The sun set lazily over the Atlanta skyline and from my view on the 38th floor of the beautiful Westin hotel, I had front row seats to the event. I wasn’t there for the view, or even the city, so I grabbed my camera and proceeded down to the lobby. It was a short walk to the convention center, which was literally attached by an enclosed walkway, into the event. On the way I bumped into none other than Kane Hodder – he played Jason in Friday the 13th Part VII-X and is a hulk of a man – who greeted me with a warm smile and a firm handshake before proceeding to choke me violently for photos. As I walked away pumped from having met a horror idol I proceeded into a world that contained thousands of people in makeup, horror movie t-shirts, and carrying bags of merchandise. Known celebrities, especially those from the Walking Dead television show, were approachable in lines for signatures and photos, not to mention rows of merchandise from all forms of fanboy fiction. This was Walker Stalker Con.
It was a lot to take in at first. This was Walker Stalker’s first year so no one quite knew what to expect and although I had been to plenty of trade shows and conventions before, one specific factor stood out: this was created by fans, for fans. In today’s industry there just isn’t a lot of money (ie: profit) in putting on a convention, so most of them teeter between being a labor of love with little to offer and big commercial events that require you to stand in a line for tens of hours and sit through multiple panels to see the biggest stars. Not here. While I will admit there were some lines, it wouldn’t take you too long to snap a photo with Chad Coleman (Tyreese on The Walking Dead) or say hello to Emily Kinney (Beth). I had high hopes from this initial hour that perhaps organizers Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier had something special here. I didn’t have much time to roam because a special cocktail party for attendees that also stayed at the Westin was set to start shortly.
Already there was a crowd gathered and as I entered the private party there was a lot of scanning the room for celebrities. No one was to be seen at first, thankfully there were plenty of people to mingle with and a bar in the meantime, but eventually the guests began to arrive. After a while the party was in full swing and my first night was kicked off with a live performance from IronE Singleton (T-Dog) while Lew Temple (Axel) wrapped his arm around me and my group for an action pic. After a well-charged night it was time to hit the town and let the party continue. No doubt about it, this was going to be fun.
Walker Stalker Con is intended to bring fans of The Walking Dead and other facets of horror/zombie culture together in a more intimate setting despite the approximately 10,000 people in attendance. Panels allow fans to see rare photos from executive producer Greg Nicotero (one of the only people on set that can have a camera) on the creative process of zombies and sets. Andrew Lincoln, better known as lead character Rick Grimes, not only made this one of his only convention appearances, but met with fans for photos and signatures on top of a very amusing panel that was almost solely fan questions. He may not show often, but when he does it’s a focus on the fans. This continued throughout the day and pretty much anyone who wanted to attend a panel could, save for a few of the more popular ones that still only required 30-60 minutes advance lines. Back on the show floor you could meet with fellow Walking Dead fans, as previously stated almost all of the cast was readily available for meet and greets, and plenty of merchandise that any Walking Dead fan would love. Horror icons outside of The Walking Dead, especially more classic horror like Judith O’Dea (Barbara from Night of the Living Dead), Gremlins lead Zach Galligan, and the Halloween franchise’s Danielle Harris were also featured guests. This wasn’t the only available talent either, some artists came to show off their work and I was especially impressed by Jason Flowers (jasonflowersart.blogspot.com) who had great interpretations of popular culture. As a gamer I was also pleased to see the talents of Dave Fennoy (Lee) and Melissa Hutchinson (Clementine) both from the video game adaptation of The Walking Dead in attendance as well.
There was almost never a dull moment, an event was always scheduled to start, but the main focus of the show (and probably its biggest draw) was that the sole goal was getting fans to meet with their favorite stars. Even as we mingled outside of the convention to enjoy Atlanta’s other attractions I was still able to shake hands with Giancarlo Esposito (Gus on Breaking Bad) on his way into a restaurant and share a seat with Scott Wilson (Hershel from The Walking Dead) while he had a beer and a cigar with fans. I was even able to take a short drive out to Senoia (the town of Woodbury on the Walking Dead) and catch a glimpse of some shooting sets for Season 4. It was a great weekend that seemed to deliver to fans exactly what they always wanted out of a The Walking Dead convention that is already set for two more events in 2014. If you want to shake hands with your favorite star from the show and take home a signed poster and photo, the Walker Stalker Con is exactly where you want to be.