Pop culture, costume fans grateful for Steel City Con's return after postponements

·3 min read

Jun. 16—For Connellsville native Tessa Voss, being around fellow costume creators and other artists at the Monroeville Convention Center earlier this month was very much appreciated.

"Seeing everyone's reactions to seeing their favorite characters is, like, the best thing," said Voss, 18. "You see little kids get inspired and go crazy for their favorite characters, and you meet a lot of new people in the process and gain friends."

Her latest creation was a nearly 7-foot-tall and about 5-foot-wide version of Totoro, a creature from the Japanese animated fantasy film "My Neighbor Totoro."

She used fur, cross-linked polyethylene commonly called PEX and other materials. It took a few weeks to build as she crafted rings to give the body its circular shape.

She used three fans to help keep cool while walking around the convention.

Her hard work paid off as she earned the Host's Choice award in the adult division of Steel City Con's costume contest.

"It is so nice to be out in civilization," said host Mike Devine, clad in his trademark silver suit and hair. "This kind of civilization is my kind of thing."

Steel City Con was postponed several times within the past 13 months due to the pandemic.

The return of the three-day pop culture celebration drew about 15,000 visitors.

Toon Brian, a Pittsburgh artist and one of the many vendors that have been a part of the convention since 2006, made caricatures all weekend.

"I love doing it," he said. "I love the atmosphere. It's a lot of fun, really. I'm just ecstatic about being back. I love the people here. I've had this space for awhile and it feels good to be back."

The main room was packed wall-to-wall with vendors. Many featured comic books, T-shirts, posters, vintage electronics, action figures, stuffed animals, swords from video games and cartoons, and even Legos.

Michelle Malloy sold something different. The Pink Zebra consultant had a variety of scented waxes, such as banana bread, new car leather, fruit basket and stone-washed denim to name a few.

"I'm a big pop culture person, so I have fun seeing all the different characters and movie stars," Malloy said. "The crowd's been wonderful. They've been welcoming. It's nice to see the regulars that you see every season dressed up again — and just get out of the house again."

This month was the first convention for Jordan Dewey and her friend, Kaylee Apicella. The Pittsburgh women said they came to see actor Matthew Lillard ("Scream," "Hackers," "Scooby-Doo").

Lillard was among more than 20 celebrity guests, among the Hollywood icon William Shatner, WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi, pro wrestler and Pittsburgh dentist Britt Baker, Micky Dolenz of The Monkees and Larry Thomas of "Seinfeld" fame.

Several guests tried to stay committed with the postponements, but ultimately canceled their June appearances due to scheduling conflicts. Most were re-signed for August.

Disney characters were very popular at the convention.

George Barber of Morgantown, W.Va., partnered with Tiffany Mach of South Park to recreate Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," while Ali Dellapina of South Park dressed as Ben from Disney's "Descendants."

"I missed being in cosplay," Dellapina said. "This gives me so much more confidence being here and getting my picture taken. There has been so many children wanting to take a picture of us, and it makes me so overjoyed."

Mach said they spent months working on their outfits.

Some attendees received a free T-shirt on the last day of the convention if they showed their vaccination card.

Steel City Con returns to Monroeville on Aug. 13-15.

The lineup for that event consists of John Carroll Lynch, Wil Wheaton, Julian Glover, Robert Englund, Jon Bernthal, Denis Lawson, Steven Ogg and Jesse 'The Body" Ventura." The personality lineup is subject to change.

Go to steelcitycon.com for more information.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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