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Salt Lake City emerging as go-to destination for geeks

Published: Sunday, Aug. 24 2014 3:00 p.m. MDT

Lou Ferrigno, the original Incredible Hulk, was one of the first guests announced for the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con. Ferrigno is among the guests for Salt Lake Comic Con on Sept. 4-6, 2014.

CBS

SALT LAKE CITY — Jasen David Frank was looking for a truly nerdy way to spend his birthday. He chose Salt Lake Comic Con.

Beloved by '90s kids everywhere for his role as the green Power Ranger on the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" series, Frank now spends much of his time at comic book and pop culture conventions around the country. After his first appearance in Utah, Salt Lake Comic Con is now one of his favorites.

"When they asked me about this, this was definitely off my schedule. … But it's stress free and it's my birthday weekend. Why not go to Salt Lake City and spend it with the fans?" said Frank, who is planning an interactive karate class and taping the season finale of his reality TV show, "My Morphin Life," while he's in Utah.

Frank joins a growing list of celebrity guests who appeared at one of the first two Salt Lake Comic Con events and are now anxious to return as Utah's capital city becomes an increasingly popular nerd destination.

After attending April's FanX, Frank credits Salt Lake Comic Con founder Dan Farr and other organizers with bringing a quality convention to an eager audience.

"(Farr) has definitely made waves and sent a message out to every big promoter there is to say, 'Hey, I can do a show. Salt Lake City embraces it, and we know what to give our fans,'" Frank said. "He has definitely proven himself."

Farr says Utahns are an ideal audience for a convention celebrating heroes.

"People of Salt Lake and surrounding areas have been drawn to entertainment based on good overcoming evil. We love heroes. We love saving the underdog," he said.

Something for everyone

Also returning this fall are Salt Lake Comic Con fans, an estimated 120,000 of them, who are expected to make the Sept. 4-6 event the largest so far. Word has spread about the growing convention, drawing attention from national media and the ire of San Diego Comic-Con.

After hearing about Salt Lake event, Allen Forte and his friends planned a road trip from their homes in Southern California.

"This was not a cheap or easy decision for us, as the drive is roughly 10 hours and the cost is a week worth of work," Forte said. "Yet we collectively choose Salt Lake Comic Con because of its awesome list of guests. We compared the guest list to that of near by conventions, and although we live in one of the most lively areas of events, conventions and expos, SLCC won hands down."

When compared with other conventions, Salt Lake Comic Con has more available and affordable tickets, he said. A passionate cosplayer, Forte has attended a number of big conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con, and is now looking forward to trying out some of his best looks in Utah.

Roy resident Megan Eames says Salt Lake Comic Con has found a balance between putting on a large, well-attended convention and maintaining a personable atmosphere. Eames attended last year's comic con and a number of smaller anime conventions.

"You still get to see celebrities coming from all four corners of the globe, but it still feels like a place that the locals have an input in," Eames said. "I don't feel like I'm going to be crammed into a hallway with every person who wants to see the next 30-second teaser for a Marvel movie. I feel like I'm going to meet people — celebs and normal people — who are into the same stuff, and to make friendships and have experiences."

Manu Bennett, known for his roles in "Arrow" and "The Hobbit," said he believes Farr's dedication to family and as "a man of faith" has ensured there's something for all ages at the convention. The convention's popular Kid Con, a section planned specifically for children and families, will be back this September.

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