Anime conventions are all about fun and excitement, so why not change the setting to match? Instead of a boring old convention center, Colossalcon takes place at the whimsical Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. Even without everything that the con has to offer, the African safari-themed venue is an amazing destination all by itself; with arcades, restaurants, spas, and a massive indoor and outdoor water park.
For over 15 years, Midwestern anime fans have gathered at this tropical mecca to share their love of all things nerdy. We spent the weekend exploring all that Colossalcon has to offer, so let’s dive right in!
|When it Established|| August 2002|
|Length of Event||4 days, May 31 – June 3, 2018|
|Place/Location||Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio|
|Cost|| Early bird pre-registration discounts are available in advance of the con, but here are the rates at the door:|
|Hotels||Kalahari has its own attached hotel, which tends to fill up quickly. Overflow hotels include the Great Wolf Lodge, Sawmill Creek, Hotel Breakers, Castaway Bay, and Maui Sands.|
Event message for attendees
“We strive to put on the best show we possibly can for you!”
What to Expect
Despite its exotic location, Colossalcon mostly functions like any other anime event. It takes place in a section of the resort that’s designed to be a convention center, so the normal structure of panel rooms, long hallways, and large multipurpose areas for the dealers and artists are all here. The circular design of the venue and the size of the crowd (ranging from 15,000 to about 20,000 people) can make navigation a bit confusing, but every room is clearly labeled and helpful con/resort staff are everywhere.
Security isn’t terribly strict, with no bag checks or metal detectors present. You feel safe, but it’s also easy to get in and out of the building without too much hassle. Skimpy costumes are (obviously) allowed, and the dealer’s room can sell packaged food and prop weapons. Overall, Colossalcon has a friendly, laid-back atmosphere that perfectly suits a Midwestern summer con.
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
Other than the normal essentials like toiletries, comfortable shoes, and cash, here are our recommended items to pack for Colossalcon:
Swimsuit – Whether they’re real or part of a costume, now’s the time to break out the swimsuits! Passes for the waterpark aren’t included with con registration, but they’re easy to buy in advance or right at the park’s entrance. If you don’t want to break the bank, there are also beautiful fountains outside the convention center that are ideal for pictures and don’t cost a cent to see. And above all, don’t worry about how you look – anime cons are all about inclusivity.
Sunscreen – Under the toasty June sun, it’s almost impossible not to get burned. If you plan on staying outside for a long time, bring some protection. Plus, cosplays can give you weird tan lines!
Breathable clothes – This con might not be the best debut for your Overwatch Mei cosplay, unless you feel like getting cooked alive. Bring clothes and costumes that allow you to keep cool amidst all the heat.
Legal ID – If you’re 21 or older and like to enjoy an adult beverage or two, make sure to bring your ID along with you. At registration and bars/restaurants in the venue, you can order a wide variety of fruity frozen drinks with names like The Vegeta and The Space Cowboy. And if you buy the massive 42 oz cup, you can refill it for half price all weekend. Non-alcoholic smoothies are also available.
What to do
Colossalcon isn’t short on content, that’s for sure. They’ve got celebrity guests, concerts, autograph signings, a fighting robot tournament, and much much more. Here are our favorite things to do at this con:
Panels – Colossalcon offers a wide variety of panels on just about any nerdy subject you can think of, but our favorites were the Iron Makeup Challenge and the In-Character Cosplay Contest – both hosted by a quick-witted Tony Stark cosplayer. The makeup challenge was a 90-minute competition to see who of seven contestants could create the most artistic and well-crafted look based on the theme of “seasons”. The winner was 15-year-old artist Gecko.Cosplay, for her winter ghostly bride look. The in-character contest challenged 20 cosplayers to perform monologues and improv scenes as their character, with the winner being a spot-on Data from Star Trek who was looking for love in all the wrong places.
Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Alley – While not gigantic, both the dealer’s room and the artist’s alley are big enough to satisfy that deep craving we have for anime merch. Highlights include Art Toons, a booth that sells vintage animation cels and other classic merchandise, and an artist named Mary Anne Daymont who makes and paints her own anime-inspired pottery. There’s also an “otaku flea market” on Sunday for amateur crafters to sell their wares.
Game Room and Arcade – The normal game room is an understated area with video gaming tournaments and free monitors to play on your own. But close by, you’ll find a room filled to the brim with arcade games of all shapes and sizes! Initial D, Taiko drums, Dance Dance Revolution, UFO catchers, purikura photo booths, and everything else you almost never see outside of Japan is right here for your entertainment. Just follow the deafening noise and you’ll find it right away.
Kalahari attractions – You’ll never be bored when you’re at Colossalcon. Even if there’s nothing going on that you’re interested in, the Kalahari Resort has you covered. Other than the indoor and outdoor waterparks, it also has a spa, a huge Dave and Busters-style arcade, laser tag, bars, restaurants, and a candy shop within its walls. It’s also within short driving distance to Put-In-Bay and the world famous Cedar Point amusement park.
Colossalcon has quite the high density of cosplayers. At least 2/3 of the attendees arrive in-costume, ranging from simple closet cosplays to extreme armor with electronic enhancements. The hallways are too narrow to allow for large or unwieldy outfits, but we still saw some serious talent on display. One of our favorites was a hilarious and very well executed drag version of the red, blue, and pink Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Perhaps they were the Go-go Power Rangers?
Needless to say, there were a lot of swimsuits and skimpy outfits. Whether the costume was modified to fit the tropical theme or the chosen character just had an affinity for bikinis, many attendees took advantage of the aquatic locale to show off their not-so-modest attire. Photoshoots in the shallow end of the water park’s pool were a common sight, and the abundant greenery outside the convention center accentuated the cosplayers’ brightly colored outfits perfectly.
Among the hundreds of shows and games represented, the hit series Boku no Hero Academia seemed to have the most cosplayers. Bakugos and Kirishimas everywhere! All Mights, Himikos, and Dekus, oh my! But besides that, Land of the Lustrous, Doki Doki Literature Club, and Persona also took up sizeable chunks of the cosplay landscape. Overall, the cosplay at Colossalcon was vibrant and fun, just like the con itself.
Colossalcon is a shining star in the midwestern anime fandom scene. With its tropical design and close proximity to Cedar Point, even con chaperones can have a great time. So next year, grab a girly drink, sit by the pool, and enjoy some nerdy summer fun in Northeast Ohio!