Award winners from POP!Con’s 2021 cosplay contest. Photo courtesy of Lee County Libraries

POP!Con went big in 2021.

The world was re-emerging from its COVID quarantine cocoon, and while masks were still the mandate, in-person events were returning … even if there were still a few “hybrid” elements to them. Lee County Library’s 2021 Pop!Con — an event that celebrates pop culture, science fiction, several genres of filmmaking, comic books and pretty much anything considered a part of “Geek culture” — blended all of that with elements of Renaissance history, all while balancing in-person and virtual features to satisfy the ever-changing pandemic protocols.

The event was a success, drawing more than 1,500 people and earning glowing reviews from those who attended.

POP!Con 2022 — now entering its fourth year — plans to go even bigger on Aug. 20 with more featured in-person guest appearances, more musicians and street vendors, more gaming, more Renaissance and more opportunities for those who love cosplay and getting recognized for their elaborate costumes. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the library grounds (indoor and outdoor), located at 107 Hawkins Avenue near downtown Sanford.

“Last year completely exceeded our expectations,” said Beth List, director of library services at Lee County Libraries. “We were still concerned about COVID and social distancing, but people were really fantastic that day. Masks were worn, we accommodated those who wanted to remain socially distanced, and our vendors had a great time. Nearly all of them are coming back this year, so that’s telling.

“I really felt like it was an all-embracing event, meaning there was something for everybody — whether you like design, sci-fi, Renaissance, gaming, movies, comics … it hit on everything. We don’t have a ton of events like that in Sanford.”

The 2022 version now has a longer official name, POP!Con 2022 Renaissance Faire & Comic Com. Featured in-person guests will include Cheralyn Lambeth, former Jim Henson puppeteer, cosplay aficionado and cryptozoology expert; local NASA ambassador Dan Combs, former Star Trek special effects makeup artist Dean Jones and DC, Marvel and Disney/Pixar illustrator Al Bigley. Mark Altman, the showrunner and executive producer for the sci-fi adventure series “Pandora” and former producer of TNT’s hit series “The Librarians,” will appear virtually from Hollywood.

The addition of the Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux and Raven’s Keep Forge blacksmithing added the Renaissance flair at last year’s event and proved to be a popular draw, with guests enjoying the battle demonstrations and overall atmosphere. Both groups return this year, and according to co-organizer and librarian Allison Sills, guests will be even more encouraged to come dressed in either Renaissance costumes or as their favorite pop culture characters.

Professional cosplayer and DragonCon show producer May Hemmer and Thread Magnet Cosplay will host a costume judging contest at noon that day — split into five different categories and age groups, with novice and master-level cosplayers invited to take part.

“It’s just a great way for people to express themselves and the things they love from head to toe,” Sills said. “It was a natural inclusion to this event, and we have so many great, national award-winning cosplayers in this area already.”

Library deputy director Brittany Newman experienced her first POP!Con in 2021 and is excited to see the event grow.

“I loved seeing people from all walks of life and all ages come together and have a good time,” she said. “Truly, there was and will be something for everyone. Watching the joy on people’s faces and seeing people have a great time at the library — I hope it just keeps growing and getting better.”


10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 20 at Lee County Libraries in Sanford. The schedule:

  • 10 a.m.: Dan Combs, local NASA Ambassador
  • 11 a.m.: Dean Jones of Snow Camp’s Hollywood Horror Show, who was a special effects make-up artist on Star Trek
  • Noon: Costume Contest with judging by May Hemmer, Show Producer for Dragoncon, Crowbar Cosplay, Thread Magnet Cosplay
  • 1 p.m.: Bill Mulligan, Sanford-based film actor and film aficionado, and Charlotte area Cheralyn Lambeth, former Jim Henson puppeteer and cosplay aficionado, will be talking about North Carolina Cryptozoology
  • 2 p.m.: Mark Altman (virtually)
  • 3 p.m.: Al Bigley, North Carolina illustrator who’s worked for DC Comics, Disney/Pixar, CBS, Marvel Comics and more


Knightly Order of the Fiat, Sword Circle, Raven’s Keep Forge (Blacksmith), Thunder & Spice (Renaissance music), CLAWS, Bouncy house from My Pinata Lady, Raven Forge Games (Sanford), GT Arcade (Sanford), Libby McGowan (Sanford) photography, Bigfoot Festival promotion, Spirits of Sanford, crafts and kids table from Friends of the Lee County Library.

Food Trucks/Dessert/Cider/Mead

Crispy Gyoza, Ella’s Eats, Safari Eatz, Medi Bites, Off the Hog, Sunshine Slushies, JAM Ice Cream, DD&J Concessions, Starrlight Mead, James Creed Cider House


Ashlynne Berkebile, painter (Sanford); Al Bigley, comics illustrator; Samantha Bryant, book writer; Dan Johnson/ Cemetery Plots, comics writer; Marshall Lakes, comics writer/illustrator; Kev Lyerly/Klaws of Kreation, comics writer/illustrator; Dexter Morrill, comics writer/illustrator (Broadway); Olivia Olavarria, painter/illustrator (Sanford); Randall Christopher, book writer (Sanford); William C. Tracy AKA Space Wizard, book writer


B&C Custom Creations (Sanford), Chimerical Reaction, Cuddly Creations, Custom Creature Creations, Elden Fragrances, Eyelight Comics, Free Range Collectibles (toys) (Sanford), Galant Bee (Sanford), Glimmerfae Creations, Hunter Farm (Sanford), Ink Therapy (Sanford), James Creek Cider House, Janet Jackson Jewelry, Killettes Krafts (Sanford), Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux, Liesel’s Hat Hutch, Long Forgotten Forest, My Pinata Lady (Sanford), Oil and Water Lifestyle (Sanford), Raven Forge Games (Sanford), Raven’s Keep Forge (blacksmith), Relatively Charming (Sanford), Salvaged Cycle (Sanford), Sarah A Band (blown glass oddities), Spiral Grove Apothecary, Starrlight Mead, Sword Circle, That Fairy Hair Girl (Sanford), Thunder & Spice, Whimsical Wares (Sanford) and Zenciety

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