Jeff State Pioneer Con combines comics, academics

HOOVER – Pioneer Con, a “celebration of all things geeky,” had its fourth annual outing at Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby-Hoover campus on Thursday, Oct. 17.

The daylong, free event featured both entertaining and academic activities, centered around a keynote presentation by writer, editor and lapsed ventriloquist Jon Padgett, author of The Secret of Ventriloquism.

“I sometimes describe Pioneer Con as half Comic Con and half academic conference,” said Katie Boyer, the event’s co-founder and an instructor of English. “Our schedule this year continues to reflect both the educational and the entertaining possibilities of speculative art, literature, and film.”

Sessions heavily featured academic work by Jefferson State faculty and students, including discussions of classic science fiction stories from Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury as well as contemporary works such as the Harry Potter series. The Spotlight Drama Club presented a reading of weird stories, and a history instructor examined “Witchcraft through History.”

Students Grace Tuell, Austyn Lucas, Lyris McGinnis and Jordan Ray presented a panel discussion on witchcraft, specifically the Greek goddess Hecate and her cult, for their History 101 Western Civilization class.

“I always thought it was interesting to see the Greeks portrayed Hecate as beautiful and kind, but [the cult] caused havoc,” McGinnis said.

Throughout the day, guests also enjoyed less explicitly academic activities. A game room was available for attendees who were interested in both traditional and modern gaming.

Face painting was free throughout the day, and two Dungeons & Dragons campaigns were open to players and spectators alike.

Head Over Heels aerials silks troupe demonstrated their skills, and other presenters discussed LGBTQ characters and zombie survival guides.

A trivia game took place over lunch, and guests were invited to attend in costume.

Several vendors were also on hand, including Jefferson State’s Culinary and Hospitality Institute, which offered “The Original Pioneer Chili” along with a grilled cheese for $5.

“We said, ‘This is an good opportunity for us,’” Institute staff member Missie DeLoach said about the decision to participate in this year’s event.

Pioneer Con was sponsored by Jefferson State’s chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society.

Jamie King, English instructor at Jefferson State’s Chilton-Clanton Campus, said organizers try to keep the event fresh while maintaining its focus.

“We started very small, and it’s getting bigger every year,” King said.