ATLANTA – (Nov. 3, 2017) –
By Kent Kimes
Sr. Staff Writer
For fans of “The Walking Dead,” and other post-apocalyptic horror-based entertainment, Halloween came a couple of days early at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Walker Stalker Con returned to the GWCC last weekend (Oct. 27-29) boasting an impressive lineup of meet-and-greet sessions with numerous stars of “The Walking Dead,” including headliners Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), panel discussions, plenty of cosplay and a zombie-fied marketplace of vendor merchandising that filled the GWCC’s expansive Building B exhibition halls.
It was the fifth anniversary of Walker Stalker, and the biggest gathering so far. Attendance was projected at 65,000 over the course of the three-day event, and although an official head-count was not available at the time of this article’s publishing, preliminary estimates range from 65,000-70,000.
“It was our largest event ever,” said Francesca Garrett, vice president of marketing for Fan Fest, which produces Walker Stalker Con in 16 cities in the U.S. and abroad. After Atlanta, the next largest events are in Chicago and London, which boast 35,000 and 30,000 attendees, respectively, Garrett said.
Imagine if you were able to meet, spend time with, take selfies and get autographs from your favorite actor or celebrity. That’s the basic premise of Walker Stalker Con – by fans, for fans. “Our focus is on authentic interactions with actors, free family-friendly activities and a relaxed environment where the actors can be themselves,” reads an excerpt from walkerstalkercon.com.
The convention is the brainchild of James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, hosts of the popular “The Walker Stalkers” podcast.
It’s only fitting that Walker Stalker’s Atlanta edition is the brand’s most successful.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is set in the Atlanta area, and the top-rated show is primarily filmed in and around the town of Senoia in Coweta County.
“This is home,” said Garrett. “Atlanta is the city that gave us ‘The Walking Dead,’ and we’re giving back. The actors are more relaxed here. They bring their families – even their pets. It is special to them.”
“We bring actors from every season of ‘The Walking Dead.’ Many have been off in the apocalyptic plotlines, but the friendships between former cast members still run deep. Walker Stalker Atlanta feels like a family reunion for the actors, with old friends hugging in the green room, and swapping behind the scenes stories during Q-and- A panels,” said Garrett.
The timing for Walker Stalker at the GWCC was ideal, too, coming between “The Walking Dead’s” Season 8 premier and All Hallows’ Eve, a little extra incentive for fans to let it all hang out and dress up in zombie gear, or as iconic horror characters such as Freddy Krueger, or their favorite “The Walking Dead” character. Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s barbwire-wrapped-baseball-bat-wielding character Negan was a favorite cosplay choice among many cosplayers at Walker Stalker.
Garrett also pointed out that “The Walking Dead” made its TV debut on Halloween night in 2010, so Walker Stalker Con was originally birthed to coincide with the macabre holiday. The first Walker Stalker was held Halloweekend, Nov. 1-3 2013, at the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart, where it returned the following October, before moving to the GWCC in 2015.
Meanwhile, a very similar but smaller-scale fan convention run under the same umbrella as Walker Stalker Con returns to the GWCC later this month. Heroes & Villains Fan Fest is set for Nov. 18-19 in Building B, with a focus on current and recent comic book-based TV shows and movies, such as “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Dr. Who,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” “Gotham,” “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Superman Returns” and “Deadpool.”
Garrett is anticipating a crowd in the 15,000-20,000 range for the two-day event.
Celebrity guests scheduled to appear include Ming-Na Wen (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Melinda May), Brandon Routh who portrayed Clark Kent/The Man of Steel in “Superman Returns” and plays The Atom in TV series “Legend of Tomorrow,” “Arrow,” and “The Flash,” and a sizable amount of cast members from “Arrrow,” including Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak), David Ramsey (John Diggle), Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance), and Willa Holland (Thea Queen).
Also on the schedule is longtime character actor Victor Garber, who currently portrays Dr. Martin Stein on the CW’s “Legends of Tomorrow.”
And pro wrestling legend Ric Flair is slated to appear at Heroes & Villains as well.
“He’s been both a hero and a villain,” said Garrett.
For tickets and more information, go to: http://heroesfanfest.com/.