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Salt Lake Comic Con FanX draws 100,000 attendees

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake Comic Con announced that its FanXperience convention drew over 100,000 fans last weekend, making it the third largest Comic Con in the United States (behind San Diego and New York City) and the largest Comic Con in North America, per capita.

Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr told the Deseret News that FanX's success helps to validate the support of the city for future events.

"That’s the type of thing that celebrity guests look for," Farr said. "When they realize that there’s a strong, specific support for the event, then that’s what draws them into it.”

Over 100 guests, including actors, authors, professional cosplayers and vendors, spent time at the convention last weekend. Celebrities in attendance represented a wide variety of entertainment, including cast members from "The Walking Dead," Star Trek, Star Wars, Power Rangers, "Doctor Who" and X-Men.

While Farr estimates that 50,000 fans attended the convention on Thursday and Friday, Saturday was notably busier. Attendees waited in lines for hours at a time to enter panels with stars like Adam Baldwin, Karen Gillan and Nathan Fillion, who each appeared before capacity crowds. An additional overflow was needed for Patrick Stewart, who paid a rare visit to Utah on Saturday afternoon. Stewart was announced as a last-minute addition to the convention during a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” reunion event on Thursday night.

Farr believes this is just the tip of the iceberg.

"I still feel really strongly that we haven’t even tapped but a small percentage of the potential market of attendees that would have a good time here," he said. "People can see ads or they can see messages on Facebook or they can see billboards or whatever it may be, but until they really experience it, you have a hard time really knowing what an event is like. Once you have more people experience it, they’re going to tell more of their friends ... what they missed out on."

Farr said he received overwhelming feedback about the KidCon Pavillion — a new addition to Salt Lake Comic Con with entertainment and activities geared toward families and young attendees.

"It really seemed to go better than anticipated," Farr said. "It just wasn’t big enough, at this point, just because we had so much response to it that we could have had at least double the space with KidCon.”

Right now, Farr said that his plan is to keep holding two Comic Con events per year, as long as fans remain interested.

"The intention is to continue doing that as long as the fan support is there," he said. "We will put the work into doing it if the fans want it and they want to support it. ... If we see a really strong increase of the attendance numbers beyond what we have now in September, that’s a clear indication that there’s room for multiple events in a year."

Due to the amount of people who attended the convention last weekend, Monday's press release lightly touched on the need for more space at the September event, which is scheduled for Sept. 4-6. The release read, "Similar to FanX, the September Comic Con will encompass the entire Salt Palace show floor but will expand to neighboring convention space."

"This time we did some stuff at the Gateway," Farr said, "and (we’re) looking to do more stuff like that (in September) because we want to really include the downtown business in this and expand the experience that way."

Farr praised and thanked Utahns for their continued support of the Comic Con events.

"The way the community has supported us is unprecedented," he said. "We had so many comments from the vendors and the celebrities that were there and everybody of just how great the people were here and how nice they were and that was something that I’m very proud of. I’m proud of being able to invite people in to see this community that we live in. That support in the community is what makes this possible to continue on. ... My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everybody in this community."

He added, "If that support were not there, there’s no way we could assemble the lineup that we did and continue to do (events like this) as a result."

When asked if Salt Lake Comic Con already has celebrities lined up for the fall convention, Farr simply responded, "Oh yeah. We do."

Tickets for the event will go on sale next month at saltlakecomiccon.com.

Email: achristensen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: atownmania