Teens flock to LumaCon in Petaluma for cosplay and fantasy games

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The lure of comics, fantasy games and beloved movie characters drew youths and adults Saturday to the Petaluma Community Center for the fifth annual LumaCon convention.

Some of the visitors were recognizable, dressed up as Princess Leia and Rey from the “Star Wars” franchise, while others were a little more obscure to those not well versed in gamer culture. At least four attendees came in the blue hair and mask of Sal Fisher of the popular online game “Sally Face.”

The event, modeled after the popular Comic-Con in San Diego, also featured budding young artists whose work may one day find them mentioned in the same company as comic giants Stan Lee or Jack Kirby.

Gitano DePaola, 11, of Santa Rosa, was selling prints of his work, which ranged from a colorful sketch of Pennywise, the dancing clown from the Stephen King novel “It,” to a black-and-white etching of Batman with his cape unfurled like a wing.

Self-taught, DePaola said the convention allowed him to showcase his art to peers as well as pick up a little extra money on the side. Even at a young age, he noted that he has to keep track of newly emergent characters popular with his generation.

“There’s like these new Avengers comic books with a whole new lineup of characters. So I think that is pretty cool,” said DePaola, who attends Willowside Middle School. “I like seeing the different artists here.”

He has attended the event — which was first held at Herzog Hall on the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds — for the past four years. Saturday’s event also featured workshops as well as a mock cosplay battlefield on the center’s grass field, where costumed children jousted with foam swords, faux daggers and shields.

The event is organized by the Petaluma Regional Library and the libraries at Casa Grande High School and Petaluma High School. It helps encourage youths to discover the resources at their local libraries as places to explore, play Dungeons & Dragons or read a fantasy novel, said Joe Cochrane, the branch manager of the Petaluma Regional Library.

“What can we do to get the next generation excited about the library so it doesn’t die with us?” Cochrane said.

The effort has paid off. Wednesday night is now particularly busy as the Petaluma branch can get up to 60 teens in its youth area, he said.

“The day I got to the library (in 2014), our teen room was barren. There was not a teen in the place,” Cochrane said. “We now have teens so coming out of our ears, we now have a good problem. We have seniors who are like, ‘I remember the library when it was so quiet.’”

The library is now developing a quiet area for adults, he added.

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