FanX, Salt Lake City’s largest sci-fi/fantasy fan fest, brings celebrities, artists, authors and others to the Salt Palace to meet fans twice each year. The event doesn’t just connect nerds with their heroes though. Amid the packed halls of costumed attendees, the convention also gives families a chance to geek out together.

Aside from the very first FanX event in 2013, John Patten and his daughter Brynn haven’t missed an opportunity to do just that.

Mark Hamill with fans
John Patten (left) and his daughter Brynn (right) wear their Star Wars costumes for a photo with Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker. Photo courtesy of John Patten.

“My daughter Brynn, a 20-year-old, single college student, considers the Salt Lake FanX the high points of her year,” said Patten, assistant superintendent for Alpine School District/costume designer for his and Brynn’s convention experiences. “Last time, we brought home pictures with Lynda Carter and Tom Felton, an autograph from Zachary Levi, some artwork and stickers, one of those insulated FanX mugs, several pictures of other convention attendees and loads of information and memories thanks to some great panels.”

Their time together means more to Patten than the merch they bring home though. He says the biggest benefit is seeing how Brynn comes out of her shell at the events.

“Normally, she is reserved, most comfortable settling into a couch behind her headphones and drawing tablet. A self-proclaimed socially awkward person, she is mostly at home when not at school or work.” Patten says. “FanX, for her, is a giant safe bubble, filled with like-minded souls that she feels no hesitation to connect with.”

Karen Gillan with fans
John Patten (left) and his daughter Brynn (right) in costume, pose with actress Karen Gillan of Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy. Photo courtesy of John Patten.

At FanX, Brynn strikes up conversations and poses for photos with other fans. “It is so gratifying to see her have that kind of experience,” Patten says.

On a recent drive home from a convention, Patten says Brynn told him that if one of her friends ever asked her to go with them to FanX, she would say ‘Sure, as long as you want to go with me and my dad— it’s our thing.’ “That melted my heart,” Patten says, “and, of course, made me a loyal convention-goer for life.”

This September’s FanX will feature a wide range of celebrities, including Spider-man actor Tom Holland, Patrick Renna of The Sandlot, Jason Isaacs and Matthew Lewis of the Harry Potter films and voice actors Ming-Na Wen, Susan Egan and Jess Harnell, who runs a panel called Jess and Me, where fans can perform with him on stage.

KidCon
KidCon at FanX is a space for young children and parents. Image courtesy of FanX

FanX will also include KidCon, an area reserved for children and parents, where kids can join tea parties with princesses, participate in hands-on activities and pose for photos with models of characters like Batman and Forky from Toy Story 4. “There is so much for families to just do together,” says Dan Farr, FanX co-founder.

Geek out at FanX Sept. 5–7 at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Find tickets at fanxsaltlake.com.

Read more of our family content in our Kid-friendly blog roll.