RavenCon comes to Williamsburg

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

At first, they had no experience running a convention, but the founders of RavenCon had a vision.

That's all that mattered.

"Here we are 11 years later," said Michael Pederson, RavenCon's director and co-founder.

What started in a small Richmond hotel, with about 400 in attendance, has grown into a regional science fiction, fantasy and horror gathering. And after outgrowing three hotels in Richmond, it's moving to Williamsburg.

This weekend, RavenCon 2016 will house nearly 400 hours of programming in its new venue: DoubleTree by Hilton.

"I think we are ideally located," Pederson said.

When Pederson, Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero founded RavenCon, "we thought we had our own unique interpretation on what this convention could be," Pederson said. "Literary focused, but open to all other aspects of fandom, such as costuming and anime and gaming."

Pederson said about 70 percent of the programming hours follow the literary theme. Workshops and panel discussions cover topics from plotting a story to developing characters to self-publishing. RavenCon welcomes Sharon Lee and Steve Miller as author guests of honor; the pair co-authored the Liaden Universe series.

"It's very writer focused," Pederson said. "We've had a lot of books and stories that have been published that were started at our convention."

RavenCon's focus also includes reaching out to younger generations. Each year, the convention sends a handful of programming guests to a local high school to speak about careers in the arts and sciences. Guests Chris Kennedy, Cailin Hammer, Wade Cutrell and Bill Blume will speak to Jamestown High School students Friday morning.

The convention itself offers kids programming too, including laser tag, pizza parties and even Jedi training on Saturday.

"It's not a huge, overwhelming con," said Jen Thurman, owner of Retro Daddio, a Williamsburg nostalgia and pop culture store. Thurman attended RavenCon in Richmond last year.

"You could take your grandma. You could take your five-year-old. Everybody's going to be comfortable," Thurman said.

Pederson expects as many as 1,400 people to attend. A glance at programming reveals "The Eye of Argon," a reading of "the worst science fiction story ever written," to a panel discussion of 50 years of "Star Trek." There's an art show, charity auction, "filk" music performances, a 24-hour gaming room. Creative costumes will abound and Saturday culminates in a large costume contest, a convention highlight. A complete schedule is available at ravencon.com.

"If nothing else, it's just fun to come and people watch," Pederson said.

You'll find Thurman selling fandom merchandise in the RavenCon Dealers Room, along with an array of vendors selling books, costumes, jewelry, games, artwork and more.

Thurman regularly travels to conventions as a vendor. She's glad to see RavenCon joining other local offerings, such as MarsCon in January and Scares That Care in July.

"I think it's great that they've moved down here," Thurman said. "I think we need a little bit more fun like this.

"That's my thing – I'm all about the fun in Williamsburg."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

When: Programming begins at 4 p.m., April 29, at 9 a.m., April 30 and 10 a.m., May 1

Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, 50 Kingsmill Road

Weekend pass: $45/adults, $15/ages 12-17, free/ages 11 and under

Day pass: $15/Friday, $30/Saturday, $15/Sunday

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