January 6, 2015 Walker Stalker Con 2014 invades New Jersey 12-13-14 & 12-14-14
Right smack in the middle of the holiday rush, on the weekend of December 13th through 14th, fans of the hit television series The Walking Dead received an early Christmas present with the arrival of Walker Stalker Con 2014 at Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. Conveniently located a mere five miles from New York City, the convention is one of the newest Horror/Sci-Fi events to pop up on the grid of a long list catering to a rapidly growing audience. A vision of two dedicated fans by the name of James and Eric, Walker Stalker Con was born in 2013 and became a reality in 2014. Unlike other upstart conventions of this type, The Walker Stalker was not simply planned as one weekend out of the year event, but scheduled to be a traveling tour, to hit numerous cities across North America, first stopping at The Walking Dead’s home-base of Atlanta, Georgia Halloween 2014 weekend. Dubbed as a weekend that would be more than a convention, a place fans can meet-up and come away with an experience of a lifetime, and it was time for Deadheads to take a bite out of the excitement.
With a list of twenty-eight Walking Dead guests to grace the weekend in New Jersey that included main characters such as David Morrissey (The Governor), Norman Reedus (Daryl), Jon Bernthal (Shane), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Scott Wilson (Hershel), Emily Kinney (Beth), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori), Michael Rooker (Merle), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Greg Nicotero (special make-up effects creator), among many more, it was enough to make any follower of the series head spin. Paying homage to the beginning of Zombie Horror in mainstream cinema, additionally, Judith O’Dea , Russ Streiner, as well as Kyra Schon all of of Night of the Living Dead (1968), along with Howard Sherman, Terry Alexander, and Lori Cardille of Day of the Dead (1985) were on hand. The guests did not tapper off there as Zach Galligan of Gremlins (1984), Eugene Clark of Land of the Dead (2005), Manu Bennett of the television series Arrow, and special effects make-up artist Tate Steinsiek rounded out the extensive list. With a guest list so impressive, one could imagine that fans would come from far and wide to catch a chance to meet them all under one roof. That is exactly what they did, and hours before the doors even opened on Saturday December 13th, a mass amount of people piled in front of Meadowlands Exposition Center. Entering the venue, fans had mere moments to get their barrings and navigate their way into the open floor layout which included rows of autograph tables as far as the eye could see. While there was an interesting mix of vendors which included artists and entrepreneurs selling t-shirts and horror related items, this section was smaller than other conventions of Walker Stalker’s type. This seemed to work out well though because the predominate influx of traffic entering the venue flocked to the autograph area. In fact, the pedestrian traffic was so heavy that it was simply overwhelming and chaotic. Nevertheless, fans, convention volunteers, and celebrity guests held it all together making the experience as friendly as possible.
Those lucky enough to venture away from the logjam which was the autograph area were treated to a plethora of educational, as well as personal, panels spotlighting their favorite actors/actresses and creators. Panels included segments called Forgive & Forget? with David Morrissey/Scott Wilson, Michael Rooker/IronE Singleton, The Day The Music Died with aspiring musician Emily Kinney, Night of The Living Dead with Streiner/O’Dea /Schon, and a Day of the Dead reunion with Nicotero/Sherman/Alexander/Cardille. The panels allowed fans to sit back and take in a question and answer, giving them insight to each individual that brought these characters to life on screen. Perhaps the most intriguing was the Day of the Dead panel which included a natural back and forth conversation between each of the guests on stage and the audience, proving that nearly three decades later the crew of the film still share a chemistry with one another. Amidst the exchanges, Nicotero honestly stated, “Without Day of the Dead, there would be no The Walking Dead,” which certainly resonates with the passionate Horror fan.
Overall, Walker Stalker Con 2014 at Meadowlands Exposition Center was a pleasant experience for fans. The blanketed disposition of each guests on hand was sincere, humble, and inviting to their fan, which made everything worthwhile. While there are still many organization and planning kinks to be worked out within the young convention, they are on the right track toward building a respected and established event people will attend for years to come. This will be a learning process much like anything in life, but the foundation is there for something uniquely special. Wasting no time to gain aforementioned operationally experience, Walker Stalker Con resumes its American tour in San Francisco, California January 31st to February 1st, proceeding on to Chicago, Dallas, Orlando, Boston, and back to Atlanta towards fall of 2015. It appears the zombie virus is spreading quicker than anyone could have ever imagined, and The Walking Dead will continue to dominate the heart of spectators.