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Nerds plan to con Rochester

September 2, 2018

“Nerdy” fun is Brad Vigesaa’s business.

He and Jake Scharpen opened the doors of NerdinOut, their Rochester pop culture shop featuring comics, toys and video games in spring 2017.

This year, the duo is taking their nerd game to the next level by hosting a two-day NerdinOut Con on the weekend of Sept. 8 with celebrities, comics, games, cosplay contests and a lot more.

While it’s modeled after much larger and well-known conventions, like San Diego’s ComicCon, Vigesaa describes the upcoming event more like a festival with a strong pop culture focus.

“It’s not just toys, comics and video games. It’s whatever you like in your life … sort of a mesh of everything people enjoy really immersing themselves and getting lost in,” he said while standing in his Elton Hills shop surrounded by action figures, vintage comics and Magic: The Gathering cards.

The popularity of these type of gatherings is exploding across the country. The online ticket seller Eventbrite estimates that fan conventions in North America brought in about $600 million in 2013, and that number continues to grow.

The inaugural NerdinOut convention will be held in the Graham Arena on the Olmsted County Fairgrounds. More than 40 vendors of comics, video games, jewelry, art and other things are expected. There will also be an escape room, a video arcade, card game tournaments, cosplay contests, face-painting, authors talking about their books and a variety of other experiences.

“There’s something for everyone to enjoy,” Vigesaa said.

Pre-sales of tickets have done well enough that the event is already close to breaking even, he said.

A big draw at these conventions are the celebrities signing autographs and visiting with fans. NerdinOut has its own group of pop culture celebs featuring actors, TV personalities and championship wrestlers.

“I think we’ve brought in the right lineup of guests, ones that will be nice and conversational,” Vigesaa said.

The biggest name is Sean Gunn, who plays plays Kraglin, the first mate of space pirate Yondu, in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies.

While it isn’t a visible role, he also does the body movements for the computer-generated “Rocket Racoon” that is voiced by Bradley Cooper.

Others slated to appear include Joshua Mikel of “The Walking Dead” TV show, legendary wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Ming Chen of “Comic Book Men” TV show and more.

Vigesaa has a growing business, a day job and a family. Why take on a project like launching a new fan convention?

“I felt the city needed it,” he said.

It also will help people become more aware of the NerdinOut shop, which they hope to move to a larger and more visible location in the near future.

He pointed to Nick McLaughlin of the Stationary Astronauts, who recently launched the “Meeting of the Minds” speaker series, as paving the way for alternate entertainment in Rochester.

Like McLaughlin, the NerdinOut crew is looking to the future, with plans to host more events.

“We’re going to need a larger venue next year and we might do three days instead of two,” Vigesaa said. “The whole goal is to be the number one con in Minnesota. I want this to be the con everyone wants to go to.”

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