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Beyond Comic Con: 8 Great Pop Culture Gatherings to Attend This Summer

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When tickets went on sale for San Diego’s Comic-Con they sold out in record time. But don’t worry — there are plenty of other fan festivals and geek gatherings where you can fly your freak flag. Here are eight great events that rival Comic Con for their nerdy spirit.

1. BLOB FEST (Phoenixville, PA July 13th – 15th)

Phoenixville isn’t famous for much, but it was the place where they filmed the 1959 b-movie ‘The Blob.’ For the past 12 years fans have descended upon the town to celebrate with a street fair, a scream competition, a fire-extinguisher parade, a classic car show and several screenings of the movie inside the very theater where the oozing alien-matter attacks.

The main event is Friday night’s “run-out” where fans re-enact the climactic scene with everyone racing out of the historical Colonial movie theater (see the video above).  Unlike some big corporate-driven conventions, this is a charming community event that promises to delight the old and the young (provided they like ‘The Blob’).

2. G-FEST (Rosement, IL July 13th – 15th)

G-FEST is the annual gathering of Godzilla fans (and fans of Japanese monster movies) held each summer in Rosemont, Illinois. Kids of all ages will dig the fan-made monster movies, the Godzilla video game contest, the star-studded panels and the Western world’s largest kaiji-oriented dealers’ room. This is likely the best place to geek out about Gamera, Ultraman, Rhodan and other rubber-suited giants. Question: Will Mothra fans get a tribute for Emi Ito?

3. LEBOWSKI FEST (Louisville, KY July 20th – 21st)

Over the last 11 years “Achievers” have gathered to bowl, drink and watch the most-quotable Coen brothers film. This on-going fan convention has travelled to Tampa, Portland, Denver and Las Vegas, but this summer’s celebration takes place where it all began: Louisville, Kentucky.

The two-day festival includes a bowling party (with a trivia contest and costume contest) and a garden party (with plenty of White Russians, Oat sodas and games inspired by the movie) plus musical guests and an outdoor screening of (what else?) ’The Big Lebowski.’ (Note: there will also be a LebowskiFest in Seattle on August 10th and 11th.)

4. TWIN PEAKS FEST (North Bend, WA August 3rd – 5th)

It is happening again…’Twin Peaks’ fans are convening in Washington for an obsessive weekend dedicated to David Lynch’s cult TV series. (Not to be confused with the Twin Peaks Bikini Contest in Dallas. That’s something else entirely!) There’s a sight-seeing bus tour of filming locations, “damn fine” coffee and donuts, multiple screenings (including a 20th anniversary showing of the 1992 ‘Twin Peaks’ film, ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’) and a celebrity dinner with the actors who played Deputy Hawk, Betty Briggs and Ronette Pulaski. The weekend festival is sold-out, but you can follow live updates on Twitter via the hashtag #TPFEST12 or @twinpeaksfest.

5. JAWS FEST (Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts August 9th – 12th)

For one weekend Martha’s Vineyard transforms into Amity, the fictional town that wouldn’t close the beaches in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws.’ The four-day festival features “Living ‘Jaws’” sessions with people who made the film (including screenwriter Carl Gottlieb and production designer Joe Alves), exhibits of ‘Jaws’ collectibles, an outdoor screening of the 1975 blockbuster and (oddly) a three-story shark slide for kids.

Friday’s “Shark After Dark” party includes a special ‘Shark Movie Geek Out‘ which celebrates the legacy of ‘Jaws’ by looking at clips from its countless knock-offs. (Like the ‘Gilligan’s Island’ episode where the Harlem Globetrotters face off against an angry mechanical shark.) This year marks the first JawsFest since 2005. (Coincidentally the deluxe ‘Jaws’ Blu-ray is being released the same weekend as JawsFest 2012.)

6. LEAKYCON (Chicago, IL August 9th – 12th)

This is the Harry Potter event made for the fans, by the fans: an energetic gathering filled with lots of music and dancing. There’s performances by Wizard-Rock bands Ministry of Magic and Harry and the Potters. One of the best-bets will be a show by StarKid (a theatrical group that gained worldwide fame by producing the Harry Potter musical.)

The weekend also includes podcasts, meet-ups, puppetry, panels and parties. (Anyone over the age of 13 is welcome, but registrants under the age of 15 must be accompanied by a chaperone.) The festival ends with a giant group sing-along to Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ (which has become the convention’s anthem).

7. Star Wars Celebration (Orlando, FL August 23rd – 26th)

Regardless of how they feel about George Lucas, ‘Star Wars fans have a lot to celebrate. This four-day festival in Orlando delivers with art shows, expert panels, droid galleries, Star Wars tattoo artists, Lego dioramas and a chance to buy an autograph from the guy who played Admiral Ackbar. The celebrity guest list also includes Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Seth Green and (for better or worse) Kevin Smith.

8. Dragon*Con (Atlanta, GA August 31st – September 2nd)

Here’s your chance to spend Labor Day Weekend with zombie-lovers, Steampunk enthusiasts, ‘Doctor Who’ fans and Ghostbusters. Dragon*Con has something for everyone. The weekend is famous for its costumes, which can be seen in the annual parade (see video above) and multiple costume contests (including a Star Trek inspired “Miss Klingon” beauty Pageant).

This year introduces the Apocalypto Disco (to celebrate the Mayan Apocalypse) plus the return of other special events, like live-wrestling, a late-night puppet slam and a Dragon*Con burlesque show where women dance as comic book villains and other fictional characters.

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