by KT Pinto
I spoke with co-founder Dave O’Hare about the Garden State Comic Fest, a comic book fan event that took place at the Morristown Hyatt in New Jersey on Saturday, August 23rd, to find out a little more about one of the newest events on the comic fan scene.
KT Pinto: Can you give me a little history on the festival?
Dave O’Hare: Being a fan of comics and comic art, I founded this show and partnered up with Sal Zurzolo to put together a show for all. This show has been developed as a way for fans, like-minded individuals, and people that are just getting into the culture to come together and have a great time to celebrate their comic book heroes.
We try to put together a show that has something for everyone—from the serious collector to the casual fan.
KT: What spurred the festival committee to have a comic event so close (in location as well as time of year) to New York Comic Con?
Dave: NYCC is one of the biggest shows on the planet and my personal favorite show to go to. But New York is New York; I was born in Manhattan. But New Jersey is a great state unto itself; it has its own culture and such great people and fans. Other shows have been organized in New Jersey over the years (Asbury, NJCC) but none had ever been held in the northeast part of the state of this caliber. So we said why not? And we couldn’t find a reason, so here we are.
As for the time of year, well the convention schedule has been getting very busy over the years and we figured a month and a half before NYCC would be fine this year. It would give people a chance to have some fun as summer ends.
KT: I noticed that this is a festival rather than a convention. What differentiates the two?
Dave: Well, I look at a convention as an entity that has 5000+ attendees and goes on for days. A show is a couple hundred that is there for one thing (comics, toys, art) but a festival is something that combines it all like a convention on a smaller scale and [is] a lot less stressful. We want people to have a good time and be able to enjoy every aspect of the event without tripping over others, buying merchandise without having to be crammed and actually be able to talk to their favorite artists, creators, and guests to learn more from them. To get great pictures and really just celebrate the world of comics, stress free!
Dave: Our first show was in January of 2014 during a snow storm and a week before the Super Bowl. It was put together in a little over two months and drew over 500 people. GSCF II, our official attendance was just over 1000. All in one year. We hope to have this continue as the word spreads.
KT: Where do you see the festival in five years? Ten?
Dave: We will never be NYCC size nor do we want to be. We want to establish ourselves as one of the best events around where everyone wants to attend, especially creators and guests. We never want to become an autograph show as many are now doing. We want to keep it real and just go for the ride for however long we can. We will continue to grow but will never lose the idea of what this is truly about: comics, people, and fun!