Costumed sci-fi/fantasy fans flock to LI convention

The inaugural LI-CON sci-fi/fantasy fan convention was launched on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at the Best Western Mill River Manor in Rockville Centre. The convention -- a condensed, more intimate version of the I-CON traditionally held at Stony Brook University -- continues Sunday. (Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz)

It's not every day you see Steampunks, animé characters and video game icons lined up along Sunrise Highway in Rockville Centre, but Saturday marked the kickoff of LI-CON, a new sci-fi/fantasy fan convention.

"Now more than ever geek culture has become powerful," said Matt Stingone, 32, of Lynbrook, who donned Steampunk garb complete with trenchcoat, goggles and vintage aviator hat. "We are at a point where we can walk the streets in costume. There may be some looks, but we proudly hold our heads up."

LI-CON is a condensed version of the larger convention traditionally held at Stony Brook University, I-CON, which draws up to 7,000 people. LI-CON tops out at 500, making it more intimate.

The festivities, held at the Best Western Mill River Manor, continue Sunday.

Kings Park resident Chris Addolorato, 23, came to LI-CON for the community atmosphere. He walked around with his own creation on his right hand -- an evil puppet named Grunt, a crocodile who runs the fictitious country of Transfatylvania.

"Everyone is really nice here," he said. "They understand the crazy humor that I have."

Merchants sold everything from '80s Star Wars play sets to current fantasy novels to spooky theatrical contact lenses. Gamers, meanwhile, gathered for long sessions of Pathfinder, Red Dragon Inn and Munchkin.

Teenage brothers Christian and Tom Stridiron of Shoreham dressed as cartoon brothers Yukio and Rin Okumura from the Japanese animé series "Blue Exorcist."

"I'm here to splurge on animé stuff," said Christian Stridiron, 16. "It's pretty expensive so we try to keep it in moderation."

Jason and Samantha Rivera of Sound Beach turned LI-CON into a mini family vacation by staying at the Best Western with their sons Matthew, 14, and Alex, 8.

The Riveras, who both work as tax examiners for the U.S. Treasury Department, came as characters from the late-'80s video game Street Fighter.

After examining the merchandise tables, the family headed to a screening of upcoming sci-fi/fantasy film trailers, then took in a light-saber battle demonstration.

"It's a nice way to connect with the kids," said Jason Rivera, 38. "The second they showed a glimmer of interest in the stuff that I used to love, I was back into it full-swing."

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