Sep 21, 2022 - Things to Do

How FanX brings out Utah's cultural norms

A man and woman in fake pig noses pose with their daughter for a photo with actor Warwick Davis.
Erin and her family pose as Bavmorda's victims with actor Warwick Davis at a pre-pandemic FanX photo op. Photo: Courtesy Erin Alberty

FanX is bringing its biggest celebrity lineup ever to Salt Lake City this weekend.

Yes, and: The show's operator says the stars and their agents are citing Utah's cultural norms as a big part of the draw.

Driving the news: About 75 celebrities are coming to the massive entertainment convention, which pulled in crowds of around 100,000 before the pandemic.

  • William Shatner, Cary Elwes and Giancarlo Esposito are among this year's guests, along with multiple actors from the hit shows "Stranger Things" and "Cobra Kai" and the cult classic 90s film "Clerks."
  • But FanX founder Dan Farr had to turn down requests from 25 to 50 more who wanted to join — demand that he says outpaces shows in other cities, like Atlanta and Indianapolis, where his company operates.

State of play: Celebrities and agents specifically have said Salt Lake's fan culture is reliably polite, Farr said —not a superficial quality when stars are spending hours with strangers who paid for a meet-and-greet.

  • "They can still be excited, but they maintain their composure and appropriateness," he said.
  • That's a big relief for celebrities who may have encountered entitled fans elsewhere, or who are new to the convention circuit, he said.

Erin's thought bubble: My family paid for a photo-op with Warwick Davis a few years ago, which I worried would be awkward for us and tedious for him.

  • Instead, he flashed his million-dollar smile as we pulled on our pig noses (à la "Willow"), and it took like a week for us to come down from the high.

What we're watching: Fans' costumes get more elaborate each year, which makes for spectacular people-watching downtown.

  • Vendors describe Salt Lake's cosplayers as a step above most other fan markets, Farr said: A "beginner" costume design would be intermediate elsewhere, and lots of amateurs pull off professional-level getups.
  • That speaks to another Utah cultural norm: lots of enthusiasm for crafting and other DIY projects.

How it works: FanX runs from 10am Thursday to late Saturday night at the Salt Palace.

  • The schedule features a dense lineup of panels and exhibits.
  • Tickets range from $20 for Thursday only, to $295 VIP passes for the weekend. Photo-ops cost $40 to $130 depending on the celebrity.
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