DuluCon Blasts Through 2021 in New Space at Miller Hill Mall

The Convention was able to spread out their main stage and videogame tournament, panelists, vendors, and more end-to-end throughout the mall.

DULUTH, Minn.- DuluCon has gone through quite a few evolutions in its three-year history. From starting out just at the Encounter Youth Center downtown in 2019 to going virtual during the pandemic last year, the event came back in full force in 2021.

“This was a very experimental year. It was, briefly, it was a success,” said Josh Effinger, member of the DuluCon Council. “This year worked out very well.”

This year the convention’s primary setup was at Miller Hill Mall, giving the event some extra exposure.

“There’s lots of people that come here looking for slacks but instead they saw costumed characters like a medieval knight and a videogame character with all the sci-fi armor sitting down having coffee, and they’re like, ‘what’s happening here?'” Effinger said.

Space was also on their side. The Convention was able to spread out their main stage and videogame tournament, panelists, vendors, and more end-to-end throughout the mall.

“Everybody, every store in the mall got a lot more business, just because it’s a fun event and the stores are close by,” said the organizer.

Costumed characters were brought right into stores like Pro-Image Sports. “It’s different to see but it’s nice, get people out,” Assistant Manager Jake Ohman said.

While the NFL Football Season has recharged business, any extra foot traffic these days is welcome.

“A lot more action, brought a lot more people up here,” said Ohman. “Just getting people physically up here, just helps a lot. So it was nice.”

From gamers to jewelry-makers, nerds and hobbyists spiced up the crowd at the mall. “You might find Batman and Gandalf sharing a Sbarro and that doesn’t make sense,” Effinger said. “However, it’s delightful to see.”

Some also spotted the leader of the Halo video games walking by. “A lot of people love Master Chief so it’s quite entertaining when they can actually see one of their favorite characters walking around the halls of Duluth,” said Noah Lesner.

Lesner is one of many cosplayers who build intricate costumes — from scratch.

“The whole time from start to finish took about two years,” he said, going through his armor. “And it’s made completely out of EVA foam and hot glue.”

With an increased number of kids and pre-teens at DuluCon this year, he’s a local celebrity. “That’s what makes it enjoyable for me is when people think it’s cool and want to get a photo.”

“So when I get in the costume it’s basically just ‘ok, let’s go, let’s have some fun here, and let’s try to put a smile on other people’s face’,” said Lesner.

And it’s that feeling of community that DuluCon organizers say it’s all about.

“Knowing there’s a place that can even embrace your tiny niche, you’re extra eager,” Effinger said. “You need to find that place to express yourself and we like to be that.”

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