Dan Farr, FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention founder, saw something special at Utah’s Hogle Zoo this summer that he sorely missed after having to cancel last year’s convention due to COVID-19: fans meeting their heroes.
For its Zoo Brew event in August, where zoo guests visit animals and enjoy hard drinks, Hogle partnered with FanX to add some “pop” to the mix by booking *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone to sign autographs and pose in photos with fans.
“The biggest thing for me is watching fans interact with celebrities,” Farr said.
Farr especially enjoys seeing stars eliciting nostalgia and tears of joy for fans. As a face many millennials once had taped to their junior high school binders, Fatone fit that bill.
Farr hopes for that feeling many times over at this year’s FanX, where Utahns will interact with film and TV stars, writers, artists and more at the Salt Palace Convention Center from Sept. 16–18. This year’s lineup includes Judith Hoag (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys) and Zachary Quinto (American Horror Story).
This year, during a pandemic, Farr said there were both difficulties and advantages while booking celebrities.He mentioned that while some celebrities are anxious to meet fans again, some others are not willing to attend. Others couldn’t attend because they were required to quarantine for film or TV projects.
“We have not been able to lock in that marquee-type guest, but we have such a broad selection of guests,” Farr said, regarding this year’s lineup. “Basically, it’s not going to be just a few big names, but we’ll have a lot of great names.”
Like in past years, FanX focused on booking multiple guests from the same TV shows and movies. “We find if we bring a group out. It’s a much more enjoyable experience for the fans, but it also helps the celebrities. They can do group photo ops, so I think it’s something that, overall, is absolutely a better way to go,” Farr said.
Multiple stars from M*A*S*H*, Boy Meets World and Cobra Kai will join this year’s convention. Farr said Cobra Kai cast members were considered for the 2019 convention, but they were filming at the time. Instead, they were booked for 2020, which was cancelled. This year, the show has a much greater following.
“We’re really getting them now at the best time possible,” he said.
While the pandemic continues, Farr said he will follow the guidance of local civic leaders regarding regulations, including a mask requirement for all attendees. He even said it was possible to cancel the event again, but he added that “there is going to be a cost if we don’t have it.”
“We lost a lot of people to isolation. We’ve lost two of our staff members, and I think the isolation from COVID was one of the key factors in that,” Farr said. “I think they’d still be with us today if we would have a chance to stay connected.”
In 2020, a settlement was finalized between FanX and San Diego Comic-Con over a trademark lawsuit regarding FanX’s former title, Salt Lake Comic Con.
“Fortunately, that’s all behind us. It’s all settled out, and I think it was a real serendipitous situation that we had started developing the FanX name, so when we slipped into it, we had a good following to start off.” Farr said. “We had a lot of people say that they feel like the name FanX is a better description for what we do.”
What they do, removed from concerns over COVID restrictions and lawsuits, is connect fans to the celebs they love.
When Farr asked Dick Van Dyke why his fans tear up upon meeting him, Van Dyke explained to him that those fans are taken back to positive moments of their lives that he was a part of that they can relive, in a way, when they meet him.
“I’ve looked for that and noticed it,” Farr said. “It’s almost like that feeling coming back.”