Updated: Mar 27, 2020
The second longest comic book convention canceled due to COVID-19
Photo: Ithacon 44 held at Ithaca College featured special guests Louise (Weezy) Simonson and Walt Simonson - shown here interacting with young and young at heart readers.
"Much to our regret, we need to inform you that ITHACON scheduled for March 21-22, is cancelled for 2020."
This announcement is never one you want to hear or one you have to make when you produce live events. The full statement, made on March 10, 2020, is very similar to many other statements made by live events within and well beyond the comics culture industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of dwelling on the reason for its cancellation, I'd like to focus on the amazing nature of this event because it will return in 2021.
What is ITHACON?
ITHACON has been part of my life since I moved to Ithaca NY in 2001 but until this January I was only an avid attendee. I like to describe ITHACON as an authentic comic book convention experience for all ages. Its not about the celebrities or the amount of money you spend on the ticket or the food or the merchandise. Its about the genuine interactions you have while at the event and that's likely because it comes from humble but deeply comics culture connected beginnings.
ITHACON grew out of a middle-school comic book club, and was formally established as The Comic Book Club of Ithaca in 1975. The first ITHACON took place in 1976, and featured 2 guests and has grown each year while not loosing its by-fans-for-fans approach. You could say it the small con that could as organizers do not receive compensation for their efforts, creators of all levels can showcase their works and some of the most historically famous comics creators are featured guests.
ITHACON Finds a New Home
The convention has been held in a wide variety of locations from gymnasiums to hotels, even a Masonic Temple and former office supply storefront but found its current home, Ithaca College, in 2014. When the Women's Community Center was demolished for a new housing development, it left ITHACON founders Bill Turner and Tim Gray concerned. Enter Professor Katharine Kittridge, founder and producer of Pippi to Ripley, an interdisciplinary feminist popular culture conference with a focus on women and gender in imaginative fiction. Professor Kittridge immediately saw the potential and advocated for the college to support and co-host this event so that it could also support interactive learning for students.
Town and Gown Working Together Now ITHACON has more behind the scenes support than ever. Since 2019, Professor Kittridge and Ed Catto have been co-teaching a course that provides students the hands on opportunity to develop and work on the convention prior, during and post event for college credit. This January, I stepped in Professor Kittridge's shoes as she is on sabbatical and with my event production experience, comics culture knowledge and small business perspective, I bring something new to mix.
While the event did not happen, the hard work and effort of all organizing contributors is not going to waste. The semester isn't over for the students, though we are now completing the course work via digital methods. I am very excited to see how each student will take what they have learned thus far to help guide their final project submission. Moreover, as any event producer knows - as one event ends, the next one is waiting for you - its a cycle that never ends, no matter what gets in the way.