Before the pandemic, East Meadow Public Library would be home to thousands of teens and young adults in the spring donning costumes, otherwise known as cosplays, and meeting new friends that share the same interests — anime.
EMCON Animefest, the free convention in its 11th year, remains a popular event, attracting roughly 5,000 people in one weekend. But instead of taking place at the library, it will be virtual for the second year in the row this weekend. The event is primarily geared towards teens and young adults.
“Last year would have been our 10th annual EMCON anime fest at the East Meadow Public Library, having it in house” said Kelly Gordon, the library’s art director and co-coordinator of the event. “But because of the pandemic shut downs, it was going to be cancelled.”
It’s been a journey, Gordon said, starting out as a smaller festival with local artists to a large scale event that required a tent to be brought in to accommodate the thousands of guests that were there to meet voice actors, artists and even new friends.
Gordon, who was hosting a library anime club and attending conventions in New York City, decided to first launch the event 11 years ago because he saw a need for a local and accessible anime convention in the community.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Elizabeth Vazquez, a popular cosplayer from Suffolk County. “I genuinely wish that when I was a teenager and young adult that something like that existed, because it just didn’t. Nothing like that was a thing. Nobody knew what cosplay was or conventions, anything like that, especially on Long Island.”
EMCON is a chance to attend an event that is similar in quality to those found in Manhattan that require an often pricy ticket and transportation, two things that a teenager often does not have access to.
“It’s kids coming together, teens coming together,” said Jude Schanzer, director of public relations and programming. “These are teens who’ve had a common interest that isn’t always particularly popular in their peer groups. They love cosplay. They love drawing. They love creating.”
And they love anime, a style of Japanese film and television animation. Popular examples of anime include “Fullmetal Alchemist,” “Death Note” and “Cowboy Bebop.”
“I think EMCON is a fantastic starting point for a lot of these kids to find people, local, that are into what they’re into,” Vazquez said. “They’re able to learn from people who have been doing it, what it’s like, what these big events are like, what can I do and just learn from this community and be supported by adults that are also interested in the same thing.”
And while EMCON attendees will not be able to celebrate their favorite shows and movies with one another in-person this year, they will still have the chance to do so online through a variety of programs [see sidebar].
Vazquez, who has been involved with EMCON since 2018, will be hosting a program called “Cosplay Selfie Party.”
“People can come in, in cosplay, if they so choose,” Rizuki said of the program she’s hosting. “They’re still kind of sharing something that they’re working on, or something that they like, without having that in-person thing going on.”
The first year holding EMCON virtually went well and attracted 5,000 people in one weekend, Gordon said, and he is optimistic that the East Meadow Public Library will deliver an interactive, fun and educational experience again this go-around. “A lot of people were able to interact and to share their same interest with others who unfortunately, during the pandemic, weren’t able to do so,” Gordon said.
EMCON events were also held in increments throughout the year, Gordon said, giving people a chance to continue enjoying the convention community at a time when most in-person conventions are not being held.
Not having conventions to go to has been a significant loss during the pandemic for the many people who attend them to meet people and celebrate their passion. Vazquez called conventions one of her “homes away from home.”
“I have a huge group of people that I see at these events and I haven’t seen a lot of them since 2019,” Vazquez said. “It’s incredibly hard, because you end up becoming friends and family with a lot of these people.”
The comradery developed between the people who attend these conventions is incredible, Vazquez added.
“It’s a different animal for us to be doing this virtually,” Gordon said. “In-house was always the best. I always enjoyed it. I got to see everyone’s smiles and run from room to room to enjoy the programs that we offer. But this is the new norm now-a-days.”