A University of Wyoming committee is looking to up the state’s cultural offerings with a new annual event that kicked off last weekend in Laramie.
At the very first Cowboy Con, a UW version of Comic Con, students and Laramie residents were welcomed with panels, vendors, games, trivia and a display supplied by the American Heritage Center. There were also screenings of some recent films, the Transformers-related “Bumblebee” and “Venom” starring Tom Hardy and a ‘Kids’ Corner’ for attending children. Andrew Potter, a graduate assistant and advisor for 7220 Entertainment, said that it was a difficult event to plan for, but it was a great opportunity for the vendors, panelists and attendees.
“It’s a tricky event to plan just because there are so many aspects to it, and there’s so many events going on,” Potter said. “We had our budget set, and just had to decide things like who would be a good artist to invite, and what educational opportunities could we provide while also keeping with the Cowboy Con theme. And of course there’s the different local vendors, who we can help and give support to local businesses, and having a Kid’s Corner for the different kids of the community, like the children of staff or non-traditional students.”
Potter also said that it wasn’t just the first Cowboy Con, but also one of the only entertainment conventions in Wyoming. While there are similar events within the region — such as the Denver Pop Culture Con, which this year will be May 31-June 2 — there wasn’t a consistent event in the state.
“It was just an idea that this was something the Wyoming community was lacking,” Potter said. “That there wasn’t really an event like this, an event for people who like stuff like Dungeons & Dragons, or comic books and that type of stuff. There really wasn’t something like that in Wyoming, so we wanted to give that not only to the UW students but also to the Wyoming and Laramie community. This is the first ever Cowboy Con, and we’re hoping to keep growing it. Turn it into a Wyoming tradition.”
The first panelists were Douglas Alan Pierce, Peter Grigg and Doug Byzewski of Two Men and A Duck Entertainment, LLC, a group made up of actors and filmmakers who produced their own webseries titled “The Day of the Dove,” currently in its second season on YouTube. The series features a dove trying to take over the world. The second was Laurissa Hughes, a freelance artist from Denver who has worked with storyboarding, animation, illustration and graphic novels. She gave a demonstration of her sketching and inking process as well as talked about her experience in art school.
The last panelist and the headliner event was Naomi Grossman, an actress best known for her roles in the television drama “American Horror Story,” particularly the “Freakshow” season as Pepper, a woman with microcephaly. Grossman discussed her story as an actress and her experience as an abled actress portraying a disabled character. Originally from Denver, this is only Grossman’s second time in Wyoming, the first being another convention in Cheyenne a few years ago. But Grossman said that she enjoyed being a part of Cowboy Con, even if it was the first year and had a small crowd because of it.
“As a performer, you feed off of energy, so it would have been awesome had there been more bodies in the room, but at the end of the day, that’s not really my concern,” Grossman said. “I have to give the same performance if there’s a packed house or an audience of one. That person’s time is just as valuable. Obviously, more would be ideal, and I hope that for future Cowboy Cons, but I had a really good time.”
The other headline event of Cowboy Con was a cosplay contest for cash prizes, and was the most largely attended event of the convention. Cosplay is a shortened term for “costume play,” and is a practice of dressing up as a specific fictional character. Originally, the concept was mostly based off of Japanese media, such as anime or manga, but has come to include broader sources such as video games, television and films. The costumes can range from being an accurate representation of the character or a more artistic interpretation of them.
The first place $200 prize went to Kirstie Deppey, who was cosplaying as Daenerys Targaryen from the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
“The result was kind of surprising,” Deppey said. “All the costumes were amazing, and it was an amazing contest. I am glad I won though, because I did hand-make my costume. I worked really hard to make it.”
Potter said that Cowboy Con had done well and was a good start. The people who attended all had fun attending the panels and film screenings, playing games, buying from the vendors or just talking to one another.
“We got all of these different ages and groups who met, all on the same day,” Potter said. “It was just a really cool opportunity where everyone could come together, share their common interests and get to know each other. Just to have fun and talk about what they’re passionate about.”