VASSALBORO — Hundreds of people turned out Sunday for the third annual Maine Sci-Fi & Fantasy Nerd Fest at The Olde Mill Place in Vassalboro.

Organizer Mike Huard calls the convention the “nerd Super Bowl,” and said he expected upwards of 500 science fiction and fantasy lovers to attend the event.

A nerd, Huard said, is “someone that enjoys a little getaway from everyday life,” often reconnecting with the films, television shows, books and games they loved as children.

Huard said Nerd Fest is different from other costume conventions in that it is not exclusively geared towards comic book lovers. Anyone of any age who identifies as a nerd, he said, is welcome to show up as they are and enjoy socializing and shopping with other nerds.

More than 50 vendors set up shopping stalls at The Olde Mill Place, a Vassalboro event center and community space at 934 Main St. Most vendors were from Maine, Huard said. Some sold items from “geek culture,” including collectible figurines, comic books and card games. Others got really crafty, selling intricate woodwork, such as dice towers and storage chests, and leather costume pieces or handmade jewelry.

One vendor, Aaron Feldmus, 50, of Belgrade was selling 3D-printed costume pieces, including steampunk-style top hats. Feldmus said he crafts his items as a side gig and enjoyed the “uniqueness of everything” on display Sunday. He also said he liked how the convention connects nerds with craftspeople.


Many of the Mainers who were shopping at Nerd fest said they relished the opportunity to dress in full costume. Kaitlyn Chartier, 10, was dressed in a long gown and horns to embody a tiefling from Dungeons & Dragons, a tabletop role-playing game she plays with her father.

“It’s great to see people like us,” her father, Jason Chartier, said.

Andy MacDonald of Portland portrays a pirate while he rattles a banana-shaped maraca and joins others in singing “What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?” during the Maine Sci-Fi & Fantasy Nerd Fest at The Olde Mill Place in Vassalboro. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Huard’s wife, Kelly, was dressed in a custom-made Captain Marvel costume. She said the timing of the event is perfect, because it can be easy to hibernate during the Maine winter.

“(Nerd Fest) gets people out, having fun and getting creative,” Kelly Huard said.

There were plenty of live events and games to keep folks engaged during the day. Like a Dungeons & Dragons Battle Royale tournament and a Harry Potter trivia contest.

Kain Stover, 11, of Augusta dressed up as video game character Mario for the convention. He said his mom made his costume, and his favorite part of the day was learning to play Pokémon cards at a table organized by The Nexus Arcade and Gaming Lounge in Winslow.


Stover also took part in a (foam) sword fight, organized by martial arts instructors from Chanbara New England. Stover said he was not sure if he had won or lost the fight, but his father said the boy “looked like a windmill” when competing.

The day’s most hotly contested event was the costume competition.

Hunter Libby, 8, of Waldoboro, right, is swung Sunday by Steve Krause of Huard’s Martial Arts as they battle Kacie Benner, also of Waldoboro, during the Maine Sci-Fi & Fantasy Nerd Fest at The Olde Mill Place in Vassalboro. Huard’s Martial Arts facilitated the demonstration that Krause says focused on Chambara, a sport derived from Japanese sword arts. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Atlas MacDonald, 13, was one of seven winners in the junior division, donning a costume that he said took 10 weeks to sew. MacDonald came as Venti, a character from the video game “Genshin Impact,” and said he has been sewing since he was 4.

“I’ve always wanted to be part of a different world,” MacDonald said.

The teenager said he struggles with aspects of his identity, and his learned “ability to shape-shift” allows him to try on different looks and personas within an accepting community, while paying homage to the games he loves.

Paul Ridlon was one of eight winners in the adult costume competition. He came as Moss Bear, an original character. Ridlon said he creates characters that are fun, but with a message behind them.


The head-to-toe costume for Moss Bear — mostly green fur — was inspired by stories Ridlon had heard from the Arctic. Specifically, stories of polar bears whose fur was turning green due to algal growth caused by climate change. Ridlon said that when people ask about his ensemble, he is able to start needed conversations about the effects of global warming and spread awareness.

Mike Lavoie, 43, of Auburn was another adult winner. He came dressed as Wreck-It Ralph from the 2012 Disney movie of the same name. Lavoie said he travels to conventions, including Nerd Fest, to make people smile.

“Geek interests are the ‘in’ thing right now,” Lavoie said.

Like many others in costume, Lavoie put his ensemble together by scavenging online, mining sites including Etsy, Amazon and eBay for individual pieces.

“It’s fun. It’s different,” Lavoie said of Nerd Fest. “You get to network with other creative types … and you might make a friend.”

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