PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire County will host its first ever full-scale weekend anime convention at the Crowne Plaza hotel this Friday through Sunday, May 4-6, in what organizers hope will be a unique new annual happening.
The first annual Berkshire Anime & Manga Convention (BAMCon) is the product of the Berkshire Anime Club and sponsor MediaCrash, with support from sponsors both local and niche, from Bespoke Costuming, Brix and Hot Harry's to Genki Life magazine and How To Save The World comic.
Genre celebrities, screenings, a dance, costume contest, and a diverse range of panels and workshops are featured in the three-day lineup, along with a dealer's room for vendors, art show, game shows.
Among the collection of guests appearing at BAMCon is veteran anime voice actor Robert Axelrod, whose many anime credits include such hits as "Cowboy Bebop," "Digimon," "Ghost in the Shell," "Robotech" and "Transformers: Robots in Disguise," though he is perhaps best known as the villainous Lord Zedd from "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers."
The Asterplace, an NYC-based "New Generation Asian Pop Punk" band, will perform both Friday and Saturday nights, and the schedule also features "2+ Comedy" and convention favorite The Nerdfit Network, who will host panel discussions and DJ Saturday night's dance.
Another highlight of BAMCon will be a demonstration by the Chibi Project, a group that has been devoted to destroying anime toys "for no good reason" since the late '90s, beginning with "experimental" attempts to destroy a very durable figure of Chibi Moon, a character from the popular Sailor Moon franchise.
"I've attended over 100 conventions in the last 10 years and it's always thrilling to go to a convention's first year because I never know what to expect," said Patrick Delahanty, of the Chibi Project. "Every convention is different with its own personality that comes together from the staff and attendees."
As for what type of "experiment" the Project will be conducting at BAMCon, details remain shrouded in mystery. "The details of what we'll be destroying and how are a closely guarded secret," Delahanty told iBerkshires. "We like to keep people guessing until right before our demonstration begins."
Relevant local businesses and organizations have joined the lineup as well, with gaming tournaments hosted by Pittsfield comic shop Fantasy Realms, and a Sunday panel discussion hosted by the Berkshires-based Zombie Action Committee.
"It's going to be a great weekend for Pittsfield," said local horror author DA Chaney, guest star of the zombie survival panel. "I'm thrilled to see a specialized convention like this so close to home. My hat's off to the BAMCon staff for all their hard work getting everything together."
The convention suffered a couple of late cancellations, as previously scheduled guests Stephanie Yanez and the cast of the live action Sailor Moon short will not be able to attend, but the convention's website still boasts a diversely loaded schedule for all three days.
Around 200 people have pre-purchased tickets, according to organizers, and tickets and registration will also be available at the door, on a cash-only basis.
"Even though we have the option to buy a one-day or two- or three-day pass online, I've still heard a lot of people are planning to buy their ticket at the door," said Amelia Ritner, assistant organizer and booking agent for the convention.
The Crowne Plaza is offering a discounted nightly room rate of $99 for guests attending the convention, and as of Tuesday there will still reservations available as part of this room block. The hotel said it is prepared for the invasion of anime fans and many costumed revelers expected this weekend, and have made one or two special accomodations for this new type of gathering.
"We're accustomed to doing large events at the hotel, we've done events for up to 1,200 people," said Janet Brennan "We've made some costume repair areas, like a first-aid station for costumes, that was something unique to this event."
Real weapons will not be allowed within the hotel (so leave that samarai sword at home) but fake weapons, such as foam or cardboard, will be permitted.
Tickets are available for any or all days of the convention for a range of $15-$30 for adults, $7.50-$15 for children (5 and under free). Special rates are also available for groups of five or more, all tickets are available online or at the door (cash only).
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