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Branson Tri-Lakes News Reporter AJ Meakins

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a classic geeky girl who loves comics, movies, role playing games, cosplay and comic conventions. 

I have been attending cons in Missouri and Arkansas for over 15 years as a con-goer, a special guest, a panelist, a cosplay judge and an emcee. I have always looked forward to the convention season which usually had its kickoff in late February to early March. I have met many of my closest friends through the convention scene, and one of my favorite things is getting to be with my nerdy tribe. 

Since the pandemic hit, the way nerds celebrate their fandoms and fellowship has changed. In order to remain safe, many have turned to the internet and virtual meet-ups for their role playing, gaming, and to keep in touch with their fellow nerds. 

Most of our local pop culture conventions were canceled or taken into the virtual realm in 2020. This broke the hearts of many, like mine, who thrive in the company of fellow nerds and geeks, and for those of us who feel more outgoing in cosplays of our favorite characters. Local businesses that cater to the needs of the gamers, the comic book lovers, and the geeky community have had to adjust their practices as well. 

Comic Force, Branson’s destination comic book and game shop luckily has remained open which allowed some reprieve from the pandemic, but had to suspend their in-person gaming events. 

Branson Con, the local convention, cancelled their April 2021 event back in November. Branson Con has not announced whether they will reschedule or go with a virtual event this year. With this cancellation, I felt my hope to be able to connect to those that I only get to see during con season dashed. 

My hopes were lifted back up when I saw some of the conventions that I have attended in the past, announce that they were going to be having virtual cons. Though it is not the same, after a year of not being able to attend cons, I will take any chance to be with my convention friends and fellow nerds. 

In February, I got an invitation to host a couple virtual panels from the organizer of one of my favorite conventions, Oz-CON. Oz-CON, is a small convention that raises money for charity, that is held annually in West Plains, Missouri. It is always a highlight of my con season because it has such a great nerdy community spirit. This year their virtual event Oz-CON Online 2021 will take place Friday, April 23 through Sunday, April 25. 

I, of course, quickly agreed to be a part of the event and will have three virtual panels, one each day of the convention. I am so excited to be able to connect with my geeky tribe and hope to add to it with those who love all things nerdy. 

Some of my favorite local nerds will join me at the OZ-CON online convention: Tim Church and Josh Grisham of the Nerd Informants, Shpoo Fahr of Skallywag Productions, and Larry Litle of GeekyKOOL.com will all be doing panels during the weekend.  

Later this month, I plan on attending another virtual con. The area’s premier pop culture convention, VisionCon, which has hosted their annual event both in Springfield and in Branson in the past, has scheduled a virtual convention on April 30 through May 2. This will be a three day virtual convention with online interviews, workshops, panels, virtual booths, and more. 

So, even though this is not the kick off to the con season I was hoping for, we as a community will carry on and make it work. I am just glad to have some nerdy camaraderie, even though it will look and feel different this year, and hopefully next year we will be able to get back to our normal, which is gleefully not normal. 

For more information on Oz-CON visit oz-con.com/. 

For more information on VisionCon visit visioncon.net/. 

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