Downtown Pikeville and Appalachian Wireless Arena are preparing to host the third year of the Pikeville Comic and Toy Convention.
The event will give those attending the chance to bask in the ambiance of their younger years as they are surrounded by comics, toys, props and even a few of the people who helped bring some of their favorite characters to life.
Kent Leedy, a native of Prestonsburg and owner of The estore Comic & Tech Shop has been attending comic and toy conventions since he was in high school, however he said he hated the fact that he always had to travel a minimum of two hours away just be able to attend an event. That growing frustration sparked Leedy to form the idea of finally hosting his own convention at his store in Prestonsburg, giving not only him, but others around the area a chance to be around memorabillia they love and also a chance to interact with others that share their passion.
“I had thought about doing one for a long time and three years ago I was talking to a friend about doing a show at The estore, but as the conversation grew, so did the idea,” Leddy said. “I contacted the East Kentucky Expo Center (now the Appalchain Wireless Arena) about the idea and the cost to use the facility and then — boom — the idea hit the ground running.”
According to Leedy, the first year was difficult but by doing searches on the internet for agencies that manage public appearances, the first step was underway and his idea was finally coming to form.
“Creating a website and Facebook helped because a lot of these agencies search for conventions and reach out to you about their clients,” he said.
Although the first year was difficult, the event has grown and Leedy said that growth continues at a great rate as the event came close to doubling its prior attendance last year. And, he said, this year will be even bigger.
“This year we have added more guests, panels and even a Friday evening VIP early access time,” he said. “We hope people enjoy and appreciate what we are trying to do and with their support we hope to see the show continue to grow.”
That growth has resulted in the attendance by some great legends, as Leedy refers to them. Some of the names include: Roger Bumpass, who provides the voice of Squidward, a character form the children’s show “Spongebob Squarepants,” WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Sgt. Slaughter, as well a number of people who have directly helped create some comic-book favorites. Leedy said he’s extremely excited for this year’s roster, to which he referred as some of the rock stars of the industry. However, he alluded that there is one star he’s especially excited to meet.
“The one I’m most excited to meet is Larry Hama,” Leedy said. “I’m a huge G.I. Joe fan and he wrote the file card for every character. He has also wrote some great stories for Marvel and continues to write for them.
“He really enjoys meeting his fans and I have a lot of questions for him,” he added.
According to Leedy, he hopes the convention continues building so that it can attract more and more celebrities, hoping maybe one day he book some of his own favorites.
“For me personally, I’d love to have anyone from the cast of Lord of the Rings,” he said. “Chris Pratt (best known for playing Starlord in Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers films) would be nice or even Rowan Atkinson (the actor who portrayed Mr. Bean).
“Harrison Ford (best known for his roles in hits such as Star Wars, Blade Runner and Indiana Jones) would be pretty awesome to meet as well,” he added.
This year, Leedy said, the event will be partnering with Applebee’s, Texas Roadhouse, El Azul Grande, and Bank 253. Those restaurants will either be offering a discount or free appetizer if a customer has their wristband or badge from the show on Saturday.
Another partnership for the event stems from the Landmark Hotel, which will be offering a convention rate for anyone coming into the area who needs a hotel. Leedy and Appalachian Wireless Arena Senior Director of Sales and Marketing Josh Kessler said people come from far and wide to attend the Pikeville Comic Con.
“It’s great for tourism in the area,” Kessler said. “I known people in the past years that have came all the way from South Carolina just to be here.”
According to Kessler, the local economy that gets a boost from the event is one of the reasons the arena is very excited have the event back for its third year.
“The local economy that gets impacted by this event has to be noted,” he said. “Heads in beds, patrons visiting local restaurants and local merchants, that’s what I love about the arena hosting events such as this.”
Kessler said he’s excited to appeal to a different type of audience and that the arena is already looking forward to next year’s convention.
The Pikeville Comic and Toy Convention is set to take place at the Appalachian Wireless Arena, beginning with a special VIP showcase on Aug. 2 and general admission beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 3.