Aug 27 2013
Captain America and Friends!
Round these parts there’s a weekly arts and farmers market commonly referred to as RAM. The Riverside Arts Market has become a staple weekend activity for residents and visitors across all walks of life – college kids, families, pet-lovers, professionals and even seniors can be seen enjoying the river adjacent, open air market under the St. Johns River I-95 overpass. Don’t let that description fool you, however – although it is under the bridge downtown in a literal sense, it’s not as seedy as the 21-year-old RHCP song. Yeah, you feel old now, don’tcha?
A Little Background
Take me to the place I love, take me all the way.
The Riverside Arts Market was inspired by the widely popular Portland Saturday Market, and utilized Jacksonville’s never-ending highway reconstruction to infiltrate an otherwise unused parcel of land under the I-95 Fuller-Warren bridge. Designed specifically to serve as an amphitheater, market and weekday parking lot, the several story-high canopy provides an ideal location from March through December, and features “organic produce, handcrafted goods and prepared foods.” It’s also a favorite with locals for its special events, such as movies under the bridge and November’s Small Business Saturday.
This past weekend, making up for absolutely dismal weather on classic nerd-day May the 4th, RAM premiered its first cosplay/comic-con event. At the first mention of Rami-con, I became ridiculously excited thinking it was homage to all things Evil Dead/Bruce Campbell. While my first instinct proved to be inaccurate, I was still delighted to find my favorite place for all things wholesome and hand-crafted would be hosting a bevy of sci-fi cosplay and paraphernalia. Several up and coming organizations were also on hand, demonstrating games and art, charity events and contests.
Apparently, I’ve been a Bad Wolf.
And yes, a nice member of JSO actually handcuffed me (at request) and tried to throw me in Abby Waldhauer’s homemade Tardis, which I’m sure he thought was actually a mere police box – scoff. Next to the giant Tardis stood a platoon of the ever-present local Garrison of the 501st Legion. Stormtroopers, Sandtroopers, TIE pilots, Biker Scouts – even the occasional Tusken Raider and Jawa milled about the crowd in the sweltering Florida heat to the delight and photo opportunity of both young and old. The Society for Creative Anachronism demonstrated swordplay, while a nearby Magilus tournament was being held with wizards in robes and street clothes. I don’t recall seeing a platform 9 ¾ sign around, but there’s no reason to think its impossible, right?
That man is playing Galaga….
Marcia Webb of The Mommy Gamers set up 1980’s Space Invaders-style games for free competitive play. The husband had fun getting the high score on Bedlam, a discontinued game from GT Interactive that’s older than he is. Her booth was getting word out about Extra Life, the walk-a-thon we’ve all been waiting for – no walking involved. Sign up, get sponsored and then (the best part) play games for 25 hours.
Much like Child’s Play, it’s all for a great cause; helping sick kids by donating your raised funds to the hospital of your choice through the Children’s Miracle Network. Live in Seattle but have a soft spot for a children’s hospital in Dallas? Designate it as your donation center of choice. The date this year is November 2nd, but if like us you will be out of town and country, pick a day of your choosing and do what you were going to do anyway – play games all day sans pants (I find it more comfortable, don’t judge). Just sign up sponsors ahead of time, and make your day of gaming result in more than just couch butt imprints and Dorito-stained fingers. And if anyone harasses you about “playing video games all day”, you can retort “I’m saving children’s lives!” (Dramatic soap-opera tantrum optional)
That’s totally an X-Men comic table. I may have tried to steal it.
I chatted with Alex Varvel of Nerdular, a start-up company that bills itself as “the social marketplace for nerds.” Anyone who’s ever tried to market their gaming wares on Craigslist can relate to the headache and sometimes nausea that accompanies the arduous process and repetitive questions including “do you have any Vita games for $5?” No, no we do not – now go away. Officially debuting this fall, Nerdular offers an eBay/Facebook mash-up for nerds, geeks and gamers looking to exchange goods and good times. Check them out on Facebook, follow them on twitter, or support their cause and sign up for the Beta launch.
“Ever since One Spark, it seems like the community is really coming out more and more,” Varvel said, nonchalantly owning his badass villain last name. One Spark debuted this spring as a week-long event designed to fund and develop local ideas and companies. Crowdfunding and prizes are available to grassroots and independent start-ups who display their projects downtown during the festival. One of my favorite RAM vendors, Fresh, was able to fund their location through the event, and continue creating organic energy bars, spice blends, sauces and cookies for the First Coast to enjoy. Previously mentioned GAAM also made an appearance at One Spark and I’m thrilled to announce the next event will be Teenage Mutant Ninja GAAM – a tribute to 80s/90s 16bit games. Now I just have to decide what my costume will be.
Speaking of Costumes…
Check these out! For a first time event, I was impressed with the fluidity of the cosplay contest, even if the announcer insisted on calling out “Dead Mau Five” instead of Deadmau5. There was an excellent fancy-dress Kaylee, plus a few Jayne hats wandering around the crowd. One contestant put together a Leeloo Dallas (Multipass) costume in only 20 minutes, and a few LOL characters made an appearance (but my camera went potato, so no pictures). My personal favorite was Fry, Leela and Nibbler in the form of the family dog. Go view Jacksonville.com’s photo gallery for more of Rami-Con cosplay, beginning with a Jedi-led Harlem shake.
Continuing my trend of supporting local geekery, look for more event reviews and the latest information regarding nerd culture companies on the rise.
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