Emma Rossi had never been to a nerd convention. “I don’t go to the Cities very often,” she said. So, when Rossi heard about DuluCon, a Duluth-based event celebrating all fandoms, she jumped at it.

“I’m into video games and cartoon characters, and I like Dungeons and Dragons. I thought if I went to something like that, I’d meet new people that are into the same stuff as me,” she said.

Attending DuluCon, Rossi got just that. “It’s like a big costume party. A bunch of people cosplaying, music blasting everywhere, people singing karaoke, table treats, ice cream.

“It felt like my home within a home. I get to do the things I love, surrounded by people that love similar things, and all the while, I can stay in Duluth.”

Emma Rossi
Emma Rossi

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DuluCon runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Miller Hill Mall, 1600 Miller Trunk Highway (main campus) and The Encounter at 201 E. First St. (gaming-focused location).

Expect lightsaber fencing matches, a marimba player performing video game theme songs, a life-size Settlers of Catan board and much more. And if you’re going virtual this year, there’s a Street Fighter tournament, among other things, via DuluCon’s Discord channel.

Admission is $40 for a weekend in-person pass; $20 for students or a single-day pass; and free for ages 6 and younger. Visit dulucon218.com/event-details/dulucon-2021 to register.

Before DuluCon launched in 2019, “There wasn’t really a venue for nerdy conventions, comic book enthusiasts, sci-fi geeks, people that really like to make leather armor and swords,” said Josh Effinger. So, he along with other like-minded Duluthians — Amy Roper, Phil Roper, Miriam Effinger, Kara Manthey and Jeremy Manthey — asked folks what they wanted in a local convention, and followed suit building a program from there.

They didn’t know what to expect that first year. “We made the conservative estimate that maybe 10 people would feel really bad for us and decide to purchase tickets. That didn't turn out that way at all,” Effinger said.

RELATED: Shipping delays affect northern Minnesota game businesses

DuluCon hosts a mix of vendors and fans. This year, there will be a build-your-own-furry demo, a Rubik's Cube competition and more.
Contributed / Life With Vigor
DuluCon hosts a mix of vendors and fans. This year, there will be a build-your-own-furry demo, a Rubik's Cube competition and more. Contributed / Life With Vigor

Instead, the Con hosted more than 700 attendees — with folks visiting from Fargo, North Dakota, Grand Rapids and International Falls — and they maxed out capacity at The Encounter, Effinger recalled.

The closest place people have to go for this kind of thing is Minneapolis, and folks near the northern border are happy to stay closer to come, he said.

Along with closer proximity, bringing a convention that honored all areas of fandom to Duluth was a high priority. “One of the fun things about this Con is you’re delightfully surprised at the amount of strange creativity people bring to places like this,” said Effinger.

“Sometimes, it’s a (live) chicken, sometimes, it’s just a fantastic costume.

“It’s that interesting sense of random that I enjoy seeing,” he added.

MORE ON DULUTH ENTHUSIASTS:

Also on tap this year: Award-winning essayist, cosplayer and TV producer T. Aaron Cisco will share on his latest book, “Rod String Nail Cloth: An Afrofuturist Mixtape.”

The Saber Legion, a Twin-Cities based light saber fencing league, is returning with multiple demonstrations and some workshops.

Duluth author Keith Hopkins will facilitate a short story workshop where all participants will pen a piece for his newest anthology, "Attack of the DuluCon Zombies."

DuluCon council members, from left, Miriam Effinger, Josh Effinger and Kara Manthey pose for a photo during the 2019 convention. DuluCon is a grassroots "nerd convention" that aims to celebrate all fandoms. The three-day convention kicks off Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at Miller Hill Mall. 
Contributed / Life With Vigor
DuluCon council members, from left, Miriam Effinger, Josh Effinger and Kara Manthey pose for a photo during the 2019 convention. DuluCon is a grassroots "nerd convention" that aims to celebrate all fandoms. The three-day convention kicks off Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at Miller Hill Mall. Contributed / Life With Vigor

National jigsaw puzzle champ Amber Haglund-Pagel of Duluth will present a speed puzzling demo. Brittany Lind and Kala Moria will talk about their paranormal podcast Left of Skeptic.

There’s also a build-your-own furries and a build-your-own cardboard world space; and vendors will be selling everything from leather armor to jewelry.

Rossi didn’t dress up for DuluCon in 2019, but this year, she has been prepping her costume for months. She’ll be going as Dr. Flug from the Cartoon Network’s “Villainous.”

“He’s like an evil scientist but somewhat of a nerd. He’s got the lab coat going on, also a paper bag over his head. Part of the mystery of the character, nobody knows exactly what he looks like,” she said.

It’s her first year participating in cosplay, and she plans to wear her costume all weekend.

Asked what she’s looking forward to, she did not pinpoint one event. “If I could get anything that's the same as the first year, I'd be happy enough.”

If you go

What: Dulucon

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Miller Hill Mall, 1600 Miller Trunk Highway (main location); The Encounter, 201 E. First St., Duluth

Cost: $40 weekend pass; $20 student and one-day-only admission; free for ages 6 and younger

Register: dulucon218.com/event-details/dulucon-2021

Join virtual program: discord.com/invite/zt5XNxW

More info: Visit dulucon218.com, facebook.com/dulucon

Questions: dulucon218@gmail.com

Masks are recommended at the Miller Hill Mall, and will be required for the convention’s smaller-group presentations and panels.

Main stage festivities

Location: Barnes and Noble courtyard, Miller Hill Mall, 1600 Miller Trunk Highway

  • Rubik's Cube battle

  • Puzzle race a national champ

  • Create a cardboard world

  • Build-a-furry competition

  • The Saber League combat

  • Shire of the inner sea demo presented by the Society for Creative Anachronism

  • Music and Marimba: video game themes

Secondary campus events

Location: The Encounter, 201 E. First St., Duluth

  • Dungeons and Dragons

  • Magic the Gathering

  • Anime room

  • Video game play

  • Sensory room

Speaker schedule

Location: Miller Hill Mall, 1600 Miller Trunk Highway

FRIDAY

  • 11 a.m.: Hindsight in 2020; T. Aaron Cisco

  • Noon: Welcome to the SCA; Society for Creative Anachronism

  • 1 p.m.: Everyday Creative Writing?!; Molly Ovenden

  • 2 p.m.: World Building & Writing Your Story; Matt Thiry

  • 3 p.m.: International Speed Puzzling; Amber Haglund-Pagel

  • 4 p.m.: All Hallows Eve; Darrel Davey

  • 5 p.m.: Attack of the DuluCon Zombies; Keith Hopkins

  • 6 p.m.: Local Authors Read!; K.A. Williams and Nick Campenlla

SATURDAY

  • 11 a.m.: Indie Authoring Is Fun; T. Aaron Cisco

  • Noon: Paranormal Podcasters share stories; Left of Skeptic

  • 1 p.m.: The Saber Legion 101; The Saber Legion

  • 2 p.m.: Improv for Cosplayers; Brynn Berryhill

  • 3 p.m.: Chainmaille workshop; Society for Creative Anachronism

  • 4 p.m.: Waifu Wars; Jim Mattson

  • 5 p.m.: Creativity Is A Habit; Molly Ovenden

  • 6 p.m.: The Saber Legion 201; The Saber Legion

SUNDAY

  • 1 p.m.: Nerd Fitness; Brynn Berryhill

  • 2 p.m.: Gundaaaaaaaam!; Jim Mattson

  • 3 p.m.: Attack of the Dulucon Zombies; Keith Hopkins

  • 4 p.m.: Cosplay No It's COSTplay; T. Aaron Cisco