Many Rome residents have heard of, and attend DragonCon, a multigenre science fiction and fantasy convention held annually in Atlanta. 

But there’s a similar event, an hour away from Rome, which is gaining in popularity and which offers free attendance and many of the same activities.

It’s called AnniCon and was started by a Coosa High grad. It will take place in Anniston, Alabama in March but locals are already gearing up for it, many are getting their elaborate costumes ready.

Kimberly Westbrooks is a Coosa grad and in March 2012 she started a free, one-day mini convention of Japanese culture which took place in a library in Anniston. It included art, music, costuming, manga, anime, food, history and special guests.

Since then, the event has become so popular that Westbrooks and a team of dedicated board members have had to move it to a bigger venue, the Anniston City Meeting Center in Anniston, Alabama.

Twenty people attended the very first event in 2012. AnniCon 2018 saw 2,200 attendees.

“It started as this tiny library program and outgrew that,” said Erin Barkwell, also a Coosa High grad and Rome resident who now joins Westbrooks on the board and is one of the event’s organizers. “The focus is Asian cultures focused on education and cultural awareness, but along with that comes some cosplay (wearing self-made costumes and fashion accessories to represent specific characters) and a pop culture factor.”

Barkwell said the great thing about Annicon is that unlike many other similar events, this one is free. There are vendors selling food and merchandise but entry into the convention is free.

“It’s more of an Asian culture-based whereas DragonCon is more general,” she said. “We’ve had professors presenting on various topics, a museum might come in and talk about their cool weapons, we had marital arts demonstrations, belly dancing demos, origami lessons, sushi lessons anime trivia, anima speed-dating and of course people are encouraged to dress up in costumes.”

AnniCon 2019 will feature a game room which runs all day, an anime room running all day as well as musicians and organizers hint at a special guest appearance by a well-known voice artist.

Rockmart resident Richard Fierce is an author who has attended AnniCon for a number of years. He found out about the event from a fellow author and said he enjoys the interaction at the convention and talking about books and pop culture.

He will be attending AnniCon in March as a vendor and said he also enjoys being a resource for aspiring authors at the event. One of the things he looks forward to is visitors showing off their creativity through their costumes.

Barkwell said they’ve seen visitors from across the Southeast who are drawn to the event by all the activities and because admission is free. Vendors come from as far away as Texas to participate.

AnniCon 2019 will take place at the Anniston Meeting Center in Anniston, Alabama on March 2 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“It’s only an hour away and it’s completely free to get in,” Barkwell said. “You’re gonna have a good time. And because it’s smaller than some of the other conventions, you have a different experience. You can actually talk to panelists, you can sit and play games and interact with people in a very different way than if you are one of those huge events.

“We focus on Asian cultures so there’s a lot more anime-type costumes but you’re welcome to dress however you like.”

For additional information on AnniCon, and to learn how you can attend or be a sponsor or vendor, visit online at www.annicon.com or search “AnniCon” on Facebook.