CLEVELAND — All things pop culture converged on downtown Cleveland this weekend for Fan Expo at Huntington Convention Center. The three-day event, which was canceled in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, drew in tens of thousands of people, organizers said.
Fan Expo-Cleveland is the mecca for all things science fiction, fantasy, anime, video games, books, and cult classic films. The convention, which started in 2015 under the name Wizard World, has previously featured celebrities and creators like Stan Lee, Chris Hemsworth, and William Shatner.
Brian O’Halloran, known for his role as Dante in the cult classic film, Clerks, is a frequent attendee at the traveling convention. A self-described nerd, he said he enjoys it just as much as the visitors do.
“I like to see what’s the new thing. What is the hot, new thing that’s trending in pop culture at this point? Coming to these things and talking to the fans and seeing what is booked here and what’s being sold and what’s being talked about on these panels, you get a feeling of what is going on,” O’Halloran said. “I try to stay away from the vintage Star Wars toy sellers because I can lose all of my money there trying to recapture everything I had as a child that my mother threw out. It’s those types of things that I enjoy: the camaraderie of hanging out with a lot of these fans and hearing their love for what I’ve done in the past and what we’re doing with the upcoming Clerks III. That’s what I enjoy.”
In March 2020, the convention was one of the last big events in Cleveland before the COVID-19 pandemic, which was in its infancy, prompted statewide stay-at-home orders and the cancellation of large, mass gathering events. Fan Expo was canceled entirely in 2021.
Charles Martinet, the voice of Nintendo’s iconic Super Mario franchise, said the pandemic was a reminder for everyone of just how important large events like Fan Expo are because of the draw it has for people with shared interests.
“You find your joy, your happiness and you express that bring joy to yourself and joy to other people. Doing that for me is a huge honor. To hear from children, 'you were the voice of my childhood' or you hear it from a 50-year-old man that 'you were the voice of my childhood,' it just touches my heart so much,” Martinet said. “Maybe it’s time to put these down and start connecting again with our eyes and our hearts. When I come to a show like this like the Fan Expo here in Cleveland, I see people living the joy that we’ve kind of left behind. What we need to do is unite as people and unite as friends and family.”