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Cottage CountryCon a chance to 'step out of reality' (8 photos)

Attendance at popular annual Orillia event expected to top 2,500; 'It's been unbelievable,' says organizer

For the Armstrongs of Barrie, coming to Cottage CountryCon is definitely a family affair.

Dressed as an Elvin warrior, Heather Armstrong attended Sunday's show with her 10-year-old daughter, Abigail, and eight-year-old son, Evan, who portrayed a Master Chief from Halo.

“We really enjoy it,” said Armstrong, who originally became interested in dressing up as a fantasy character while attending renaissance fairs in the United States.

“It allows us to just step out of reality for a day. It’s a fun family thing to do together.”

Featuring everything from zombie Stormtroopers to established comic-book artists, Sunday’s Cottage CountryCon had a little something for everyone with overall attendance expected to top the 2,500 mark.

“It’s been unbelievable,” said show organizer Carmine De Santo during a short break in the action at the Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn and Conference Centre.

After running the event last year over two days at Rotary Place, De Santo said the new venue proved to be a bona fide hit with all participants.

“I love it here, it’s perfect,” he said, noting plenty of free parking and being close to the city’s core is a bonus. “It’s nice and cozy.”

De Santo said he’s also happy with the decision to switch to a single-day event because “it was a lot of work for two days.”

Besides the chance to purchase comic books and related paraphenalia, there were also opportunities to chat with artists and see famous TV and movie cars such as the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard fame.

And like the Armstrong family, plenty of attendees and vendors also used the opportunity to dress up as their favourite make-believe characters (known popularly as cosplay).

“This is my hobby,” said Ed Campbell, the principal behind Snowhawk Cosplay in Barrie. “It’s a creative way to express yourself.”

Dressed as Thor, Campbell said cosplay is enjoying a growing following as more and more people learn about the joys of creating their characters and jumping into a different mindset.

“There are a lot of people involved in cosplay. We now have 60 members in the Barrie area, but when I started out five years ago there were only about a dozen.”

London-based cosplay Geoff Campbell, who was dressed as Captain America, said cosplay allows not only the imagination to expand, but also the player overcome any inhibitions.

“People’s reaction initially involved a little bit of snickering,” he said, noting he’s happy he decided to become part of the scene. “It gives you a real sense of involvement.”

As for the comic-book side of things, artist and writer Alfonso Espinos, of Kitchener, said many come by their drawing skills naturally.

“You’re born with the skill to be able to draw something from your imagination,” he said.

Added fellow Oakville comic-book creator Stephany Lein: “I’ve always loved comics and have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil.”