How RocCon Came to an Abrupt End

The last RocCon event happened on September 14-15, 2019. The two-day event saw celebrities including Joey Fatone. Fatone is an actor, dancer, and television personality. Of course, he is best known as a baritone member of the boyband *NSYNC. He came in second place in 2007 Dancing with the Stars and was the host of the Australian and U.S. versions of NBC’s The Singing Bee. Joey was also known for his role in My Big Fat Greek Wedding as Angelo and its sequel.

Another actor who graced the final event was esteemed voice over artist and accomplished actor, Michael Dorn. Dorn first appeared briefly as Apollo Creed’s bodyguard in the film Rocky, and then seen in the television show CHiPs before landing roles on the long-running soap opera Days of our Lives. His biggest role was being the Lieutenant Worf, a Klingon born Starfleet officer. Landing the role gave him the opportunity to be in five films and 272 television episodes in the Star Trek franchise which made him the greatest number of on-screen appearances than any other cast member.

Vic Mignogna was also present at the 2019 RocCon. Mignogna, a famous anime voice-over actor, was in attendance for a record seven years and has been a favorite at RocCon. Walter Jones, the original Black Power Ranger was also at RocCon 2019. Walter is a dancer, singer and is internationally known for his creation of the character Zack The Black Ranger of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He was a regular guest star in over 150 episodes of various shows. Some of his credits include: The Emmy Award and The Golden Globe winning police drama The Shield (2002), the comedy hit Moesha (1996), and the award-winning American drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000). Walter regularly lends his voice to the film, video games, radio, and television. Walter’s recent voice over acting jobs includes work on Step Up (2006), Annie (2014), and Divergent (2014).

Another favorite in the convention was author Keith DeCandido who was back at RocCon for the fifth year. Keith R.A. DeCandido has more than 50 novels to his credit, as well as more than 60 comic books, 75 short stories, and a ton of nonfiction to boast. He’s written fiction in more than thirty licensed universes, including movies (Cars, Serenity), TV shows (Star Trek, Supernatural), games (World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons), and comic books (Spider-Man, Thor). He’s also written several original creations, taking place in real-life cities like Key West in Florida or New York but sometimes created fictional places such as Super City and Cliff’s End.
In 2009, DeCandido was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.

The 2019 convention was the last one for RocCon. Due to “a variety of reasons personal and otherwise”, organizer Alicia Lurve decided not to proceed any longer. On a Facebook post, she thanked everyone who volunteered over the past 9 years and every last person who bought a ticket. She mentioned that for something that was supposed to happen one time, doing it for nine years was an achievement itself.

How RocCon Became a Cultural Phenomenon

For 2015 RocCon, following actors showed up in the event: Steve Cardenas who is best known for playing the character Red Power Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Two seasons later he portrayed the rile of Blue Zeo Ranger in Power Rangers Zeo. Keith R. A. DeCandido, popular science fiction and fantasy writer and musician, DeCandido had numerous media tie-in books for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among others. Anime voice actor Todd Haberkorn also showed up in the event including Nichelle Nichols who played Nyota Uhura in the Star Trek television series. Also graced the event was Felix Silla, with his famous fictional character on television’s The Addams Family as Cousin It, and Marina Sirtis who had appeared several times at Star Trek franchise. The 2015 event was estimated at more than 3,200 people in attendance.

Organizing a comic convention is not an inexpensive task. Getting a star to show up means finding the agents first. After finally finding the agent of the celebrity you want to work with, several things need to be discussed: first is the guaranteed amount. Followed by the first-class airfare, 4 to 5-star hotel accommodation for the nights that stars are in the city, plus a set amount of money per day to use for the star’s expenses. If the star is coming from another country, you can expect the expenses to shoot up. So for 2015, organizers of RocCon, headed by Alicia Lurve, started a crowd-funding campaign using the online site Indiegogo. Being a pop culture fan, she offered several opportunities for people to support RocCon that in return can help the organization raised the funds required to bring in more guest stars that have higher talent fees. The organizers were realistic that they can’t have Shatner, Stan Lee, or the Big Bang Theory stars, but they hoped it can get them that $20,000 price range that most stars command.

As per Lurve, there are several risks and challenges in organizing a comic and pop culture convention. The biggest challenge is the competing conventions who are all vying for the same guest stars. Even if a comic con organizer was able to raise the fund required and avoid any credit issues, availability of stars during the Convention weekend with every major convention in the U.S. and even some outside the country is a challenge.

At the Indiegogo campaign, RocCon organizers offered 20 perks that backers could choose. From being a Citizen Helper for $30, to a Happy RocCon Camper for $50. RocCon Ultimate Experience for $100 allowed a backer to bring +1 to the conference and get three-day passes, special backer badges, tee shirts, and exclusive priority Friday night panel access for all the backers. Vendors were also given a chance to help in the campaign by availing any of the five options for them starting at $250 for an 8×8 space and one 6ft table, to the most expensive vendor option called Ultimate Superhero Vendor that provides 10×20 space, two 6ft table, badges, shirts and even lunch for $450.

In 2016, attendees were greeted by cosplayers of the Western New York Superheroes Alliance and costumed actors from the Star Wars 501st Legion. Fans also arrived decked in their elaborate costumes. One volunteer, Melanie Billings, said that her favorite part was the cosplay contests, which include tons of superheroes, like Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

How RocCon Got It’s Start!

Alicia Lurye organized the first RocCon Comic and Pop Culture Convention in 2011. The idea came to her after coming back from San Diego Comic Con in 2010. Although there was anime, several scifi. comic book, and few gaming events, she noted that there was nothing that melded all the genres like in other cities. Lurve realized that there was really no large, multi-genre pop culture or comic con in Western, New York hence she ecided to start one.

Few celebrities and writers graced the first-ever Rochester’s Comic Con and Pop Culture Convention. John Garman Hertzler Jr., known for his role as the Klingon General Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from 1995 until the series end in 1999 joined the RocCon. Despite of rain and fog, he drove from his home in the Southern Tier on the day of the first RocCon in 2011 to make TV and radio appearances. Eileen Stevens from Pokemon was also in attendance, including Lois Gresh, a New York Times Bestselling Author and known for her fans’ guide books, The Hunger Games Companion, The Twilight Companions to name a few. The first-day event was attended by 1,349 fans.

The following year, John Garman brought his good Klingon friend Robert O’Reilly to the show. Gresh was back for the second year including Eric Smith who was the voice actor for characters James and Brock in the first 10 seasons of Pokemon. Fans also got the opportunity to meet Vic Mignogna who played Edward in Full Metal Alchemist, and Broly from Dragon Ball Z. Tim McCormack who played Ensign Benett on the first six seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation was also in attendance. McCormack lives in the area and was able to do a panel and host an art auction. The three-day event saw 1,800 fans in attendance.

In 2013, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa from the Mortal Kombat was in attendance, including Chris Doohan of Star Trek film, Into Darkness, and Noel Gugliemi, who played hector from The Walking Dead. Aside from the actors, it was attended by a number of comic creators and about 2,300 fans.

2014 was when RocCon moved to Kodak’s Theatre which provides more parking, larger event space, and rooms, elevators, and escalators to give way for the thousand people who came. Vic Mignogna was back for the 3rd RocCon including Star Trek’s Brent Spiner. Alaina Huffman was also in attendance and she’s best known for the Canadian television series Painkiller Jane. Also in event was the voice actor Billy West, and Next Gen’s Tim McCormack. The event also introduced the first-ever RocCon Food Truck rodeo to provide refreshments and meals for the crowd.