The scene inside Phoenix Comic Fest's exhibitor's hall.EXPAND
The scene inside Phoenix Comic Fest's exhibitor's hall.
Benjamin Leatherman

Phoenix Comic Fest 2018: Everything You Need to Know About Security and More

Phoenix Comic Fest has undergone a few changes over the past year, to say the least.

There's a new wristband credentialing system, revised and streamlined security procedures, and an entirely new outdoor setup for this year's event, which runs from Thursday, May 24, to Sunday, May 27, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

And, as you've probably know by now, the event features a completely new name. Five or so months ago, what was once Phoenix Comicon became Phoenix Comic Fest due to a variety of reasons.

And if you're still not used to calling it by its new name, you're not the only one. Even the Phoenix Comic Fest staff have trouble remembering it sometimes.

“Yeah, it's been a little difficult,” event spokeswoman Kristin Rowan says. “We keep threatening to start having the staff put a dollar into a jar every time somebody says 'Comicon' instead of 'Comic Fest.' It's been tricky sometimes.”

Remembering to use the event's updated name isn't the only change to keep in mind while attending this year's Phoenix Comic Fest.

As we mentioned, there are some new security procedures, many of which are in response to a dangerous incident at the event in 2017.

On the first day of last year's event, Phoenix Police officers arrested Mesa resident Matthew Sterling after he allegedly brought numerous firearms and weapons into the convention center, reportedly with the intent of killing Mighty Morphin Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank.

As a result of the incident, Phoenix Comic Fest's staff changed how it deals with props, security, and entrance procedures at the event over the past year.

“We've spent the last 11 months revamping the entire plan, from how you pick up credentials to how you get through the security checks,” Rowan says. “We've consulted with security personnel, local law enforcement, convention center staff, and other to create these new policies.”

Security screenings at last year's event.EXPAND
Security screenings at last year's event.
Benjamin Leatherman

That means more law enforcement on-site, more metal detectors, and revised guidelines of what you can and can't bring in.

However, the Comic Fest staff has tried making the process of getting into Phoenix Comic Fest as streamlined as possible, even with all the security changes. Phoenix Convention Center and nearby streets will be encircled by a "secure zone" and various outdoor activities, which means you'll only have to go through security once.

"We've surrounded convention center so that everything is in one secure zone," Rowan says. "So you can go from the exhibit halls to the gaming areas or attractions in the West building or to any other area."

There will also be multiple stations to pick up and activate your credentials and well-staffed areas to make screening go as quickly as possible for Phoenix Comic Fest patrons.

"We'll have three separate entrance points, three times the number of credentialing stations, five times the metal detectors, and all sorts of security personnel and law enforcement at every prop check station," Rowan says. "So you have to go through prop check and screening once before you can even go into the secure area."

Like we said, there's a lot to keep in mind while attending this year's Phoenix Comic Fest. And that's on top of all the usual logistics, like where to park, what to wear, and which guests to see.

If you're having trouble keeping track of it all, we've put together a rundown of absolutely everything you need to know about this year's event.

A War Machine cosplayer at last year's event.EXPAND
A War Machine cosplayer at last year's event.
Benjamin Leatherman

When and Where: Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 runs from Thursday, May 24, until Sunday, May 27, at the Phoenix Convention Center, 100 North Third Street.

Hours: Registration opens at 9 a.m. each day and goes until 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Programming starts at 10:30 a.m. daily. Meanwhile, the exhibitor hall hours are from 3 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Admission: Daily memberships are $35 on Thursday, $40 on Friday, $60 on Saturday, and $45 on Sunday. A full event pass is $120. Kids ages 3 to 12 can get a $10 “sidekick” pass covering all four days, and tykes ages 2 or under are free.

Age Limits: Comic Fest is for all ages. Certain adult-oriented programming and events, however, are for 18 and over only.

Weather: Expect temps in the high 90s all weekend long. Our advice? Seek shade, rest often, and stay hydrated.

Getting There: Take the light rail. It's easier. Trust us. Fares are $2 for a single ride, $4 for all day. Stations are located within a short walking distance from the convention center.

Parking: Okay, fine. If you need to park, stick with a garage. Fees are typically $20 and up for the day. For discounts and more info, check out the event's parking webpage.

Getting Around: You can take a pedicab for $5 to $15 per ride, a Grid bike for $5 an hour, or hit up either a taxi cab or ride-sharing service (fares vary) to get to and from your car, a hotel, or a nearby eatery or bar.

Getting Inside: The area surrounding the convention center will be enclosed to create a security perimeter. That includes the area along Third Street between Monroe and Washington streets. There will be three entrance points at various locations, each setup to get checked by security.

The first thing to do, though, is get your credentials. Speaking of which ...

Wristbands: Everyone will be issued one. Each will contain an RFID tag that will be scanned upon entry each day. It must be worn at all times during the event and can be picked up from tents outside of the perimeter. Wristbands can be activated at “Redemption Stations” located along Third Street north of Washington, on Monroe Street between Second and Third streets, and on Adams Street between First and Second streets.

Now, here's how to go through security.

Security: Rowan says there will be several lines, each focusing on the different needs of patrons. Cosplayers, particularly those with cumbersome costumes, will have their own dedicated line, as will VIPs, people with disabilities, or those who aren't carrying bags. At each line, patrons will pass through a metal detector or receive a pat-down or bag check by security.

From there, those in costume or bearing props will head for a prop-check station to have their get-ups and gear scrutinized. As to what is and isn't allowed ...

Props: Lightsabers, wands, sonic screwdrivers, unstrung bows, untipped and non-removable arrows, and lightweight plastic or foam bats/clubs are all allowed. Shields and armor made from plastic, foam, fiberglass, resin, or cardboard are also permitted provided there are no sharp edges. Metal shields and armor are also okay, but may hinder the screening process.

What’s verboten? Any sort of real or replica weapon. Or anything resembling a gun, bomb, or explosive device. Tasers, slingshots, brass knuckles, metal and wooden swords, edged weapons, air horns, and glass or stone props are also banned.

Water: We can’t stress the importance staying hydrated enough. It's what can keep a fun weekend experience from becoming a trip to the emergency room. To that end, patrons can bring a bottle of water or two with you into the event or hit up any of the dozens of drinking fountains located around the convention center. Vendors will also have water for sale inside Comic Fest. You’ll thank us later.

Food and Drinks: Snacks, lunches, and other outside food and drinks are allowed at Phoenix Comic Fest, within reason. If you’d prefer to get something while you’re there, you’ve got no shortage of options. The North building features a food court on its first floor with a half-dozen or so fast-casual establishments and the West building features a sandwich spot and Starbucks. Meanwhile, both exhibitor halls have concessions stands available.

Art work for sale at last year's event.EXPAND
Art work for sale at last year's event.
Benjamin Leatherman

Exhibitor Halls: Two cavernous spaces will be devoted to vendors and exhibitors. The original exhibitor hall on the convention center’s lower level, as well as the “Hall of Heroes” on the third floor of the North building. In total, 850 vendors and exhibitors will be featured.

Both halls will contain pretty much anything and everything a geek could want, including all manner of toys, games, clothing, jewelry, books, collectibles, and props. There will also be an extensive “Artists Alley,” with several dozen comic book creators, authors, illustrators, and others involved with the industry.

Outdoor Events: The area in front of the convention center between Monroe and Washington streets will be taken over by a hullabaloo of activity.

Alice Cooper's Solid Rock Foundation will put on concerts from local musicians all weekend. Meanwhile, nerd-inspired vehicles (ranging from the Bluesmobile to Doc Brown’s DeLorean) will be displayed, a beer garden will be featured, and local radio stations will offer live remotes and music.

Gaming: As always, there will be a ton of it at Comic Fest. The folks from the Game on Expo will have consoles and systems both retro and modern in multiple rooms with tournaments and competitions going on all four days.

And, just like last year, Cobra Arcade Bar will have a selection of classic games and pinball machines available for play at the event, including numerous ones inspired by comics.

An awesome-looking Wonder Woman costume at last year's event.EXPAND
An awesome-looking Wonder Woman costume at last year's event.
Benjamin Leatherman

Costuming and Cosplay: It sort of goes without saying that anyone and everyone will be wearing a costume at Comic Fest. According to Joe Boudrie, the event's director of programming, it's one of the major draws of the event.

“There's certainly a lot of it,” Boudrie says. “It just blows your mind with all the creativity that goes into all these costumes. It goes from people who buy stuff at local costume stops all the way up to really elaborate things that have been crafted out of foam or fiberglass.”

But whether your ensemble is something you’ve taken months to create or simply something that was thrown together at the last minute, it's totally welcome at  Comic Fest.

The best get-ups will be shown off and honored during any of the multiple fashion shows and costume contests, the most prominent of which is the annual Phoenix Comic Fest Masquerade from 8 to 11 p.m. on Saturday in West 301BCD.

Don’t have a costume? Several dozen of cosplay-related events will take place throughout the weekend, including multiple panels, workshops, tutorials, and events focused on sharing costuming knowledge.

You can also pick the brains of famous local cosplayers like AmberSkies, Asta Young, Sara Moni, and others, as they'll have booths up in the Hall of Heroes.

William Shatner will beam into Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.EXPAND
William Shatner will beam into Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

Special Guests: As per usual, Phoenix Comic Fest will feature hundreds of special guests, including numerous celebrities, actors, and actresses. And they’ll be there to interact with fans, whether that's during autograph sessions, photo ops, or Q&A panels.

Here’s a rundown of the biggest guests this year and when and where the aforementioned Q&A sessions will take place.

(Note: renowned actor Tim Curry is scheduled to appear at Comic Fest for autographs and photo ops but won't be involved with a Q&A.)

William Shatner
Saturday May 26, 1 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Michael Rooker
Sunday May 27, 11:45 a.m.
West 301ABCD

Ming-Na Wen
Saturday May 26, 10:30 a.m.
West 301ABCD

Sean Gunn
Friday May 25, 11:45 a.m.
North 120 AB

Sean Patrick Flanery
Sunday May 27, 1:30 p.m.
North 122ABC

Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch.
Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch.
Courtesy of The Dented Helmet

Jeremy Bulloch
Friday May 25, 1 p.m.
North 120 AB

Graham McTavish
Friday May 25, 10:30 a.m.
North 120 AB

Dan Fogler
Sunday, May 27, 1 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Sean Maher
Saturday May 26, 11:45 a.m.
North 120 AB

Michael Chiklis
Sunday May 27, 2:30 p.m.
North 120 AB

Jason David Frank
Saturday, May 26, 2:30 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Linda Larkin
Sunday May 27, 2:30 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Sam Jones
Sunday May 27, 10:30 a.m.
North 122ABC

Wil Wheaton at a June 2017 speaking appearance.EXPAND
Wil Wheaton at a June 2017 speaking appearance.
Sterling Munksgard/shutterstock.com

Wil Wheaton
Friday May 25, 1 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Manu Bennett
Friday May 25, 2:30 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Paige O'Hara
Sunday May 27, 2:30 p.m.
West 301ABCD

Adelaide Kane
Saturday May 26, 4 p.m.
North 120 AB

Eddie McClintock
Friday May 25, noon
North 122ABC

Bring: Both credit cards and cash (in case some vendors can’t take plastic), bottled water, a fully charged cellphone, a digital camera, comfortable footwear (since you'll be doing a lot of walking), some snacks, and a bag or backpack for carrying everything. Prop weaponry is cool, but, like we said, it will have to be inspected and possibly bound by security.

Don't Bring:Bona fide weapons, drugs or any intoxicants, a bad or disruptive attitude, impatience, Infinity stones, giant mechs, laser pointers, non-service animals, xenomorphs, or anything else forbidden by Phoenix Comic Fest organizers.

Have a Plan and Be Prepared: Rowan recommends patrons download the Phoenix Comic Fest app to help manage your time. "There's a scheduling feature that will remind you where you're supposed to be and when so you don't miss anything,” she says. “There's much more to see and do that you can possibly do in four days.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated since it's original publication with additional information.

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