Hundreds of raucous partygoers wearing a flurry of bright colors and intricate costumes crowd the halls, making it difficult to get around without bumping into a familiar pop-culture character. No, this isn’t downtown Iowa City during Halloween weekend, this is AnimeIowa.
AnimeIowa, held in the Iowa River Landing Marriott, is an annual celebration of a broad spectrum of different pop culture fandoms, including tabletop and video games, and of course, animated movies and TV shows.
“We try to accommodate all levels of craze,” said Alyssa Kritz, convention executive for AnimeIowa. “It’s called AnimeIowa, but that’s really just a name; we get fans of all kinds of stuff that come out.”
Kritz said attendance at the festival has gone up each year she has been involved.
“Last year, we had around 4,000 people, which was crazy.” She said. “Usually, there are anywhere from 2,500 to 3,000 people.”
This influx of people packs the Marriott and poses certain logistical challenges, even without RAGBRAI going on right outside the front doors.
“We’ve dealt with RAGBRAI before; it makes parking and getting everyone in here pretty messy,” Kritz said. “The hotel knows we’re coming; they work with us and make sure we get all set up.”
“All 284 rooms are booked for the weekend,” said Roger Williams, a Marriott front-desk associate. “It’s one of our busiest weekends, so we plan for it every year.”
Newton, Iowa, residents Alec Meehan and Mckinley Brown have been attending the festival with their group of friends for the last three years.
“We’ve all been into this stuff since high school, so I looked up conventions online and found this one,” Brown said. “It’s great that its in Iowa, and we all have a good time getting together and hanging out.”
“It’s extremely awesome,” Meehan said. “It’s great to get together with so many people who are interested in the same things you are, you see some pretty crazy stuff, too.”
The convention, while well attended, does not advertise outside of its online forum.
“We use social media and the forum site, but most people hear about it through word of mouth,” Kritz said.
Festivalgoer Rudy Munoz, said he was glad it does not advertise.
“I’m glad they keep it under the radar,” he said. “When it’s smaller like this, you know everyone here knows their stuff and is a real fan.”
Costumes are a large part of the convention, as is evident by the hundreds of outfits seen during the festival, said attendee Cooper Christensen.
“The costumes this year are amazing,” he said. “There was this guy walking around wearing giant, light-up foam robot hands that actually worked. It was so cool; I’ve never seen anything like it.”