Thursday, September 18, 2014 · 7:47 p.m.

ChattaPop: Attack of the Con!

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Prepare yourselves, Chattanoogans. Con Nooga is coming to town this weekend. And for the first time in the convention’s five-year history, I’ll be going. And I’m excited.

If you go

What: Con Nooga

When: Friday, March 1-Sunday, March 3 (registration begins at noon on Friday)

Where: Historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center

How much: $40 (adults) and $15 (kids 6-13) for a three-day pass; $25 on Friday, $35 on Saturday and $15 on Sunday for a one-day pass; $15 for an exhibit hall-only pass, which lets you see the dealer room, guests and fan groups); free for kids younger than 6

Note: Con Nooga accepts cash only.

For the complete schedule of events: Click here

Like a lot of people, I have my preconceived notions about what a convention, or con, like this, would be like: costume-clad fanboys and fangirls doing things involving lightsabers, phasers and wands, discussing dragons and Tolkien and the merits of anime. And it is. But it’s so much more. In fact, according to the schedule, there are close to 200 events happening this Friday through Sunday.

“We have bands and performances, panels to talk about television shows or movies, indie and fan films, Big Wheel races, charity auctions and more,” Holly Page, program director, said. “People go to conventions for different reasons. Some like the bigger cons, like Dragon-Con or Comic Con, but some like to go to the smaller, hometown conventions. We are trying to strike a balance between the two.”

The first Con Nooga took place in 2008 and had more than 1,000 attendees. A year later, attendance grew to 1,600. And it’s grown every year since, with more events, more celebrity guests and more fans coming from all over the Southeast to invade downtown Chattanooga.

Con Nooga’s goal is to cater to as many different fandoms as possible. "Fandom" refers to a subculture of fans who share a common interest, sometimes on an obsessive level. If you watch “The Big Bang Theory,” you get the idea.

And if you think Con Nooga is just for so-called nerds and geeks, you’re in for a surprise—because we all can be a bit geeky when it comes to the things we love. And Con Nooga has such a broad scope of events that everyone will find something they can attend. In fact, there is so much going on this weekend, I’m overwhelmed by it all. Here are few of the events I’m looking forward to:

—A question-and-answer session with Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett) and Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) from "Star Wars"

—Speaker June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee

—A “Walking Dead” panel featuring several zombies from the TV show

—A "Star Wars" versus "Star Trek" debate

—"Saber Idol," a competition where participants show off their lightsaber skills

“We are ultimately fans ourselves, so we are just trying to make a con that we would like to go to,” Page said, referring to the months and months of work putting together such a massive event. “Con Nooga has something for everyone.”

And while I was looking over the schedule, I was pleasantly surprised to find a literary track where panelists will discuss all aspects of writing, from journalism to novel and short story writing to editing. There will also be a paranormal track that features ghost hunters and authors.

Con Nooga will host its first parade through downtown Chattanooga Saturday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. It will start at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and travel down Market Street to 13th Street and finish at the Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center.

There will be a Con Kidz track for children as well, where children (along with their parents) can participate in child-friendly activities, such as crafts and discussion panels devoted to the Avengers and "Hunger Games," as well as a magic show.

Two charity auctions will take place during the weekend, benefiting Wally’s Friends, Chattanooga Guardian Angels and Chattanooga Roller Girls. 

And if you’re the religious kind, a geek-themed church service will take place Sunday morning.

Despite popular opinion, you don’t have to wear a costume to attend, though they are welcome. And yes, there will be a contest for the best one, as well as a new addition, a masquerade.

I also just found out that a major "Walking Dead" cast member will be there Saturday for a special appearance. Can’t say who it is. So if you’re curious, come on out. I know where I’ll be. Hope to see you there.

Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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