Have you ever been to Kami-Con? This anime and Japanese-cultural convention is gearing up for it’s 11th conference February 22 through 24, 2019. The convention will be held right here in Birmingham at the BJCC.
If you’re wondering if this is the same thing as “Comic-Con,” it’s not — though Kami-Con does cater to comics and gaming fans while sticking to their anime/Japanese roots. Kami-Con is a unique convention that was started by Tuscaloosa resident Raymond Lenzner in April of 2009. Although their roots are different than Comic-Con’s, they work hard to include all those in the gaming/comics community and work to cater to all.
Lenzner’s Story And The Start of Kami-Con
Lenzner is, in his own words, “a half Asian American that grew up with a love for animation, but no talent with a pencil.” He has lived in Germany and Colorado, and eventually settled in Huntsville. He attended the University of Alabama on a ballet scholarship and was a performer in the arts. He also enjoyed working backstage or performing in shows in Huntsville.
After graduation, he found that Alabama was missing a great convention and realized that he could start one with the friends he made in college.
“We made it happen together, and it grew into something we can proudly say, something that represents the state, and now the city of Birmingham well.”Lenzner
With his background in performing arts and entertainment, Lenzner tends to look at the whole event as a show, which helps him in his duties as Con-Chair. He has also worked backstage for large festivals like Panoply and Big Spring Jam. These experiences gave him the knowledge and the vision to understand what going into a large event like a convention.
What Can You Expect At Kami-Con?
- 2 Fan-Panel Rooms: these are conference rooms that attendees can rent out to have a space to discuss their own fandoms. These are open throughout the convention.
- Celebrity Guest Speakers: Virtually every hour of the convention has at least one celebrity guest speaker on stage in the main room, sometimes a second guest in a separate room.
- Video Game Tournaments
- Free-play games and Japanese Arcade
- Live physical gaming events like dodgeball, capture the flag, and many more active games
- Concerts and performances
- Tabletop Gaming: Play, learn about and purchase unique board games
- Plus much more!
How Has The Community Responded To Kami-Con?
The community has responded very well to Kami-Con, growing from 460 people at the first convention to over 8,000 at last year’s event. Lenzner and the Kami-Con team has been praised consistently for their professionalism and for the enjoyment of the event overall. Many have commented on the kindness of each person involved — from the staff and vendors, to the attendees.
“It’s fun watching celebrities from California, the U.K., and Canada, praise our attendees for how amazing and polite they are. We seem to be well loved in the community, and we hope to always be deserving of that affection.”Lenzner
What You Need to Know
I asked Lenzner what he wanted all “newbies” to know about Kami-Con, and here’s what he told me:
“Kami-Con is a wonderfully safe place where you can enjoy what you are a fan of openly. We work very hard to build a supportive community, so come out and have a fun time. Also it’s very important for me to say. No matter who I bring as special guest speakers, no matter how large and loud the concerts are, no matter how large the attendee numbers are, the convention is only as good as you make it for yourself, and just as importantly those around you. I have seen so many times, people making each others day at Kami-Con. A gentle compliment on their costume, a friendly exchange about similar fandom likes. These are the things that make someone’s convention. Those little things that you do, are what make people beam with excitement every year, and I am so proud of our attendees for being a part of that. I can’t wait to see you become part of that as well.”