Rochester is home to dozens of annual festivals, and this weekend a new one, reveling in superheroes and pop culture, will kick off in downtown Rochester. A crew of organizers that includes Jason Hilton (of POP ROC Cereal Bar & Comic Shop) and local artists will facilitate a three-day, multi-venue celebration that includes a themed bar crawl, family-friendly events, live music, comedy, video games on the Rochester Museum and Science Center planetarium's dome, food trucks, and an attempt to break the cosplay world record.
Super City Rochester is essentially a comic con that will feature celebrity guests from the industry, vendors, and activities, but it's separate from the existing Flower City Comic Con. (Hilton says Super City isn't in competition with FCCC, which will have a vendor's booth.)
A big focus of Super City is inclusion, Hilton says. "We feel like a lot of low-income families a lot of kids are boxed out of access to superheroes because of cost," he says. "Comic books cost money, movies cost money, comic cons cost money to walk in the door. We want to be as low-cost and free as possible, and we want families that normally wouldn't attend these kinds of events to attend."
Capacity is another problem with indoor conventions, Hilton says, which is why they've established a model that spans many indoor and outdoor venues along East Avenue. Anson Place, off East Avenue, will be the Official Super City Headquarters.
"We can see communities that have need for superheroes," says co-organizer and artist Shawn Dunwoody. "Look at what 'Black Panther' did, with people buying out movie theaters" for screenings, he says. "People need heroes."
"Many of these superheroes were made to address a specific time — Captain America was made to fight the Nazis," Hilton says. "A lot of these superheroes were built out of oppressive situations. We believe that there is a current situation that's oppressive to certain people, and want to create a positive situation for people to attach themselves to."
But beyond inspiring the masses, the organizers want to create a great, fun event that gets people out in the city and brings them together, says co-organizer and artist Magnus Champlin. "This is why it's not a boxed-in comic con; you walk into a zone of a city," he says.
Hilton says he's also focused on breaking down the stereotypes people have of the city of Rochester. "We believe in the city: we own businesses in the city, we paint in the city, we fall in the city, we eat in the city, we cry, sweat, laugh all in the city," he says. "And when we hear things like, 'it's not safe,' we think, why?"
He says that given the central location of The Strong Museum of Play, which draws tens of thousands of people each year, he's shocked that so few of the museum's visitors venture out into the surrounding businesses. "It's literally just crossing the street, and I get almost zero people to push their strollers or bring their kids from Strong Museum over to the cereal shop," Hilton says. "Or even to get a slice of pizza at Cam's, or see a movie at The Little, walk around over to Java's. I want parents, families, to come into the city and think, I could live here, I could visit here more, I could eat at this place," he says.
Super City is meant to provide a safe place where everyone's connected and gets to be themselves, and "you get to be your own hero," Dunwoody says.
A list of highlights follows; more info is at supercityrochester.com. Most events are free, but all require tickets.
Friday, August 23
Super Bar Crawl, 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. 21+; tickets are $39.99.
Events will kick off with a Friday night bar crawl, which starts at Pop ROC! (337 East Avenue) and moves on to Axes & Ales, Brass Bar Lounge, Locals Only, The Riot Room, Skylark Lounge, and Filgers East End. Each venue will have a different theme, with activities and drink specials. The event concludes with an after party with karaoke. Participants are encouraged to dress in costumes — a spectacle that organizers hope will help spread the word about the attempt to set a new world record on Saturday — and prizes will be awarded in various categories.
Super City Saturday, August 24
Free Cartoons, movies, and more at The Little Theatre (240 East Avenue)
- 8:25 a.m. Saturday Morning Movie. "Transformers: The Movie" (1986). Free, tickets required.
- 10:30-11:30 a.m. The Guy Gilchrist Hour. Known as "Jim Henson's Animator," Gilchrist is the artist behind "Muppet Babies," "TMNT," "Fraggle Rock," "Tiny Toons," "Pink Panther" others. The Little will screen some of his favorite projects with Jim Henson Studios, followed by a Q&A. Free general admission. VIP tickets ($65) include early admission into the theater with preferred seating, a limited edition VIP badge, a personalized sketch on paper (or bring your own Funko POP) and VIP swag bag including a t-shirt, prints, posters and more.
- 11:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The Day of Firsts Cartoon Festival. Screenings (in three 1.5-hour blocks) of some of the best first episodes of cartoons from the 80's, 90's, and anime. Free general admission.
Main Stage: Headquarters at Anson Place
- Costume & Cosplay Contest. Registration is 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Best Costume Contest is at 4 p.m. Rochester's Super City Record Attempt is at 5 p.m. Free to all participants. The current world record for most cosplay and costumed people in one area is 1,728 people. Dress as your favorite comic, anime, video game, cartoon, sci-fi, or other pop culture character. Super City has partnered with Maker Faire, who will be on-site helping people who don't have costumes make one.
- Artist Alley, Vendors, Activities, and Games. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Free. Vendors include pop artists, designers, illustrators, collectibles, pop-tech, and fashion under the big tent on Anson Place. There will be free games of strength, endurance, speed, and smarts for all ages. The Sony Playstation team will be onsite with games handing out free swag, and there will be a green screen photo booth with superhero-themed backgrounds.
Panels & Special Guests at Filgers East End (355 East Avenue). Featuring aforementioned illustrator Guy Gilchrist; Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comics Publications; Danny Fingeroth, longtime editorial director of Marvel's Spider-Man comics line and writer of many notable comics; Thom Bulman, celebrity tattoo artist and Rochester native; and the 1966 Batmobile.
Video Game Demo & Championship. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium (663 East Ave) Free admission. Video game demos by Rochester Game Developers Group. A Gamers Nostalgia will be running video game tournaments. The finals will be projected on the dome.
Geek Comedy Hour/Superhero Roast. 2:30-3:30 p.m. at the main stage on Anson Place. Malcolm Whitfield, Chris Thompson, Chris Hasenauer, and guests will present a Cosplay Battle Roast featuring comedians dressed as their favorite characters.
The Little Mermen, Disney cover band. Doors at 6 p.m. Anthology (336 East Avenue). BC Likes You opens with Chip Tunes music, followed by DJs, and The Little Mermen go on at 7:30 p.m. $10.
Sidekick Sunday, August 25
Rochester institutions and businesses including the Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman Museum, and Dave & Busters will in attendance on Saturday, and will be offering deals for Super City attendees to take advantage of on Sunday.