Here are Phoenix Fan Fusion 2023's must-see events and attractions | Phoenix New Times

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Here are Phoenix Fan Fusion 2023's must-see events and attractions

There's more to do at Phoenix Fan Fusion besides meeting celebrities.
Phoenix Fan Fusion's Masquerade Costume Contest is one of the highlights of the event.
Phoenix Fan Fusion's Masquerade Costume Contest is one of the highlights of the event. Benjamin Leatherman
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Rubbing elbows with celebrities ain’t the only thing to do at Phoenix Fan Fusion. True, it might be a major draw, but the true heart and soul of the three-day event is its wide variety of panels, activities, and programming.

Arizona fandom historian Hal Astell says it helps set Fan Fusion apart from other large-scale ‘cons.

“It isn't just the big Q&As with the [big-name] guests, though those can be essential if you're a fan of a particular person or franchise,” he says. “There's a lot of programming all day every day and it runs a pretty broad spectrum.”

And it can be overwhelming. More than 1,000 hours of programming will be offered at the Phoenix Convention Center during Fan Fusion, and there’s likely something for everyone.

Local geeks are already making plans about what they’re doing.

Brenda Flavin of Phoenix will be attending the Steampunk Fashion Show. Valley resident Leah Erne is looking forward to attending the annual "Drinks with Authors" mixer.

We've got our own to-do list of must-see activities at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2023, which range from building imaginative LEGO creations and learning how to use a lightsaber to attending drag shows.

Here’s a look at the most “must-see” programming events and activities at this year’s Fan Fusion.

(Note: All of the events require purchasing Fan Fusion admission in order to attend.)

Queen Lantern Corps: Dragstravaganza

Local drag kings and queens will transform into characters from comic books, video games, and sci-fi and strut their stuff inside West 301BCD starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, during the Dragstravaganza. This year’s edition will feature local drag legend Barbra Seville becoming a Barbra Gordon from the campy “Batman” television show from the 1960s, Freddy Charming dressing as Captain Kirk and Justin Cider as Wario. It’s free to attend with VIP seating at the front of the house available for $25 per person.

Kids Need to Read Charity Poker Tournament

Want to make like the crew from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and attend a late-night poker sesh? This 18-and-over charity tournament from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, June 2, in West 106ABC benefits local nonprofit Kids Need to Read and will involve no-limit games of Texas Hold’em for prizes. You might even see a special guest or two playing. The buy-in is $20 per person. Registration is at 7 p.m.
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Jeff Moriarty (right) with the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown trophy.
Jeff Moriarty

Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown

If there’s one thing nerds love, it’s arguing over different aspects of geekdom. During the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown, they’ll do so for fun, bragging rights and a unique trophy. The competition involves participants debating nerd-oriented topics like “Who had bigger daddy issues: Luke Skywalker or Bruce Wayne?” in point-counterpoint fashion. Organizer Jeff Moriarty describes it as “a fearsome battle of minds [over] the most mindless fluff imaginable.” This year’s edition is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, in North 132ABC. Anyone interested in competing can sign up here.

Drinks With Authors

Local bookworms, bibliophiles, and word nerds can mingle with novelists, writers, and authors at this event on Saturday, June 3. Taking place in West 106ABC, this laidback mixer will feature several author guests and a cash bar. The theme will be villainy, so expect conversations about overthrowing mankind or dabbling in the dark arts. Anyone 18 and older can attend, but you’ll have to be 21 to imbibe. The affair starts at 8 p.m. Admission is free.
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Yes, you can play with LEGOs at Phoenix Fan Fusion.
Xavi Cabrera/Unsplash

LEGO Build Off

Aspiring LEGO Masters with quick hands and imagination to spare can show off their skills during daily build-offs in West 102ABC. Presented by local LEGO enthusiast group Cactus Brick, the competitions are open to both youths and adults and take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, and at noon on Sunday, June 4. If you’d rather just snap together colored bricks, free-build sessions occur throughout the weekend.

Padawan Lightsaber Training

"Star Wars" fans have been playing with lightsabers since the laser swords first appeared on the silver screen in 1977, be it the plastic toy versions, screen-accurate replicas, or stand-ins like wrapping paper tubes or broomsticks. If you’d like to learn how to wield one properly, the Jedi Masters of Phoenix Saber Academy will teach the basics of footwork, blocks, and strikes to padawans ages 7 and up during two 30-minute sessions that happen daily from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. inside West 106ABC. Click here for more details.
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Cosplayers Nat Lawson and Ken Hazlett of Orange, California, as Belle and the Beast at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022.
Benjamin Leatherman

Masquerade Costume Contest

Want to see the best costumes this year's Fan Fusion has to offer? Head for West 301BCD at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, for this signature event. The intricate and impressive-looking creations of local cosplayers from a variety of ages and skill levels will be showcased during the event, which is one of the major highlights of the weekend. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wonderful World of Ghibli

Hayao Miyazaki is a god among animated filmmakers. The oeuvre of the Japanese animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and co-founder of Studio Ghibli contains an unrivaled list of unqualified cinematic masterpieces, including "My Neighbor Totoro," "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle." Miyazaki’s flicks and the imaginative characters that populate them will be discussed in detail during this panel at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 3, in North 222AB.
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans are in for a shell of a good time.
AJ Pics/Alamy Stock Photo

Turtles Shell-A-Bration

Fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, rejoice. This “event within an event” will be located in sections H301 to H306 of the Hall of Heroes and feature TMNT memorabilia and appearances by actors from the 1990 live-action film, including Brian Tochi (the voice of Leonardo) and Judith Hoag (April O’Neil). A Q&A panel will happen on Friday, June 2, at 10:30 a.m. in West 301BCD. Separate screenings of the film will also take place at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the AMC Arizona Center 24, 565 North Third Street, and include an introduction by the cast and free pizza. Tickets are $25 for each screening.

It Belongs in a Museum: Artifacts of Adventure

Archaeologists, scholars, and theologians have searched the world for centuries to find the long-lost Ark of the Covenant. Fan Fusion attendees who’d like to encounter the legendary relic for themselves won’t have to search as far or as long. A replica of the version seen in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” will be displayed alongside other artifacts and memorabilia from the “Indiana Jones” film series outside of the No. 6 entry to the lower level exhibitor hall. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Double D-20s: A Nerdy Burlesque

The burlesque performers and drag artists of Three Fates Revue will undress for the occasion inside West 301BCD starting at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 2. They'll be adorned in geeky costumes before taking (most) of it off for the delight of those in attendance during the 18-and-over show. It’s free to attend with reserved seating available in the front of the house for $25 per person.
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