It was a wild, wild ride.
Fan Expo returned to Toronto after a two-year break, and being a journalist (finally) came in handy for me: I got a free media pass for the event and I was pumped.
The three-day event kicked off on Friday, October 22, and I decided to go check it out mainly to see what Toronto's cosplay scene was like, and to attend a panel with Canada's own Captain Kirk, Billy Shatner. But I did end up doing, seeing, and buying a lot more stuff than I thought I would.
I was expecting a low number of people due to COVID-19 safety measures, and fewer interactive activities to try than one would anticipate at a convention like Fan Expo. Here's everything that happened.
Pretty much all of Downtown Toronto was cosplayer central
The area around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was obviously loaded with people in incredible costumes, but you could spot attendees in pretty much all of downtown on all three days that Fan Expo was happening. The walk to the venue was 20 minutes from my apartment, and from the moment I stepped out of my building, I could see cosplayers in extravagant, possibly designer, gear making their way to the convention.
Fan Expo was way bigger than I thought it'd be
Two years of being unable to attend Fan Expo had more people desperate to check it out than I thought. All floors of the North and South MTCC buildings were packed and there was something interesting happening in every corner. From Star Wars to Sailor Moon, every fandom was out in full force just having the time of their lives, and it gave me carefree pre-pandemic vibes.
The vax check situation was... a little shoddy
The system for having your proof of vaccination checked was pretty vigilant, but afterwards, you could just re-enter with your Fan Expo pass and wristband, any of the three days. A friend I was with pointed out how they could've given their wristband or card to anyone else — vaccinated or not — and they'd be able to enter the venue.
This loophole did make me a bit nervous, but it was already day three by the time I realized I could've been walking shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people in a high-capacity indoor space. 👀
But there were tons of reminders about being safe
There were several "cosplay is not consent" signs in all the halls, and COVID-19 safety reminders everywhere, too. And I didn't see a single fight break out because of someone harassing a cosplayer, which was definitely a first for me at a convention.
Everyone was super vigilant about masks
Masks were mandatory and the workers at Fan Expo made sure people complied at all times. The cosplayers were genuinely doing their best to stay safe, even if it meant wearing a mask under a not-so-breathable plastic Pikachu costume.
The performers and cosplayers were beyond friendly
I'm sure having hundreds of people request to take photos with them got exhausting real quick, but all the people performing acts and cosplaying were incredibly sweet and welcoming, even by the end of the day. Not only did they let me take their photos but also chatted with me casually about things we had in common (and we followed each other on Instagram.)
The Artist Alley quickly became my fave spot
The Artist Alley was a full stretch of amazing artists selling merch they made. They were not only talented but also so passionate about their craft. They loved talking to attendees about it and inspiring them to try their hand at art. I'm sure if I didn't physically restrain myself, I'd have spent hundreds of more dollars on the beautiful work they put out as stickers, badges, apparel, posters, fridge magnets, and enamel pins. One stall even had tubs of Froot-Loops-scented body butter that looked like straight-up cupcake frosting.
And I bought, like, two bags worth of cute stuff
Not only did I get a bunch of things to decorate my new apartment with, but I also snagged some great handmade items to give away as gifts to my friends.
I managed to cop a "Squid Game" hoodie (!!!)
Legendary Scarborough graffiti artist Duro The Third had his own stall filled with nostalgic merch (Sonic stickers, BMX-themed items), and he had Squid Game hoodies. Luck was on my side and I managed to grab the last hoodie in my size. I got the creepy "red light, green light" doll hoodie, and honestly, I can't wait to show it off.
And it looked like "Squid Game" was a huge at Fan Expo in general
I saw random people playing ddakji, the envelope flipping game the protagonist plays at a train station in the show. There was also a dalgona cookie carving competition, but only 30 people were allowed at a time and I missed participating. I'm sure I would've been ~eliminated~ in round one, anyway.
I got to see entire families cosplaying together 🥺
For the first time ever, I saw several families cosplaying together and it warmed my whole heart. But what absolutely made my night was this Koopa Troopa family. Do you see that teeny baby turtle?! I can't deal.
And finally, be in the same room as William Shatner
Watching William Shatner speak live and in-person was a treat on its own and might make my Star Trek-loving friends and family members very jealous. I was expecting him to primarily talk about his shows and his own space voyage, but he shared so many personal stories about his life in Toronto, everyone in the panel was tuned in.
Truly the cool Space Grandpa we wish we had.