Pop-Con at DeKalb library introduces children to creepy crawlers, delights pop culture fans

October 13, 2018

DeKALB – The DeKalb Public Library was filled with all things creepy and spooky Saturday for its second annual Pop-Con, at which children and families celebrated Halloween a couple of weeks early.

Children made ghost and zombie marshmallow pops, held tarantulas and skunks, decorated “gravestone” cakes, learned about bats and much more. The free event proved to be very popular, as the main lobby was packed with families and awestruck children who crowded around the “Incredible Bats” table.

Britta Krabill, head of adult services, said that the library is always looking for ways to bring new and unique experiences to the community. She said last year’s Pop-Con was held in December, but was moved to October so they could incorporate Halloween.

“This engages the community. We want to get people in here, and not just to get books or movies. This is a fun event and all the kids are so engaged,” she said.

It’s not every day that children can hold a tarantula, but Serenity Kirkman, 7, bravely held out her hand to touch the furry spider.

“I’ve never seen a spider that big,” said Serenity, a second grader at Taylor Elementary School in DeKalb. “I like holding it because it’s cute. I like to bats and skunk, too.”

Sharon Peterson, the owner of Incredible Bats, travels around to area schools and libraries with her tarantula, skunks and bats. She said that children are always very interested in the animals.

“I love bats and I want to help people dispel myths and appreciate them. They’re so important to our ecology and kids love this,” she said.

Marcie Martin of Sycamore said that her two children were very intrigued by the animals. She said that they were also interested in trying the Escape Room, which was located in the library’s basement where groups of eight are locked in a room for 20 minutes and have to work together to solve problems to unlock the room.

“This is amazing. It’s a great opportunity to expose them to creatures,” she said of the animals. “We were excited about this and they’re definitely engaged. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Escape Room was new at Pop-Con this year, and Susan Garlisch, teen librarian, said that the activity is very popular with teens at the library, which hosts “Breakout DeKalb” rooms once a month.

“It’s almost like a treasure or scavenger hunt,” she explained. “It’s educational too, because they have to collaborate, which brings out different skills because they have to find ways to solve problems.”

Kelly Maldonaldo’s two children, ages 8 and 10, were most excited about the Escape Room. She said that was one of the main reasons they attended the event, and also because the kids could wear their Halloween costumes a little early.

“They love Halloween, and since they already had their costumes, they couldn’t wait to wear them,” she said.

For the younger children, the crafts and marshmallow pops were the biggest hit. Angela and Kevin Wu of Sycamore were helping their son, Aiden, 3, decorate a marshmallow.

“He likes anything spooky, and this looked like a fun, spooky event leading up to Halloween,” Angela Wu said. “I like that this has activities for kids of all ages. He’s having a lot of fun.”

Ryan Williams of Elmhurst, who grew up in DeKalb, brought his 6-year-old daughter to the library so she could explore the variety of imaginative activities.

“It’s a creative environment for kids, and it’s nice they can play with sticks and marshmallows and get away from TV and technology,” he said. “This is how I grew up, playing with toys, and it’s nice they can come here and play with simple things.”

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