Calgary Expo set to offer another sensational weekend of ‘sensory overload’

Emily Expo runs down what to expect at this year’s event, which kicks off Thursday, and offers some advice for any newbies interested in attending.

It’s two days before the start of the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and Lindsay Thomas is … what?

Is she nervous? Excited? Exhausted?

“A little bit of everything,” laughs Thomas, who’s known more widely as the face, host and spokesperson for the event, Emily Expo.

“It’s all over the place. It’s one of those things where were super-excited to see the fans and to see the memories that they’re making and to see the guests and the artists and all of that great stuff, but it’s also the time to make contingency plans in case whatever goes wrong goes wrong.

“So it’s a little bit of all of it.”

And that, actually, is a pretty fair summation of what attendees can expect during this year’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, which takes place Thursday through Sunday at the BMO Centre on the Stampede grounds.

While things do get underway on Thursday, it all really gets going with the free Parade of Wonders on Friday at 10:30 a.m., with the cosplayers and fun-seekers starting their route through downtown at 8th and 8th, travelling down Stephen Avenue Walk and wrapping with the official opening ceremonies at 11:15 a.m. at Olympic Plaza.

From there, you can dive into a weekend exhibitions, panels, autograph sessions and opportunities to immerse your inner and outer geek.

This year, organizers have once again stacked the Expo with some of the biggest names from the world of superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy and beyond.

Headliners include: John Cusack, whose filmography includes such faves as Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, High Fidelity, Serendipity and Grosse Pointe Blank; Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, who will record live an episode of their podcast Jay and Silent Bob Get Old; Edmonton actor Nathan Fillion, know for his roles in small-screen series such as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Castle and, currently, Modern Family; Danielle Nicole Panabaker from the CW’s DC Comics hit The Flash; Raphael Sbarge, who stars in Once Upon a Time and whom Thomas says is “probably the nicest person that you’ll ever meet on the planet”; and of course, Calgary-born writer, artist and illustrator Todd McFarlane, who will be making his hometown Expo debut and lured comic legend Stan Lee out of retirement to attend with him.

“I can’t say how excited we are about that,” she says. “We’re over the moon.”

That after 11 years at this they’re still getting some first-timer guests, including Spawn creator McFarlane, is, Thomas says a testament to how hard organizers work at making the Calgary Expo a “new and amazing experience for people.”

That includes the loyal fans, who’ve been there since the beginning, when about 3,000 people attended, and have helped it grow to where it is now — last year’s four-day attendance was over 103,000 people — to those who may actually be discovering it for the first time, surprising as that might seem.

For those people, Thomas has some advice, considering how overwhelming it might be for first-timers, what with the “sensory overload” that is the Calgary Expo, due to all of the people, costumes and size of the event.

“It can be overwhelming, but in the best way possible,” she says.

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Lindsay Thomas (a.k.a. Emily Expo) is getting set for this year’s Calgary Expo, which kicks off on Thursday.

As to what her tried-and-true tips for newbies are, as Emily Expo she’s more than happy to offer her Top 3.

“Number one is stay hydrated, bring a water bottle, refill it throughout the day so you’re not getting dehydrated or tired,” she says.

“And number two is comfortable footwear because you’re going to be walking around a lot and there’s lines.

“And the third one, and to me the most important one, is to keep an open mind. With conventions, things can change really fast — there’s a flight delay or a flight’s cancelled or a guest gets sick or whatever it is. But if you come to the show with that open mind, yes you’ll be disappointed that whoever you wanted to see may not be there but you can still really enjoy yourself and discover new interests and passions that maybe you didn’t realize you even had.”

As for hers, well, this weekend lets her explore all of them, both as a fan of the event and as the official face and mascot, Emily Expo.

And where one ends and the other begins, well, not surprisingly as we get closer to Thursday, things get a little hazier.

She laughs. “I don’t know anymore.”

(Please note: In an earlier version the Parade of Wonders was listed as taking place on Thursday. It is, in fact, on Friday. I regret the error.)

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo runs Thursday through Sunday at the BMO Centre. For tickets and more information please click here.

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary entertainment scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for, and the co-host of the show Saved By the Bell, which airs Wednesdays from 4-6 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at He has not nor will he ever claim to be a geek or a nerd. That would be insulting to real geeks and nerds.