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Go on, geek out! Downtown Phoenix to host annual Comicon this weekend

(Special to KTAR Photo/Shaun Sargent)

PHOENIX — Downtown Phoenix will play host to popular characters, some select celebrities and huge crowds this weekend as it hosts the annual Comicon event.

The annual event routinely draws thousands of comic book, video game, television and movie lovers to the Convention Center in downtown, snarling traffic and packing bars, restaurants and hotels to their comic capacity.

The four-day event begins Thursday and will wrap up Sunday evening.

Over the four days, downtown will be swamped with fans. From meet-and-greets with celebrities to shopping and after-parties, Phoenix will be a haven for all things nerd.

So what is there to do and see? We put together the handy guide below of everything you need to know about Phoenix Comicon.

What is Comicon?

We’ve said it before, but Comicon is about celebrating all things comics, books, movies, television and video game!

“A lot of people come out and play games and hang out with friends and there’s this whole sort of community that’s built up around it,” Tom Kuipers with Comicon said.

The main event — the exhibitor hall — opens at 4 p.m. Thursday and will stay open until 9 p.m. It will open at 10 a.m. Friday to Sunday and will close at 7 p.m., save for Sunday, when the doors will close at 5 p.m.

Special Comicon programming — think workshops, celebrity panels and the like — begin at noon Thursday and run to 11 p.m. that evening. On Friday and Saturday, programming begins at 10:30 a.m. and doesn’t wrap up until 1:30 a.m. On Sunday, things will also get started at 10:30 a.m. but will be done by 5:30 p.m.

Other events will also be held at the nearby Hyatt Regency.

Do people really dress up?

Actually, people are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters. Some people spend years putting together their ensemble and it’s part of the draw.

But some of the most popular characters carry weapons. Off-duty Phoenix police officers will be ensuring weapons are safe and attaching tags to those that look real, while some may be confiscated and returned at the end of the day.

Any weapon that is part of a costume and carried inside must be inoperable, so all you aspiring Han Solos out there may want to leave the blasters for fighting the Imperials.

There is a full guide available online, but a good indicator is: If it looks or looks like it works, consider leaving it at home.

What celebrities will be there?

While we don’t have the room to post the full list here, we can offer a few highlights:

  • Sean Astin (“The Goonies,” “Lord of the Rings”)
  • Alex Kingston (“ER,” “Arrow,” numerous BBC shows)
  • Mark Pellegrino (“The Big Lebowski,” “National Treasure,” “Dexter”)
  • Billie Piper (Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful”)
  • Ralph Macchio (“The Karate Kid”)

Celebrities may only appear a few days or a couple times, so it’s best to plan ahead.

So how much is this going to run me?

Tickets — called badges — for Comicon are still available and start at $15 for adults for a single-day pass and $75 for the full weekend.

Special badges for children are available for $5.

Badges can be used for entry to nearly every event at Comicon. Some events will require an extra fee and some actors charge an autograph fee.

Getting there without teleporting

If you’re making your way around downtown this weekend by car, expect slightly heavy traffic. The area near the Convention Center — between Second, Third, Washington and Monroe streets — will be particularly busy.

Third Street will be closed between Washington and Monroe streets for outdoor events.

Some of the parking garages around the event will also be charging a premium, so if you can take the heat and walk, you’re likely to save a few dollars.

Also, the light rail will drop off attendees from both a galaxy far, far away. Or just those who park and ride in from one of Phoenix’s suburbs.

KTAR’s Lauren Grifo contributed to this report.

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