UPDATE: I’ve uploaded a large number of photos to the Photo Gallery. Also thank you for all of the responses about this blog post. It is good to hear from the readers.
I had a mix of emotions this past weekend from May 13-15. I attended the very last Starfest Convention in Denver, Colorado. It ended a 45 year run of a family/fan run science fiction conventions put on by Starland. For those of you who had never heard of Starfest, I’m not surprised. In the past I would describe this event as “A DragonCon in the west that you’ve never heard of.” At it’s height, the convention was held twice a year (StarCon was in the fall) in multiple hotels. I know that some fans were trying for a costume parade (I don’t know if this ever got off the ground as I was always traveling when this was planned). The convention covered a wide variety of fandom interests such as cosplay, media, anime, comics, horror, gaming, robots, art, models and more. I had the opportunity to meet a ton of new friends and attend various room parties put on by different groups. While the bulk of attendees were from Colorado, I always met people from around the country at this con. Movie studios had even sent actors on their own dime to promote upcoming movies. This is how they got Toby Maguire just before the 2002 Spiderman movie was released. In my photo albums, several of the photos of myself with guests or kewl stuff came from this convention. I’ve got a few more that will be added soon.
Back in the early 90’s I was a member of a Star Trek fan club called the USS Kelly. Several members had driven from Salt Lake to Denver to attend one of the conventions. They came back with stories and pictures and excitement. This excitement was infectious and I wanted to go. Normally I could not afford a trip by myself, so members of the club would coordinate travel and lodging to make the cost more affordable. Some of us worked for hotel chains which allowed us to get discounts. Sharing the cost of gas helped with the drive. Plus being with a bunch of Star Trek fans in the car for several hours allowed you to get to know your fellow shipmates very well. I even started a relationship with a fellow club member on one trip. That was a convention to remember.
One of the best things about Starfest was the guests they brought into the convention. Since it was a family/fan run convention, they kept prices low where they could. While Starfest was the first convention that started charging for autographs (something that started happening because people use to get the free autographs and then sell them on ebay) I found that I was treated well. I remember meeting Leonard Nimoy before he retired from traveling to conventions. Oingo Boingo front man and soundtrack composer Danny Elfman was a guest one year. Mark Sheppard wanted to betrothed one of his sons to my daughter to start a geek dynasty. Science fiction authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore are considered good friends now (thank you for putting up with me). There are so many memories of meeting guests that I love revisiting when I look at the autographs or photos. This past weekend I finally had a chance to meet Star Trek production artist Rick Sternbach. He is best known for writing and illustrating several Star Trek technical books such as the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology (I had him sign both the US and UK printings), the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual and the Klingon Bird-of-Prey Owners’ Workshop Manual. Rick even added some original art to the Spaceflight Chronology.
While I was there, I picked up several of Rick’s new publications detailing some of his artwork on various Star Trek shows. This made me happy because at past conventions is where I would find various technical and resource books on Star Trek and other shows. It disappoints me now that I’ll attend one of the larger comic-con events only to find no books for sale. It use to be that a convention gave me the opportunity to pick up tech books from various merchants. Hey look, there’s a cloud in the sky and I’m yelling at it.
At Starfest I had the opportunity to meet fans from various fan clubs that had shown up from all over the inter-mountain region. I still have friends that I met from the USS Pioneer, USS (and Battlestar) Stormbringer, USS Tiburon, USS Anasazi, 501st Stormtroopers, House VamPyr, House Veska, USS Silverthorne and many more. I’m sure there are a few groups and fans that I may have missed. There have been so many of you that have come and gone. I’ll miss having a large room full of club leaders all wanting to help each other no matter who our parent organization is.
At the end of the convention my good friend, Dennis Hollinger (the first captain of the USS Kelly), and I didn’t want it to end. After the very last panel we searched around for a location where we could get a photo together and found the last Starfest banner that was still standing. All of the other banners advertising previous conventions had already been taken down.
I want to personally thank KathE Walker, her family and all of the volunteers that helped make Starfest one of the bests conventions out there. You inspired me so much that I even volunteered for several conventions over the years. I know that real world issues shut down the con in a perfect storm of suck, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t look back on the many memories and moments that have been created. I hope to cross paths with you again some day. Live Long and Prosper and Thanks for All the Fish.