Family-oriented fantasy fun: Sci-Fi Valley Con to be held at Blair County Convention Center

Courtesy photo / Rob Paulsen, who provided voices for the cartoons “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain,” will appear at the Sci-Fi Valley Con.

In its seventh year, the Sci-Fi Valley Con delivers abundantly for science fiction/fantasy/pop culture fans with top-notch celebrity guests, how-to workshops and more than 300 vendors from June 8 through 10 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona.

“We expect between 5,000 and 6,000 people to attend throughout the weekend,” said Casey Bassett of Johnstown, the convention founder and organizer. “We have packed the center’s two floors with more than 300 exhibitors and offer numerous question-and-answer sessions with our guest speakers. I expect tons of fans of the CW’s ‘Supernatural’ series. Actors Jim Beaver (attending Saturday and Sunday only) and Steven Williams have a huge cult following,” he said.

Other top names include Rob Paulsen of “Animaniacs,” Lee Arenberg of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Brian O’Halloran of “Clerks,” Tracie Thoms of “Death Proof” and cartoon voice stars Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Melissa Fahn and Olvia D’Abo. Autograph and photo opportunities will be held along with the question-and-answer sessions, as will a charity auction to benefit children’s hospitals.

“Our mission at Sci-Fi Valley Con is to enhance the community by providing a high-quality, family-oriented convention showcasing the work of many talented individuals. We strive to ensure that all our visitors have a first-rate experience by submerging them in their passion for all things science fiction, fantasy, horror and alternative history,” Bassett said. “Our commitment is to grow, develop and expand Sci-Fi Valley Con. Science fiction is the imagined future that has not yet been realized.”

After more than 40 years, voice actor Paulsen, 62, still finds his craft “utterly enjoyable” and looks forward to meeting multiple generations of fans during the convention’s meet-and-greets and autograph sessions.

“It’s a kindness to be invited. The fans in the Altoona area are no less fun than in the larger cities like New York City and Dallas,” he said. “It always touches my heart when someone says, ‘your voice is the voice of my childhood.’ I’ve had adults tell me that, as a latch-key kid, the only thing that kept them going and made them smile was ‘Pinky and the Brain.’ It is the unquantifiable compliment and makes for an exquisite experience.”

In his early days in Hollywood, Paulsen auditioned for acting roles in television and film and found more success behind a microphone, sight unseen, where his vocal characterizations and abilities earned him a steady income.

“At one point, I was getting so many roles they were interfering with auditioning, and it came down to the late, great Jonathan Winters telling me I was at a crossroads and would have to choose,” he said. “As a husband and father, I went with the ‘bird in the hand,’ so to speak.”

While growing up in central Michigan, his parents’ work ethic and “their expectation that you behave in a way and treat everyone the same way until they give you a reason not to” ingrained in him a humbleness.

“I felt very early on in my career that if I became a celebrity, I would still behave in a way that would make my parents proud.”

He also has no illusions of grandeur about his talents – “It’s not like I have copious lines of ‘Othello’ to learn. There is nothing mystical going on. Actors are basically extending their childhood. We like to play and be creative.”

Attendees at Sci-Fi Con also can engage in “play” at the many interactive activities that punctuate the weekend.

For example, “Medieval Battle Games” is a demonstration on the lawn Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. Beginner and advanced level fans of medieval sports may engage in full-contact combat games (various levels) where players dress in archaic garb and engage with various weaponry.

The Wolves of Asgard and Iron Horse Irregulars units, based locally, will explain basic rules and equipment used during medieval battle games, and attendees (over age 16 and with parental supervision) can join a post-show fray using a provided stockpile of weapons.

During all three days, workshops will be offered on “Costume and Prop Making,” highlights 3D printing/scanning techniques, molding and casting projects, foam-smithing armor and props presented by 405th Halo Costuming Colonial Regiment and “Working with Epoxies” presented by Jairus of All.

Tabletop gaming opportunities are offered in the Pokeman League Cup Tournament, located in the lobby, and “Dungeons & Dragons” in the gaming room. A nonprofit organization from York, The Bodhana Group, will bring more than 400 board games to show how gaming can be used for education (teaches math, history, social skills), skill building and therapy through narrative role playing games to explore emotional trauma and grief and loss.

Mirror staff writer Patt Keith can be reached at (814) 949-7030.