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Jonathan Honaker, who dressed up as Azrael Batman, poses with a youngster at the 2019 WillCon at the Southside Mall.

SOUTH WILLIAMSON, Ky. — After cancellations due to the pandemic over the past two years, Williamson’s pop culture convention is set to return this fall.

WillCon will take place at the Southside Mall from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24. Entrance to the event is free to the public.

The event, hosted by the Tug Valley CVB, will include cosplay contests, vendors, special guests and more.

Jim Pajarillo of the Tug Valley CVB said the event has been missed during the COVID-19-induced hiatus.

“I’m excited to have it back because it really is just a fun day of expression and seeing all the kids dressed up and running around is going to be amazing,” Pajarillo said.

All Star Wrestling has also signed on for this year’s event. Pajarillo said promoter Gary Damron will announce his plans for the event.

Pajarillo said having the event in Williamson makes it accessible for locals who cannot travel to a large city for a comic convention.

“What makes us different is that we insist on being community-based,” Pajarillo said. “If I have my way, it will always be a free or very low admission show because I don’t want to create these things to exclude any kids based on economics. We want to remove as many barriers to access as possible.”

Pajarillo said he has enjoyed watching the show grow each year. In 2017, the inaugural show had an attendance of slightly over 1,000 and in 2018 attendance grew to just under 1,500. In 2019, the first show hosted at the South Side Mall had an estimated 2,500 guests.

As a thank-you to all the vendors who attended WillCon in its first three years, a special rate of $40 for exhibitors, authors and artists will be offered. The fee for returning vendors will be $70.

New exhibitors, authors and artists will be charged a $50 fee, with the new vendor fee set at $90. The deadline for vendor registration is Saturday, Sept. 10.

Nonprofits and regional shows can request a space free of charge, which Pajarillo said will be provided if space and demand allows.

Each space is 10x10. Chairs will not be provided. WillCon can provide tables for an additional fee of $25 per table.

Vendor applications have been posted on the WillCon Facebook page. Those interested in being a vendor or sponsor can find more information by contacting WillCon on Facebook or the Tug Valley Area CVB.

HD Media reporter Nancy Peyton primarily covers news in Mingo County.

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