See You in the Funny Papers at the Beale Memorial Library
By Martin Nillsen, Special to Bakersfield News Observer
Strawberry Shortcake and Spiderman, or at least people dressed as them, among others attired in wild costumes all rubbed shoulders in in a book-lined setting this past weekend. Well over a thousand people of all shapes and ages crammed the usually staid and dignified Beale Memorial Library in downtown Bakersfield in their best superhero finery for the second Beale Mini Con. The widely attended event on Saturday, August 3rd was a celebration of comic books, Anime and popular culture set against the backdrop of mainstream respectability as provided by the Beale.
The event’s organizer, Arial Dyer says that the purpose of the convention was several-fold. “We want the event to reach out to the ‘reluctant reader,’ the young person who gravitates to comic books. We want to get it out there that comic books are a worthy form as literature, and we want these readers to try other kinds of literature.” While “graphic novels,” as comic books are currently called have yet to find academic respectability, Dyer said that she was pleased to find that there was no anti-comic book sentiment at the Beale in regards to the festivals.
Dyer also said that the convention was also intended to reach out to adults, “to encourage their creativity. As adults, we are often discouraged to be creative in our everyday lives, and this vent encourages them to partake in all sort of creative play, whether it be in the form of art, ‘cosplay’ (costume play) or gaming.”
A welcome feature of the Beale Mini Con was a result of “county policy.” Where other like-mined events, held in Bakersfield and throughout the state of California and the United States celebrating science-fiction, horror, Anime and comic books require an admission fee and feature vendors selling wares, everything at the downtown convention was free. With the exception of food vendors outside the library, admission, along with the vendors inside came at absolutely no cost to attendees. “This is county policy,” Dyer explained. “The vendors here are free to share their wares, but only in a ‘networking’ or ‘presentational’ policy.”
All in all, families, children and fans of pop culture jammed the library for an afternoon of fun and adventure.