The 2nd annual Smoky Mountain Geek Expo, hosted by Geek Mountain and Red Finds Games, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 21 at the Smoky Mountain Event Center in Waynesville. The entrance fee is $5, and kids 12 and under enter free. Bringing two cans of food or a bag of Halloween candy grants free admission.
This year the Smoky Mountain Geek Expo will bring new vendors, artists, food trucks and a secret cosplay contest continuing the family-friendly atmosphere from 2022.
The secret cosplay contest will have participants “secretly judged” at the expo from 1-2 p.m. To participate in the contest, at the entrance, ask for the cosplay contest sticker, then you are free to roam around the expo. Participants are asked to stay within the event center so the judging can continue without interruption. The 1st place winner will receive $100, 2nd will receive $75 and 3rd will receive $50.
Food will be provided by Valley Dog of Maggie Valley and Hit the Pit BBQ.
Before opening Geek Mountain, Lee White, owner of Geek Mountain, along with Jeremy and Emily Trimnal, owners of Red Finds Games, were dreaming of the idea of creating a comic expo for western North Carolina.
For 10 years, White and the Trimnals travelled to various ComiCon’s and pop-culture conventions around the nation.
White first got the idea in 2018 when he set up a comic book stand at indoor flea markets across western North Carolina. At the flea markets, White had the opportunity to gauge how extensive the love for comics was in the area.
“If I saw somebody with an Avengers shirt on, I would ask, ‘how would you feel about a comic book expo somewhere in Waynesville’ and they would lose their minds,” White said. He considered those types of reactions as positive feedback from the community, so he continued his research.
After a few years of researching Haywood County and western North Carolina, White knew there was an interest, but he still wondered if people would travel for an expo.
“[Last year’s] expo humbled us. We had no idea we would receive as much positive attention as we did. It showed us that building a community for our geek culture is needed,” White said.
The expo saw over 1200 people from 13 counties and 3 states according to White. He only expected 500 attendees.
At last year’s expo, it was common for attendees to pay more than the $5 admission to entice White into bringing the expo back in 2023.
White sought to create a community-based convention where everyone felt safe to “let their inner geek out”.
“People need to be able to break free from the daily and put on a cape occasionally,” he said.
If the 2023 expo is as successful as last year’s, White plans to continue into 2024 and expand the size of the expo to include space for gaming and additional vendors.