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From cosplay to comics, P.E.I. convention offers something for every fan

The fourth Atlantic Entertainment Expo took place in Charlottetown over the weekend and saw thousands of attendees, many adorned in elaborate costumes. (Julien Lechacheur/CBC - image credit)
The fourth Atlantic Entertainment Expo took place in Charlottetown over the weekend and saw thousands of attendees, many adorned in elaborate costumes. (Julien Lechacheur/CBC - image credit)

Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, Super Mario Brothers and every character in between were lined up through the lobby of Charlottetown's Delta Hotel over the weekend.

The Atlantic Entertainment Expo hit P.E.I. for the fourth time, giving the thousands of attendees a chance to get together and geek out over all things pop culture, games and comics.

Then there were the costumes.

Hunter Bryden, 21, and a group of friends drove from Fredericton, N.B., to attend the expo. Bryden was dressed as Diluc, a character from the video game Genshin Impact.

Costume play, or cosplay, and visiting conventions like this one has allowed Bryden the opportunity to meet a lot of new friends.

Hunter Bryden, second from right, dressed as Diluc from Genshin Impact.
Hunter Bryden, second from right, dressed as Diluc from Genshin Impact.

Hunter Bryden, second from right, and a group of friends travelled from New Brunswick to attend this year's expo in Charlottetown. (Julien Lechacheur/CBC)

"You get to be someone that you're not," Bryden said. "[Cosplay is] something that I started with my grandmother a really long time ago, we made the costumes together, and it's just something that continued into adulthood because it's fun. It's a creative outlet."

The Atlantic Entertainment Expo, or AEX, began in 2019 as the Island Entertainment Expo.

The event had to be cancelled for a few years due to the COVID pandemic, but fans from around the region have since returned with gusto.

Organizer Alex Maine said between 4,000 and 5,000 people were expected through the doors of the convention's two days.

Maine said the convention is the only one of its kind in P.E.I., so it can be a great opportunity for people to meet other fans with similar interests.

"There's a lot of people here who … are not used to these things, so it's a really good social event. It breaks barriers," he said. "I'm not too fussed about numbers. As long as people enjoy it, I'm happy."

The expo saw between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees come through the doors over its two days in Charlottetown.
The expo saw between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees come through the doors over its two days in Charlottetown.

The expo saw between 4,000 and 5,000 attendees come through the doors over its two days at the Delta Hotel. (Julien Lechacheur/CBC)

Given the number of people who came through the Delta's doors over the weekend, organizers said there's a possibility of adding a second AEX on the Island at some point.

Vendors like Exor Games owner Brandon Massey agree.

He said the event offers a friendly environment for people to discover new games and genres — and there is always a new generation eager to find them.

"A lot of the grown-ups loved these things as a kid, and now they're grown up and got kids of their own, so now they're really starting to get their whole families into it."

The rise in popularity of the event each year could be attributed to more and more conventions popping up around the globe that are similar to Comic-Con.

P.E.I. resident Mallon Roper attended the expo dressed as Beetlejuice.
P.E.I. resident Mallon Roper attended the expo dressed as Beetlejuice.

P.E.I. resident Mallon Roper attended the expo dressed as Beetlejuice. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

It's also easier than ever for fans to find their niche, said Murray River resident Daniel Scott, who attended the Charlottetown expo dressed as a Ghostbuster.

"Media that people are very big fans of is more accessible every day through streaming services, short-form media like TikTok or Facebook or YouTube shorts … so it's really easy to put yourself in a character's shoes. That's why I think [AEX] is growing," he said.

"These days, everybody can use a smile, and this makes everyone smile."

AEX is also a place where artists and businesses can showcase and sell their work.

Comic book artist Troy Little.
Comic book artist Troy Little.

Comic book artist Troy Little says the expo is a great place to connect with fans and to show people that there is work available for creatives. (Julien Lechacheur/CBC)

P.E.I. comic book artist Troy Little has been to all four expos and said it's a great way to connect with younger fans and show them jobs are possible in the entertainment space.

"When I grew up we had one comic shop and before that we had nothing, so seeing it grow as a pop culture event to the point where we can have 2,000 or 4,000 people come to a comic book  and pop culture show — this is the stuff that I love … taking part in," he said.

"Being able to have that in Charlottetown, obviously there's an audience for it."