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Here comes Pensacon 2024

Pensacon will take over the Pensacola Bay Center and the Wright Place next weekend Feb. 23-25.
Pensacon will take over the Pensacola Bay Center and the Wright Place next weekend Feb. 23-25.

Three dozen or so people in various stages of professional, alien, and superhero fashions gathered at Pensacola International Airport last Friday for the annual renaming of the airport in honor of Pensacon.

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“Good afternoon humans,” said Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves at the airport as he read from a proclamation at the ceremony. “And now therefore I, D.C. Reeves, Mayor of the city of Pensacola, do hereby declare by mayoral decree that the Pensacola International Airport be known by all as Pensacola Intergalactic Airport during the duration of Pensacon 2024.”

This year marks Pensacon’s 11th annual gathering of artists, celebrities, performers, and fans of comics, science fiction, and pop culture. The event was the brainchild of Pensacola native Mike Ensley, who started planning the first convention in 2013 and made it happen in the spring of 2014.

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“We really thought we could get maybe, you know, 2,000-3,000 people to show up for the event. But then 12,000 people (attended) that first year. Almost 13,000 I think,” said Ensley.

And those people brought money with them. The economic impact of Pensacon on the city and surrounding area is estimated to be well over $3 million per year. When he was a downtown business owner, Mayor Reeves recalled being busy during Pensacon week.

“We were staffing up," he said. "We knew we would have a lot of people coming in. And I think the businesses that really thrive during this are the ones that embrace it."

Mayor D.C. Reeves announces the proclamation naming the Pensacola International Airport, the Pensacola Intergalatic Airport during Pensacon weekend.
City of Pensacola
Mayor D.C. Reeves announces the proclamation naming the Pensacola International Airport, the Pensacola Intergalactic Airport during Pensacon weekend.

There are some pretty big changes to the footprint of the convention this year. In the past, Pensacon held its celebrity panels in various locations around the city including the Pensacola Little Theater, the Saenger, and the Rex Theaters. But scheduling and remodeling issues meant none of those venues were available this year.

The solution is that things will be concentrated around the Bay Center and the United Methodist Church properties on Wright Street.

“The U.M.C. and The Wright Place, they are opening all of their space to us, which we are very grateful for,” said Ensley. “We’re trying to centralize things a little bit more. Working with the (United Methodist Church) we discovered that they own a great deal of property right there and they are very open to the idea of Pensacon coming in and being a part of that.”

RELATED: Pensacon 2023 gives fans 'an opportunity to express themselves'

Pensacon used The Wright Place for their larger celebrity panels last year and will be using a lot more of the spaces at the United Methodist Church property this year. Since that property is less than half a mile from the Bay Center, transportation should be easier for staff, guests, and convention goers alike. There will be a trolley running between the properties all day long during the convention.

Pensacon 2024 begins Friday, February 23, and runs through Sunday the 25th. This year’s guests include cast members from The Walking Dead, An American Werewolf in London, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and many others.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.