BY: Troy Kramm
In the heart of the prairies is the city that rhymes with fun (sorry, I had to say it). Regina, Saskatchewan was playing host to an event for nerds all around and I just so happened to be one of them in attendance. I made my way to the Sask Expo in Regina on Saturday, September 23 and September 24.
This was a first for me as I have never taken the time to get to an expo despite it being right in my own backyard. I can tell you this though, it will not be my last!
What an absolute blast it was to be at this event. Any and all expectations I had were blown away. Upon arrival at The International Trade Centre I knew this was going to be a fun time. The venue itself allowed plenty of space for a variety of vendors, artist displays, and Cosplay folks to show off their costumes. Oh, and you cannot forget the variety of food that is available to everyone when you need to recharge and get ready to listen in on celebrity panels.
This year’s celebrity guests were highlighted by Khary Payton, Nolan North, Amy Jo Johnson (My personal fave), and Judith Hoeg, who unfortunately had to cancel due to a last minute family emergency. This absence was obviously disappointing for some, but any sadness could be replaced by venturing out into the main hall where you could find any geeky item that your heart desired.
Vendors as far as the eye could see, and one of the most unique was Regina’s own Karavan Curio and Collectibles. This little horror shop of oddities which is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Evan and Karmyn Sentes, specializes in the strange and spooky. Established just over a year ago, they have continued to expand quickly and events like the Sask Expo only increase their popularity and overall enjoyment they have of running their business.
“I love seeing the effort that people put into making their costumes here and getting to know what they are interested in when they stop by” said Evan.
This year it seemed like people were interested in horror themed Funko Pops and horror prop replicas. Evan mentioned that these items were selling great and even though there were so many vendors on the floor, their niche horror items kept people coming back for more. Even though horror was popular today, my personal favourite items were the wide variety of wrestling merchandise such as figures, socks, masks, shirts, and whatever else you can think of. If you missed out on anything they have to offer this year make sure to keep an eye out for them next time.
“We had a great time here and we plan to be back even bigger and badder next year” added Evan.
In the meantime, you can always stop in to see them at their store located at 1640 Albert Street, Regina, Sask.
Collectibles and merchandise are just one part of what vendors have to offer at the expo. Another huge component to the show are artists booths where individuals come to highlight their talent and sell unique pieces of artwork to those in attendance.
For artists such as Johnni Kok and Sabrina O’Donnell these events are everything to them. Although the schedule can be grueling, it is a way of life like no other.
It was only a few years ago when Johnni was playing it safe and working a day job that left him feeling underwhelmed to say the least.
“Working a marketing and sales management job was eating my soul slowly ” he said with a laugh. A feeling that I myself understand all too well and I love to hear stories about those who can escape the day to day rat race.
Rather than work a Monday to Friday 9-5 job he continued to create art and began calling himself a full time artist in 2015. A decision of this magnitude was not something that he took lightly and he has had much needed support from others along the way to help make him successful.
“My former employers were very supportive when I started going to conventions. They said as long as I gave them enough notice they were ok”. Said Johnni.
He added that “It was absolutely terrifying” investing fully in himself. Not only was he without a safety net, Johnni was paying for costs up front such as hotels, flights, and hotel rooms.
“It’s scary, but when it works, it feels really good betting on yourself” said Johnni.
It’s fair to say that he feels REALLY good about himself right now. The number of people coming and making purchases at his booth while I was there was constant. If you are looking to get an original artwork from a Johnni Kok, the only way you can do that is in person at these conventions. A great sign of his success is that there is no need for him to sell anything online and rather than deal with shipping and postal rates he can just connect with people in person and get them some art the way he likes.
At this expo I really began to see the support that each of these artists get when interacting with those who come say hi. One of my favourite interactions on the weekend was with Sabrina O’Donnell. Some may know her online as Sabtastic!
I was initially drawn to her artwork that was on display as it fits the All Ages of Geek aesthetic. So, I went and asked if I could take a picture of her booth, and before you know it, I was telling her about myself and why I was at the expo and the projects I was working on. She laughed and joked saying “you are one of us now”.
My own projects pale in comparison to what this independent artist from Alberta creates. Gorgeous prints from original drawings, enamel pins, custom clothing (with ducks, this woman loves ducks!) and I am sure there is more that I am forgetting to mention.
A regret I have is not taking the time to talk to her longer. That was a common theme for me here at the Expo. So much to see and so many people to talk to and not enough hours in the day. Another theme at the Expo was the willingness for people to listen and share stories. Individuals I spoke with wanted to know as much about me as I did about them. These simple acts of kindness continue to make events like this feel like a safe place for people. With that being said, I am counting down that days until Sask Expo 2024.
Social Media: Karavan Instagram: @karavan_yqr, Johnni Kok instagram @johnnikokart, Sabrina O’Donnell instagram @sabtastic, Twitter @sabtastique