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Lyon Con day one highlights community’s ‘geek culture,’ despite week’s weather

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Lyon Con day one highlights community’s ‘geek culture,’ despite week’s weather

People young and old played table top games and more at this year's Lyon Con (Lonnroth/LION).

People young and old played table top games and more at this year's Lyon Con (Lonnroth/LION).

People young and old played table top games and more at this year's Lyon Con (Lonnroth/LION).

People young and old played table top games and more at this year's Lyon Con (Lonnroth/LION).

Lars Lonnroth, Managing Editor of Breaking News and Multimedia Content

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For the second year in a row, people of all ages descended on the LT Corral Saturday for the first day of Lyon Con, a weekend of festivities celebrating the community’s so-called “geek culture.” Not only did people play a variety of different games, but some people even came dressed up as their favorite characters as well.

The event—a fundraiser for LT’s Board Games club, the television station LTTV and the Corral—had tables where people young and old played tabletop board games and engaged in other means of expressing their individual interests.

However, due to the life-threatening cold on Wednesday and Thursday that brought activity at LT to a halt, the first day of activities did not attract the same attendance as it did last year, Lyon Con co-founder and Supervisor of Television Services Bill Allan said.

“Typically, the week before the event, we go really heavy in the print marketing,” Allan said. “We were going to have fliers all over town. Fliers at game stores, fliers at comic book stories, fliers at libraries and—of course—fliers at both North and South Campus. Unfortunately, we missed two crucial days to do that.”

Over the whole weekend, last year’s Lyon Con brought 300 attendees to the Corral. While the full weekends attendance is not yet available for this year’s Lyon Con, the first day of activities brought roughly 50 people to the event, which is still lower than the first day last year.

In addition to less promotion, the drop in attendance may also have been caused in part by a 40-player video-game tournament that was canceled a few weeks before the event.

“Saturday last year we had a gaming tournament that brought about 50 people,” Allan said. “This year, unfortunately, we had a Warhammer 40k tournament that fell through. So we were contacted two weeks ago by the tournament’s organizers saying that they had to cancel, and that tournament would’ve been 10 tables and around 40 players.”

Additionally, when the week’s frigid temperatures hammered Chicago, one of the event’s biggest vendors had to drop out as well, Allan said.

Despite all that could not be—circumstances that, if things were different, could’ve helped make the event even larger—Allan did not think that this year was a failure. Even with the unfortunate turn of events, Allan thinks that the event still creates a community for people to be unabashedly open about their interests, whatever they may be.

“To be honest, even as much as this is a fundraiser for LTTV, the Corral and the Board Games Club, it is also just a cool event to have,” Allan said. “It is an event that is open to the community—open to families—and we’ve had a great showing from all ages. I would still consider it a success despite the numbers. It’s not so much about the money; it’s really about the community.”

Those sentiments were reinforced by some of the student organizers who, according to Allan, play an integral role in putting this event on.

“Personally, high school has been rough,” Lyons Con Manager Darren Erwin ‘20 said. “I don’t always fit in. My interests are different than others. But here, this is someplace I belong—this is a place I love going.”

Erwin, who is a member of the Friday-night tabletop gaming group at the Corral that Lyon Con grew out of, said that LT has so many ways for students to form communities, but they are often heavily tilted towards a certain type of expression that does not fully represent the interests of people like her.

“While LT does offer a lot of different clubs and sports, they do really focus on the creative arts and sports like football and basketball,” Erwin said. “Lyon Con gives kids an opportunity to say ‘hey, maybe I’m not the sportiest person but here is a place where I belong.’”

Allan struck a very similar tone, noting the array of activities that schools have to support other aspects of the high school experience that other subcultures can feel excluded from.

“I think any high school can have a pep-rally to support sports. There is often a lot of community or school support for theater programs and music,” Allan said. “What I don’t see or hear about a lot are events that bring together kids who aren’t as interested into those things.”

While sports and the arts are a large part of the high school experience, Allan said that the outlet that Lyon Con can be for people who are interested in different things is also important as well.

“It’s kinda cool that we have a place that kids can go and feel like they can hang out with people who have similar interests, whether again it’s video games or comics or role playing games or board games,” Allan said. “That is a necessary thing, too.”

On top of the community that Lyon Con helps create for members of the Lyons Township community, the event also helps to showcase local businesses associated with “geek culture,” connecting their businesses with people who have interest in the services they provide.

“Lyon Con is an awesome event because of how local it is,” said Em Haverty, who is the assistant manager at Just Escape, an escape room based in LaGrange. “It’s all local businesses, it’s a lot of people who live in the area, and it’s great to get that kind of exposure.”

The event also has helped bring new businesses to the area. Downers Grove-based gaming store Fair Game is in the process of opening a second location in La Grange, partly after their experience at Lyon Con last year.

“Having experienced Lyon Con last year—and getting to know a lot of the high school community members—it gave us a nice introduction to here,” store owner Eric Brezina said.

With their plans to open up in LaGrange in April, Brezina said that they hope their presence at Lyon Con this year will help to make their launch more successful as a result of the visibility they hope to receive.

“Last year, it was like ‘We have this cool store in Downers Grove’ which is a little bit more of a drive. It’s not that far, but it is far enough,” Brezina said. “But this year, we can say ‘Hey, we’re going to be open in April. Keep an eye on our Facebook.’”

The next day of Lyon Con begins 10am Sunday morning.

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Lyon Con day one highlights community’s ‘geek culture,’ despite week’s weather