This weekend, Ellis County residents won’t have to drive over 40 miles to attend a comic convention in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as residents will have a pop-culture event of their own in the heart of Waxahachie.
Brought together by organizer and owner, Alex Betsill, the second annual Waxacon will return to the Waxahachie Civic Center this Saturday and Sunday. The convention will feature several artists, panelists, cosplayers and celebrity guests, including Paul T. Taylor, who is most known for playing Pinhead in the 2018 horror film “Hellraiser: Judgment.”
“It seems that to go to anything from Waxahachie, you have to drive to Dallas,” Betsill expressed. “It costs $20 to park. It costs $40, $50 to get in. I’m really focused on trying to make an affordable convention in the Waxahachie area.”
STARTING THE CON
Recalling his early career as a musician at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival, Betsill said he was taught early on how to make, tune and play Ocarinas, a wind instrument with origins that can be traced back to India in 5000 B.C., according to stlocarina.com.
“Of course, that naturally led to ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,’” Betsill recalled, referring to a 1998 video game developed by Nintendo. “I started making those; then I thought ‘Well, there’s probably a market for these at these conventions.’”
Betsill said he continued to work as a vendor for comic conventions for 10 years and noted ocarinas took him all around the nation, from Arizona all the way to Rhode Island.
“I’ve done a lot of states,” he said. “I couldn’t really name them all off the top of my head.”
Betsill said one of the biggest things that he saw room for improvement was the relationship between organizers and the vendors they feature at their conventions.
“I wasn’t too happy with the way they were run or managed,” Betsill explained. “Especially toward vendors or artists. Once you bought your table, that was basically it. They didn’t talk to you again, and you couldn’t really get much communication out of them.”
Betsill said that’s when he decided to give the convention a go.
THE FIRST WAXACON
Given his previous experience at conventions, Betsill said organizing Waxacon was relatively straightforward.
“I am personally on-hand, all-day, every day, walking around, making sure everybody has got what they need,” he said. “The logistics of everything went just about perfect.”
Betsill reinforced that he was proud of how the event came together. It was the attendance that he was less pleased with.
With 26,710 square feet of available meeting space, Betsill said he aimed for 2,000-3,000 attendants on Saturday and 1,000-2,000 attendants on Sunday. They ended up with 700 attendants on Saturday and 600 attendants on Sunday.
But the first Waxacon wasn’t a waste to Betsill. For one thing, attendants that did come enjoyed the event and indicated to Betsill that they planned on coming to the same convention again next year.
He also found an unlikely partner in one of his featured guests: Chuck Huber, the voice actor for the characters Pilaf, Kibito and Android 17 in the animated action series, “Dragon Ball Z.”
“He liked the way the con was run so much that he contacted me afterward to discuss him becoming a minor partner,” Betsill said. “Since he’s a celebrity himself and he knows a lot of people, and he knows what he wants at a con, it really helps to have him tell me what’s going to make the celebrities happy.”
Since Huber’s addition, Betsill said he’s helped in numerous ways in improving the convention from its inaugural year to its second. He even helped recruit Taylor for this year’s event.
“I have to give most of the props to Chuck for bringing in Paul,” Betsill emphasized. “They’re friends.”
Besides Taylor and Huber, Waxacon 2018 features eight other celebrity guests at the convention, including “The Lone Ranger” actor Stephen Brodie, “American Crime" actor Osvaldo Fernandez and “Marvel Avengers Academy” voice actress Dani Chambers, who happens to live in Waxahachie.
The convention will also feature several course panels educating people on voice acting and prop building, a live Delorean with Doc and Marty cosplayers from “Back to the Future,” and green screen photography where the possibilities are limited only to the taker’s imagination.
“You can come, have a picture taken, and have yourselves transported to a castle, or a spaceship,” Betsill explained.
Betsill said he switched up his advertising strategy from the previous year to draw more people to the event. Instead of relying so much on social media and word-of-mouth, Betsill is doing more physical advertising, such as hanging up banners by the SCREAMS Halloween Park.
He said he’ll also be on Good Morning Texas on Nov. 1 to talk about the convention.
Betsill said his goal is to get residents to realize there’s a closer option for a convention setting — and it’s right here in Ellis County.
“A parent with two or three kids can do the entire weekend for less than 50 bucks,” he explained. “At other conventions, you’re looking at $150, $200 for the same configuration of people.”
Waxacon 2018 runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Waxahachie Civic Center, located at 2000 Civic Center Ln. Tickets are $20 to $30 for the weekend, while children 12 and under are $5 Saturday and free on Sunday.
If you would like to buy tickets or read more information, go online to www.waxacon.com.
David Dunn, @DavidDunnInTX