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Mark Malnekoff, of Klingon Assault Group, came in full costume for the Oak Lawn Public Library's Fan Fest on Saturday. (Photos by Kelly White)

Mark Malnekoff, of Klingon Assault Group, came in full costume for the Oak Lawn Public Library's Fan Fest on Saturday. (Photos by Kelly White)

Fan Fest returns to Oak Lawn Library

By Kelly White

Comic lovers of all ages joined forces this weekend and came together at Oak Lawn Public Library’s annual Fan Fest.

The fest at the library, 9427 Raymond Ave., is a pop culture celebration and free comic book day. It provides an opportunity for the community to come to a local event without having to drive far or spend a lot of money, and still get the all-day comic-con experience.

“Fan Fest is a celebration of the love of creative fiction, and what better place to celebrate that than the library,” Carol Williams, Director of the Oak Lawn Public Library, said. “For the Oak Lawn Public Library, it means providing people an opportunity to indulge in a little bit of fantasy at the same time as providing local artists and businesses with exposure to new patrons. Libraries do more than just check out books. We offer a whole world of information, entertainment, and opportunities to the community.”

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Dressed as her favorite superhero, Mila Schweikert, 4, of Palos Heights, stands alongside Black Panther at the Oak Lawn Public Library’s Fan Fest on Saturday.

The day began with library staff members handing out free comics. There was an exhibit hall filled with local boutiques, artists and writers. There were also four panels scheduled that covered Dungeons and Dragons, creating a comic/graphic novel, the process of writing a novel, and a presentation on the history of laughing at your fears by the South Suburbs Ghostbusters.

For kids, there was a superhero craft, a photo booth with fun props, smartphone bat signal 3D printing, DIY comic buttons, a cosplay competition, a live improv performance by Tricky Mickey, and finally afterhours trivia.

“I just love how excited everyone is who walks through the door that day,” Melissa Apple, Adult Programming Librarian at the Oak Lawn Public Library, said. “I enjoy that it is truly an event that brings the whole family to the library because we have something for everyone. It’s so enjoyable to see kids dressed up in costume taking pictures with cutouts at our photo booth, or doing a craft, or participating in our cosplay competition. It’s probably my favorite thing we do at the Oak Lawn Public Library.”

This was the library’s sixth in-person Fan Fest event as library staff had to hold off on our regularly planned event in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

“We’re were so excited to be able to be in-person again this year,” Apple said. “I feel like it brings a great opportunity for the community to celebrate pop culture together, dress up in costume and just have fun at the library. It draws in patrons who don’t normally visit the library and provides them the chance to see all the library has to offer.”

New at the fest this year was the smartphone bat signal 3D printing – 3D printing is the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession. In this particular case, it was a 3D signal from Batman.

Every year it seems that Fan Fest continues to grow different ways, according to library staff members.

“I think that as word spreads more people learn of the event,” Apple said. “Some years we give out more comics and have a larger crowd in the exhibit hall, but attendance at panels/activities is lower. Other years, attendance at our panels and performances knock it out of the park. We definitely have seen an increase in exhibitors interested in participating at Fan Fest.”

After two years of a pandemic, library staff members were happy and hopeful that the fest gave people the opportunity to come back to the library and enjoy all of the activities that the library has to offer.

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Jan Goetz, Materials Processor at the Oak Lawn Public Library, greets guests as they enter the library’s Fan Fest on Saturday with Library Director Carol Williams.

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