Move over, Comic-Con: Cleveland is about to host the midwest's first-ever LGBTQIA+ geek convention

Flaming River Con founder, Brittney Orcutt, believes in leaving things better than she found them. That’s why after a decade spent traveling from her adopted hometown of Cleveland to queer-focused events in bigger cities, she's creating her own event right here in Northeast Ohio.

“I decided to help create the kind of city I want to live in,” she explains. “We don’t have anything like this in Cleveland, and based on the response I’ve received since starting it, it’s something other people wanted as well.”

Not just a first for Cleveland, Flaming River Con is actually the inaugural LGBTQIA+ geek convention in the Midwest. (The only similar event takes place in New York City.) Like other comic cons, Flaming River Con includes panels, vendors and events highlighting "geek culture" like comics, tabletop gaming, books, and arts and crafts—but with a focus on inclusivity, a trait that’s sometimes lacking at similar events.

An avid attendee of cons around the country and member of the local LGBTQIA+ community, Orcutt drew on those experiences to make the con she thought people like her wanted to see.

“I would go from panel to panel and, after awhile, the topics got really stale,” she says. “I want to hear from people who are passionate about what I’m interested in, about who I am, about who I care about. I realized I wanted a LGBTQIA+-focused comic con, so I set off to make it happen.”

Orcutt gathered a group of friends to help with the creation of the event, crowdsourcing the clever name playing off the city’s “burning river” moniker. After a year of fundraising and planning, Flaming River Con will make its debut on September 22—complete with a cosplay contest, a game room with role playing and board games, and Orcutt’s personal favorite: the panels.

Panels will include “History of Queer Comic,” “LGBTQ+ Literature, Past and Present,” “Fear the Queers: Queer Representation in Horror,” and “Cosplay on a Budget,” as well as a discussion by event headliner and Marvel comics writer Sina Grace about his upcoming work on a series about Marvel character, Iceman.

If all goes well, expect to see an even bigger Flaming River Con next year. “Our plans are to create a larger, two-day event next year, bring in more big names, and add more panel topics and vendors,” says Orcutt. “We also hope in the next two years to expand to other regional cities.”

The all-ages event takes place on September 22 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River. A $5 donation is suggested. Visit https://flamingriverarts.org for more information.

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