By Mat Weir
If you’ve been paying attention at all, even barely, to the state of pop culture in the last several DECADES then it comes as no surprise that nerd culture and collectibles are here to stay. Now, let’s get one thing straight, I say “nerd culture” in the most loving way possible because, well, I am one. Star Wars, DC AND Marvel comics, pop music, cult shows, horror and sci-fi movies, fantasy board games. You name it, I’m most likely into it.
That’s why I was thrilled when the Capitola Collectacon made its second appearance over the weekend of March 4-6. Set up in the old Sears building at the Capitola Mall, the Collectacon is the brainchild of Rob Kaiser and George Tegenkamp, both fans and collectors in their own right. Kaiser is a lifelong pop culture consumer, self-proclaimed “Star Wars addict” and owner of Cruz Into Wellness CBD and Tegenkamp is the owner of Hadbro Toys, both also located at the mall.
“The funny thing is before I [owned Cruz Into Wellness], I owned a repair shop that was right next to the original Hadbro Toys location [on Water Street],” Kaiser says. “We didn’t know each other then but I always wanted to go in.”
They certainly know each other now as they were able to pull off the Central Coast’s largest comic convention to date. To put it bluntly, never tell these scruffy-looking nerf herders the odds. For three days over 60 vendors–from Santa Cruz and throughout the United States–sold their goods with everything under the nerd umbrella represented. Anime figures, comic books, horror memorabilia, patches, buttons, mountains of Funk Pop figures and, yes, Star Wars collectibles were on display and up for sale.
Of course, no convention is complete without celebrities and the Collectacon had plenty from Hollywood.
Friday opened the event for VIP ticket holders where they could go and mingle with the stars, ending in a special, acoustic performance by local celebrity, James Durbin. Saturday was the SONS OF ANARCHY day featuring cast members from the iconic television show like Ryan Hurst, Natalie Skyy, Chris Reed, and more waiting at tables for eager fans lined up to get autographs and photo ops.
Then Sunday concluded the convention with the build up of Star Wars day featuring five different actors who have played fan favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, (Dickey Beer, Done Bies, John Morton, Mark Anthony Austin and Daniel Logan) a feat no other Star Wars event has pulled off. Other Star Wars celebs that day included Mark Dodson (voice of Salacious Crumb as well as several Mogwai from the GREMLINS films), Emily Swallow (the Armorer on THE MANDALORIAN and BOOK OF BOBA FETT), C.Andrew Nelson (Darth Vader) and more.
So how did Tegenkamp and Kaiser get all this talent under one roof? The internet, of course.
“I reached out to Chris Reed on Reddit and he invited Natalie Skyy, who used to live in Los Gatos,” Kaiser explains. “Then I reached out to Ryan Hurst on Cameo, pestering him with like 15 messages.”
And the fans loved it.
Santa Cruzans, old and young lined up to buy a piece of nostalgia or have their collectibles signed by the actors who played their favorite characters. Fans dressed up in their best cosplay costumes, copying their beloved characters or combining them for new designs (like the Furry Fox Loki or Deadpool crossed with the purple dotted blue fur of James “Sully” Sullivan from Disney/Pixar’s MONSTER’S INC.).
“My favorite part about the weekend was seeing the appreciation of the community,” Tegenkamp tells EventSantaCruz.com. “Seeing other collectors say how cool this has been. Or people who wouldn’t necessarily be into something like this, but get that spark of nostalgia and then coming back the second day with complete excitement. Seeing that sparkle in someone’s eyes when they see a toy they haven’t seen in 30 year.”
No wallet was safe and although I kept myself to a tight budget, even I couldn’t pass up a few comics I’ve been searching for or had as a fat, asthmatic, glasses wearing kid. While the Fetts and several other actor signatures or photo ops were a little out of my budget, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get a Mark Dodson signed picture of 3D, the 3D glasses wearing Gremlin eating popcorn in the movie theater from the first film. I mean, how cool, right? Plus, Dodson was a nice guy and super generous as he had already packed up and was about to leave but agreed to sign the print and chat it up a bit.
And it makes sense for Santa Cruz to finally have a convention of this magnitude.
Afterall, Santa Cruz is not only steeped in pop culture, but is pop culture itself. Santa Cruz Skateboards, NHS, O’Neill, are all iconic brands known throughout the world to the point where some wearing the brand don’t even realize it’s an actual city. Jim Phillips’ screaming hand is a thing of legends. The Lost Boys, Them, Killer Klowns From Outerspace, Magnum Force, Bumblebee have all delivered local destinations to movie fans in even the most remote parts of the planet. Hell, people can now jump in their Nissan Santa Cruz and take it for a spin.
Needless to say, after such a massive hit, the Capitola Collectacon is already planning next year’s show. It’s too early for any celebrity announcements yet, but we do know the name will be changed to the Capitola Comic-Con and will be held March 3-5, 2023 at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in the historic Cocoanut Grove.
“Next year we’re hoping to have even more of our Santa Cruz pop culture heritage on display,” Tegenkamp explains. “Our artists from the 1970’s and 80’s, our surf and skate parks that still blow people’s minds.”
As the ancient Mandalorian mantra says, “This is the way.”