. — photo by Bob Klemme

When Preston Moore began organizing his first Cedar Rapids-based comic convention — held earlier this year at NewBo City Market — one question loomed above all: Will people actually show up?

Fortunately for Moore, when the event rolled around this February, any doubts about the event’s viability were quickly drowned out by throngs of eager fans.

Moore’s vision, to bring a low-cost celebration of comic and gaming fandom to the area, was quite simple, and his (now-former) position at NewBo City Market presented him with the ideal opportunity to put that idea into action.

“It was the perfect storm,” he said. “3,500 people showed up that day. It was way beyond my expectations, and since it went well — the vendors all wanted it to happen again, the guests wanted it to happen again — I started researching a bigger location.”

Cedar Rapids Comic Con 2015
No comic convention is complete without copious amounts of creative cosplay. — photo by Bob Klemme

That “bigger location” to which Moore alludes, the Hilton’s DoubleTree hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids, will be the home of the 2016 Cedar Rapids Comic Con — a one-day event that Moore has been planning since the moment he wrapped up his inaugural festival earlier this year.

Moore, a University of Iowa alum who now works for the National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, launched an Indiegogo fundraiser for the convention earlier this month. Within a few days, the fundraiser had surpassed its modest goal of $2,500, and Moore says he’s been hitting the streets to pull in new and returning vendors in the mean time.

“We’ve got people who want the event to exist, clearly,” he said. “I’ve actually been blown away at how fast we were able to raise the money.”

The rationale for having such a small fundraising goal has to do with the event’s relatively low overhead. The cost of the hotel space is already covered under the Indiegogo campaign and vendor fees, he says, adding that general admission ticket sales are still forthcoming.

“Basically, every dollar we bring in from admission fees is going to go to next year’s event,” Moore said. “So, I’m hoping to create a self-sustaining event that can go year after year. It’s not a big moneymaking thing — if it was, you know, that’s when I’d start to charge $20 for people to come.”

Indeed, tickets for the event will cost $5 for admission to the vendor area, or $10 for access to the vendors, gaming space and speaking events. Up to three children 12-and-under can accompany an adult free charge, so long as the adult is a ticket holder.

Cedar Rapids Comic Con 2015
Harley Quinn and Rorschach find some quality bonding time at the 2015 convention. — photo by Bob Klemme

Moore says that avoiding a cost-prohibitive convention has been an important step in the organization process. He admits there may be larger, higher-ticket conventions out there with top-tier guest lists, but when it comes to the Cedar Rapids Comic Con, creating a locally focused event that’s affordable for families was one of his top priorities.

“When I was growing up, if would have wanted to have gone to something like this, there’s no way that my parents would have been able to take our family of four,” he said, noting how larger conventions typically carry a $20-60 barrier to entry.

Details for the event are still in flux, though Moore’s confident he’ll have no trouble filling up the space with vendors and attendees alike.

The 2016 convention space will feature 70 vendors — a marked increase from earlier this year, when Moore hosted 25 vendors at NewBo City Market.

“This [February], I turned away almost 80 people who said they wanted to come in and set up,” Moore said. “We were pretty packed in there, at the Market.”

More than 40 vendors have already signed up for the 2016 convention, including the Des Moines-based press Warning Comics, Iowa City’s Daydreams Comics, the Cedar Rapids Armory (an endearing troupe of cosplay experts), First Turn Games and Coralville’s Geek City Games and Comics.

The one-day convention will also include ten speakers and panel discussions, though Moore has not announced any speakers at this time.

“We’re kind of running the gamut,” Moore said. “Gaming is a big piece of it, too. We’ll have a large room with 20 gaming tables for people to play.”

The 2016 Cedar Rapids Comic Con is set for February 6, 2016. For developing information, check out the event’s official website. For more information on how to support the project directly, visit the convention’s Indiegogo page.