Calling all Sci-Fi Fans

Annual convention features popular TV stars

Casey Bassett, founder of Sci-Fi Valley Con, stands with a cosplayer at last year’s convention.

Do you ever wonder how our world may be altered if we had different presidents in the past? Do you enjoy reading comics and fantasy books? Does the horror genre interest you? Are you excited by science fiction novels, shows or movies? If you have a passion for any of these science fiction varieties you will feel at home at the upcoming Sci-Fi Valley Con.

The eighth annual show will take place over three days from June 7-9 at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona. The event is a family-friendly atmosphere with a plethora of attractions, appearances and giveaways to excite a seasoned or novice sci-fi enthusiast.

Casey Bassett, promoter and owner of Assett Conventions, LLC, began this convention is 2012 in Ebensburg. It has grown tremendously since then and Bassett still oversees all aspects of the convention. He is busily preparing for this year’s upcoming event, which will feature 300 exhibitors, a costume contest, workshops and guest panels.

This year’s show includes many voice acting legends, such as Rodger Bumpass who is best known as the voice of Squidward in “SpongeBob SquarePants,” with other credits like Professor Membrane in “Invader Zim” and The Chief in “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, the voices behind Pinky and the Brain, will be in attendance as well.

Other voice actors will be at Sci-Fi Valley Con as well as actors from popular television shows. Mark Pellegrino, who played Jacob in “Lost” and James Bishop in “Being Human” and Lucifer from “Supernatural” will be at the convention. Other Supernatural stars David Haydn-Jones and Adam Fergus will also be in attendance. Seth Gilliam, who is best known for his roles of Father Gabriel in “The Walking Dead,” Sugar Watkins in “Starship Troopers” and Dr. Alan Deaton in MTV’s “Teen Wolf” will be at the event.

Bassett said the convention averages about 5,000 guests per year. He used to attend similar conventions in Pittsburgh before deciding to start this one. He puts a lot of heart and soul into making the event a unique, enjoyable and reasonably-priced experience for all who attend.

“I’m obsessed with keeping the prices as reasonable as possible and as little as possible so that the whole family can come out to enjoy the show,” he said.

The family-friendly atmosphere is one that Bassett relishes. Convention goers and exhibitors comment on how the event feels like a big reunion, seeing some of the same faces from year to year.

Lee DePiro, from Gearbox Union, has gone to Sci-Fi Valley Con since its inception. He looks forward to this weekend each year and the kinship he has with other attendees.

“It’s just a great community; there’s a lot of love between everybody at the convention. It’s big and keeps getting bigger each year, but it still has that small community feel. Everyone pulls together to have a fun weekend,” DePiro said.

DePiro is one of the original founders of Gearbox Union whose group is comprised of individuals in Blair County who enjoy gaming, comic books and making the world and area a better place through their charity events. At Sci-Fi Valley Con, the group will present Con-Quest.

“It’s sort of like a scavenger hunt. About 100 tables sign up to donate prizes to raffle,” DePiro said. He said that the hunt will benefit Child’s Play, an organization that donates toys, games, books, etc. for children in hospitals.

Another charity event that will take place at Sci-Fi Valley Con is a charity quick sketch, with artists drawing original sketches at the event. Raffle proceeds will go to various charities.

Bassett will offer a variety of attractions and exhibits at this year’s Sci-Fi Valley Con and works tirelessly each year to keep the event fresh.

“The biggest thing is trying to find new, relevant guests and every year we open up different panels and different exhibitors,” he said.

Bassett has done just that and found something for every sci-fi enthusiast. He said, “We have model workshops, authors who talk about writing, artists about being independent artists, trivia, a retro video game room with 30 different consoles, lots of charity events — we basically cover everything.”