Two contestants stare intently at tea-dampened cookies in their hands, circling the table while a rapt audience tells them jokes. The first cookie to crumble before the contestant can snatch the crumbs in their mouth loses the duel. Even with a steampunk referee and whimsical teacups, it’s surprisingly tense.
Tea dueling was just one of the events at this weekend’s Myths and Legends Convention. If your goal at geek conventions is to grab celebrity photos and collect autographs, this is not the con you’re looking for. The main event here is building community and making new friends.
And that’s exactly what founder Nikki Ebright intended when she started MALCon. Back then, Colorado didn’t really have conventions. While there were “Harry Potter” cons elsewhere, there wasn’t a place for the Potterheads like Hufflepuff Ebright here at home. “My dream was to have a regular event where “Harry Potter” fans could come together and just geek out on HP,” she said.
But the Browncoats didn’t have a convention either, nor did the pirates. And then the Whovians asked if they could join. And the Ponies wanted a place too. Ebright decided that she’d rather have more people and less flash.
This is the con where you can get together to debate the merits of the Ewoks as a part of world-building, or which “Harry Potter” house is really superior. If you wanted to play geek-themed trivia or LARP, there was a place for you too. There was a space for ongoing role playing games and a knitting circle. You can learn how to make chainmail, or costume-building. Faeries, fauns, and cosplayers of all types gladly stop for photos. This year there was also a painting class to recreate the famous Exploding TARDIS Van Gogh painting.
There were guests of honor. Award-winning author of the Kushiel’s Legacy series Jacqueline Carey was in attendance to sign books and answer questions. Sci-fi/fantasy inspired musician Marian Call performed. Home-grown artist Jim Humble created new sculptures for fans.
But community is still the star of the show, and you can really feel it. Tomas O’Dreams, a professional leprechaun (a job title you can never hope to beat), learned that lesson with the first MALCon. Right before the first convention, the 2013 St. Vrain floods destroyed his home. “I lost everything but my dog,” he said.
But determined to attend, he hiked back to his house, salvaged some supplies and paid for his room with FEMA money. When con-goers heard about what happened, they passed the hat to take up a collection for him. After con was over, the geek community showed up with food, clothes and other supplies for Tomas. “That was because of MALCon,” he said. “Right there I got hooked.” He’s attended ever since.
We have a big, diverse geek community in Colorado, and MALCon really emphasizes bringing those people together. To make sure it continues, Ebright formed non-profit Shiny Gardens to manage the con and create a legacy. Shiny Garden will also host Whimsy Con and steampunk convention Westercon 71 next year. “I’m amazed this could happen…Everybody here is a part of the fabric we’ve woven,” she said. “And it’s a beautiful tapestry.”
By Rebecca Jacobson