When the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Anime Club launched its own convention five years back, members had no big expectations. What kind of pull did a Japanese animation convention have in the Midwest?
"We weren't sure anybody would come," said Becky Potter, the club's president at the time. "So we were really surprised when 300 people showed up."
They were surprised when it continued to grow the next year. And the year after that.
Now in its sixth year, Anime NebrasKon is slated to bring in more than 1,500 attendees this weekend.
The convention has grown so much, it had to switch venues. The previous five years took place at the Nebraska Union. But given the convention's growing attendance and a need for a venue that would accommodate 24-hour programming, NebrasKon moved to Omaha this year, to the Holiday Inn Convention Center, 3321 S. 72nd St.
NebrasKon attendees come from all over the Midwest, said activities coordinator Dylan Nigh, with more than half coming from out of state.
"I think what attracts people to NebrasKon is we try to make sure that there's something for everyone," he said. "Our focus is not just on Japanese animation."
Over the past few years, NebrasKon has grown to include video gaming, costume contests, talent shows, human chess games and a live game of "The Oregon Trail." This year, there will even be a laser tag competition between "Star Wars" stormtroopers and "Halo" soldiers.
NebrasKon will host more than 100 events this year.
"We want to keep growing," said Potter, now NebrasKon's chairman. "The balance for us is, as big as the convention gets, we always want to be able to interact with our audience. We want to continue to create that friendly, personable environment that we started with."
Reach Micah Mertes at 473-7395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.