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Patrons dressed up as their favorite characters to compete in Fan Fest's cosplay contests for youth and adults at Oak Lawn Public Library's Fan Fest on Saturday. (Supplied photos)

Patrons dressed up as their favorite characters to compete in Fan Fest's cosplay contests for youth and adults at Oak Lawn Public Library's Fan Fest on Saturday. (Supplied photos)

Pop culture celebrated at Oak Lawn Library Fan Fest

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OLPL staff members like Assistant Department Head of Youth Services Tom Kochinski (pictured) showed off their favorite fandoms.

By Kelly White

Comic book enthusiasts united last weekend at the Oak Lawn Public Library.

The library, 9427 Raymond Ave., Oak Lawn, held its seventh annual Fan Fest, a pop culture celebration on May 6. The day provided 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.

“Oak Lawn Public Library’s Fan Fest brings a comic convention on a smaller scale to the Oak Lawn community,”. Jenny Yasecko, Department Head of Technical Services at the Oak Lawn Public Library, said. “This free event allows our community to visit with local artists, vendors, and writers. It also gives the community an opportunity to see what their local library offers them for free. We have tons of resources that are beyond just books.”

Yasecko is correct because the library also holds computers, printers, movies, games, vinyl records, Everbright wall, and a collection of objects called, Beyond Books.

Fan Fest highlighted these attributes with an all-ages celebration of pop culture and free comic book day. The all-day event featured local vendors, artists, and writers, panels, crafts, photo booth, cosplay competitions and after-hours trivia.

“I love seeing the community enjoy themselves in all our activities. Some of the patrons that come that day have never set foot in the library,” Yasecko said. “They are not only experiencing a fun-filled day, but they explore the library’s many resources.”

The event featured a kid’s cosplay craft and a panel for creating characters for Dungeons and Dragons. For older kids and teenagers in the Teen Room, patrons were able to participate in a K-Pop (short for Korean popular music) dance class.

Librarians looking to start a Fan Fest at their own local libraries were welcome to join a panel called, Library Fan Fest 101.

Smarty Pants’ Big Balloon Show Extravaganza took place in the Youth Service Play area and teens could drop in for an activity to create a galaxy in a jar. Patrons could also level up with tools found within the library for creating cosplay costumes.

Those interested in Marvel Snap were able to attend a tutorial in the library’s Computer Training Center. Prism Kru, Smarty Pants and Geeks-a-GoGo were also at the library with a live performances and library staff members hosted an after-hours pop culture trivia at Cork & Bean Coffee Shop in Oak Lawn.

Fun for everyone included cosplay competitions, one for kids 0-12 years-old and one for teens and adults 13 years old and older.

“No matter what you are a fan of, the library definitely had something for you,” Yasecko said. “In the past, the library’s budget only allowed us to get in one performer each year. With the wonderful donations we received this year from our local businesses and organizations, we have three performers – Prism Kru, Smarty Pants, and Geeks-a-GoGo.

This year we also have something going on from the minute we open to the minute we close and even after-hours. Last year, since it was the first in-person large event that the library hosted after reopening from the COVID closure, we wanted to go light to see how everything went. It was a great success, so we decided to return to jam packed schedules like we had in the past.”

Fan Fest started at the library in 2015. Staff did not host one in 2020 due to the pandemic and a virtual reading challenge in honor of Free Comic Book Day was held in August of 2021. Fan Fest happily returned in person last year.

“Pre-pandemic, our Fan Fest attracted about 800 participants each year,” Yasecko said. “As this is our second Fan Fest since reopening after our COVID closure, I hope that our numbers grow from last year. The library has seen an uptick of event participants over the last year.”

In 2022, Fan Fest attracted about 400 participants and staff were excited to exceed that amount this year and reach pre-pandemic numbers.

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Blerds Underground, located at 15 1/2 S. La Grange Road in La Grange, provided the library with free comic books for Oak Lawn Public Library’s Free Comic Book Day celebration.

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