Though Orlando was not listed as a scheduled stop for the Walker Stalker convention this year, the event’s creators joined forces with the Heroes and Villains convention team to plan a unique combination event in support of the One Orlando fund to benefit the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub attack. Fan Fest Orlando brought out a variety of celebrities and diversely talented artists for a one-day event at the Orange County Convention Center, with all proceeds going directly to One Orlando. With roughly 5,000 fans in attendance, the event has already contributed $206,000 (with a total sum expected to reach up to $225,000). These funds were garnered from ticket sales, photo and autograph ops, and charity auctions.
Fan Fest Orlando brought together stars from Arrow, Gotham, Deadpool, The Walking Dead, and more – including Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead‘s Abraham Ford), who admirably utilizes his frequent convention appearances to collect non-perishable food items for the needy. It goes without saying that this event was bustling with heart. Not only did the stars donate their time, but there were multiple displays of true thoughtfulness and emotion throughout the day. Graciously, they greeted every guest with humbleness and genuine concern over the tragic events that befell our community – including survivors and friends of the Pulse attack.
Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (The Walking Dead‘s Bob) also collected food items for “Bob’s Barbeque”. Lawrence was easily a fan favorite, spending ample time with every guest he encountered, offering multiple hugs and posing for photos paying tribute to Bob’s unfortunate cannibalistic victimization in one of The Walking Dead‘s most memorable plotlines.
Judging from the continuously long lines for autographs and photo ops, the fans themselves deserve a great deal of praise in their own contributory efforts. Stephen Amell (Arrow‘s Oliver Queen) had such a consistently long line that this was as close as I came to meeting him!
Charity auctions included original fan art, memorabilia, and extraordinary experiences. Fans not in attendance even had the option to bid on items from afar on eBay.
Convention favorites, 501st Legion, contributed amazing art in the form of Stormtrooper helmets – some signed by attending celebrities, and themed around television’s most popular contemporary shows.
Of course, every convention must have stellar panels – and Fan Fest Orlando delivered some of the most entertaining panels we’ve attended yet! Horror icon Greg Nicotero hosted a panel on the art of makeup and special effects – providing fantastic information on The Walking Dead, as well as insight into his extensive repertoire of horror works and collaborations. Speaking of The Walking Dead factoids shared by Greg… did you know that the final episode of season seven will mark 99 episodes of the groundbreaking show?
It really is true that The Walking Dead cast and crew function very much like a close-knit family. We witnessed many happy hugs and greetings between cast members past and present as they reunited at the convention. Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. even popped up to “crash” Greg Nicotero’s panel… much to the delight of the fans. Together, they shared stories of behind-the-scenes antics, and details of some of the show’s most intricate attack scenes.
The stunningly beautiful Sonequa Martin-Green was another panel-crasher, surprising her “deceased” onscreen brother, Chad L. Coleman when she sprung up from the audience to pose a question. She promptly joined him onstage for a joint discussion before helping convention hosts in presenting Chad with belated birthday cupcakes and a “Happy Birthday” singalong with the audience. Chad continued to show his charitable side, promoting the Make a Film Foundation and Camp Diva, before announcing that he will be appearing in the upcoming season of Arrow as the show’s new villain, Tobias Church.
Even local talent took the stage as the creative minds behind Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights hosted a panel on the annual horror event – complete with an appearance from this year’s icon, Chance!
Speaking of local talent – cosplayers are a staple at every fan convention. We were just as awed as Robin Lord Taylor himself when Shellane (of Cos A Commotion) showed off her astounding cosplay tribute to Gotham‘s Fish Mooney (portrayed by Jada Pinkett Smith). No surprise – Shellane was one of the winners of the event’s cosplay contest. Though Shellane was practically drowning in attention with her spot-on appearance, she was very humble and gracious in the presence of both attending fans and celebrity guests. The entire event was simply beautiful from every perspective, and a fitting demonstration of Orlando’s allure, strength, and sense of community.
From those of us here at ComeSeeOrlando.com, a heartfelt thank you to the coordinators of Fan Fest Orlando, the selfless stars who gave so much of their time and heart, the fans who helped raise such an impressive amount of money for One Orlando, the volunteers who put in long hours with friendly smiles, and all of the participants who added to the overall fun and value of this incredible event. Thank you for loving Orlando – Orlando loves you back!