SALT LAKE CITY — While some FanX attendees arrived at the Salt Palace Convention Center for the flashy merchandise and out-of-this-world costumes, Jackie Illario's focus was set on a much rarer sight: actor Jeff Goldblum.
The Sandy resident was determined to meet the "Jurassic Park" and "Independence Day" star. When the moment finally came, it lived up to the hype.
"It was pretty stunning," she said, her face blushing bright pink minutes after receiving Goldblum's autograph. "He looked beautiful. He recognized my costume and said it was beautiful, which is a highlight of my life, I think."
At FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention — which continues through Saturday, Sept. 8 — celebrities are a common and expected sight, often participating in panel discussions and Q&A sessions on stage.
But for all the fun it is to see a celebrity from afar, the experience of interacting with them one-on-one is as exciting as taking a spin in Doctor Who's TARDIS.
Thousands of fans packed the center on Friday with the goal of posing for photos with their favorite celebs and acquiring long-sought autographs. Friday's celebrity guest roster included "Doctor Who" star David Tennant, "The Office" actor Rainn Wilson and "Stranger Things" breakout Gaten Matarazzo, among others.
For some fans, sharing a moment with their favorite actor is the opportunity of a lifetime that comes after years of adoration. But the excitement of seeing a longtime idol off screen can be overwhelming.
"Last time I met someone I just froze," said Alanna Cottam from Sandy. "My brain just turns into putty when I’m next to them because all of the sudden I’m like, 'You’re a real human being and I’m right next to you.'"
The suspense can be so much that even mental preparation can't keep the awkwardness at bay sometimes.
"You kind of get in your mind what you want to say, but when you get up there you’re like, 'What do I say again?'" said Brock Harris, who traveled from Idaho to meet some of his favorite television stars. "It’s just like a stupor moment."
But despite the chaos of meeting a celebrity, most fans are just grateful for the opportunity.
"They create art through film, television and animation that just speaks to me and I love it," Harris said. "It helped me grow into who I am. So when I get to see them, it’s cool. I want to show them love."
Abdul Ojeda spent most of his life looking up to Jason David Frank of "Power Rangers" fame. Coming face to face with the actor gave him the chance to finally express the gratitude he's carried in his heart over the years.
"He was my hero when I was growing up," Ojeda said. "I still watch him a lot. To me, he’s a great guy. I loved meeting him."
Meeting a television or movie star is more than just a photo op or ink on a poster, according to Houston Brooks, who traveled from Las Vegas to meet "Once Upon a Time" actress Jennifer Morrison. It's an important and impactful moment.
"It’s meeting a role model," Brooks said. "Someone as strong or as brave as (Morrison) — it’s an inspiration. And that’s with other celebrities as well."