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Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
Heidi Sears talks to a customer during the Salt Lake Comic Con kickoff news conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.
We as people from Salt Lake and surrounding areas have really put ourselves on the map in the comic con world, and it's because of the great support of the media, the fans and everyone in the area. —Dan Farr, event co-founder and show producer

SALT LAKE CITY — Dressed as Anna and Elsa from Disney's "Frozen," 6-year-old Keira and 3-year-old Sienna excitedly worked to build their own tiaras Thursday in the Kid Con section of Salt Lake Comic Con.

Their mother, Kristi Jackman, smiled as she watched them create their crowns at an interactive display from Millie's Princess Foundation, an organization that works to raise funds to help families affected by childhood cancer, as well as awareness about the disease.

The Jackmans had already participated in the costume parade, with Jackman and her husband, Brian, dressed as Sally and Jack from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

It was the American Fork family's first visit to Salt Lake Comic Con, and they have Sienna to thank for it, Kristi Jackman said.

"My 3-year-old was on YouTube and found a video of (a comic convention). She said, 'This is so cool,' and she didn't realize they had a comic con here, so we surprised them and told them we were coming," she said.

Aside from standing in line for wristbands Thursday morning, the Jackmans were enjoying their time at Salt Lake Comic Con, posing for pictures and keeping an eye out for anyone else dressed as Anna or Elsa.

"They both want to see Anna and Elsa, any princess, and they really love the Avengers," Jackman said.

Earlier Thursday, celebrity guests emerged one by one from the blue police call box known to Dr. Who fans as the TARDIS, creating the opening scene for the sequel to Salt Lake Comic Con.

"Welcome to Salt Lake Comic Con," said Lou Ferrigno, the original Incredible Hulk and a repeat guest for the second annual event. "I'm very excited to be back because I had a great time a year ago. I think this has got to be the best convention I've ever done."

Flanked by heroes both fictional and real, Salt Lake Comic Con organizers officially opened this year's event with a news conference that had a concert-like feel, with cheers from energetic costumed fans — some of them doubling as members of the media.

Event co-founder and show producer Dan Farr also took the stage via the replica time machine/spacecraft — noting, of course, that "it's actually a lot bigger on the inside."

"We as people from Salt Lake and surrounding areas have really put ourselves on the map in the comic con world," Farr said, "and it's because of the great support of the media, the fans and everyone in the area."

Manu Bennett, known for his role as Slade Wilson — aka Deathstroke — in the CW series "Arrow," predicted the event will attract 130,000 visitors over its three-day run, ranking it in the top three among such conventions in North America.

"When you're a small con, and you're starting out for the first time, people like our bookers say, 'Oh, it's a first-time con. You don't want to go along because they won't get many people there.' But everything (Farr) said to me and he ever promised me about this comic con came true."

Other celebrities who took the stage for the kickoff event included Jason David Frank, known for his role as Tommy Oliver — aka the Green Ranger — in "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"; Eugene Clark, Big Daddy from the zombie flick "Land of the Dead"; Craig Parker, Haldir of Lorien in "The Lord of the Rings" films; comic book artist Neal Adams; Charisma Carpenter, best known as Cordelia Chase in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" TV series; and voice actors Veronica Taylor and Victor Joseph Mignogna.

"Two years ago, (Farr) told me that he was going to put something tiny and intimate together in Salt Lake City," Mignogna said. "He lied."

The second-year comic and pop culture convention is expected to break its own records for attendance and attract more than 120,000 visitors over the three days.

Salt Lake Comic Con attracted 72,000 guests to its inaugural event last fall and had 100,000 at its FanX convention in April.

This year's event will have double the floor space from last September's convention, with 40-plus celebrity guests; an expanded Kid Con area for young fans; more than 300 hours of panel programming; and 450-plus panel guests, said Bryan Brandenburg, Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and chief marketing officer.

The event got underway at 1 p.m. Thursday for those with VIP and Gold passes and 2 p.m. for all other ticket holders. It continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, starting an hour early for those with VIP and Gold passes; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, with a 9:30 a.m. opening for VIP and Gold pass holders.

Email: jpage@deseretnews.com, Twitter: jaredpage