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Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2017: Fandom and Family

Walker Stalker Con Atlanta has always had a bigger intensity surrounding it than the other Walker Stalker Cons held throughout the year and across the globe. The convention was born out of Atlanta, just as the show itself which films in Senoia, GA and the surrounding areas. It it without a doubt the epicenter for all things Walking Dead. This year was especially special as they celebrated the 5th anniversary of the convention. For many, The Walking Dead is more than just a fandom, it’s a family. And there’s no better place to see that than Walker Stalker Con.

 

The Walking Dead is special to me not only because I have been watching the show since the beginning, but I have also had the honor of working on it as a stand-in for the past two seasons. In interviews and on panels you often hear from the cast and crew about how much of a family they are and how close they all become over the years working together. As someone whose has been on multiple sets, there is definitely a different vibe I felt when working on The Walking Dead. It’s more warm and welcoming, regardless of whether you’re a main cast member who’s been with the show for years or a background extra who’s having their first day on set. It’s the same vibe you get at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta.

 

The last time I went to Walker Stalker Con was in 2014 back when it was held at AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta. Since then the convention has expanded to take over the Georgia World Congress Center for the Halloween weekend. According to Walker Stalker founder James Frazier, that’s 607,500 sq. ft. of space, which is 81,799 sq. ft. bigger than the San Diego Comic Con convention floor. That’s a lot of room for celebrity photo ops, signing booths, two convention stages, and vendors. They need every square foot too because Atlanta hosted over 70 guests this year. And even if you’re not a fan of The Walking Dead (Why wouldn’t you be, though? Seriously?) there were guests from other hit shows including Sons of Anarchy, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Z Nation and LOST.

 

Speaking of guests, I was able to hang and chat with Peter Zimmerman, who portrays the Hilltop’s Eduardo on The Walking Dead. As you can tell from the photo, he’s who I stand-in and photo double for. It was his first Walker Stalker Con, and it was at the fans’ requests that he was in attendance signing autographs and taking pictures. The Walking Dead has one of the biggest and most passionate fandoms of all I would say. It’s easy to see why after walking the convention floor and seeing all the actors interact with them.

 

There’s a love and genuine happiness with the show that you don’t see very often. Cooper Andrews, who plays the loveable Jerry on the show, baked cobbler to share with his fans. Lead star Andrew Lincoln donates the money he makes from the convention to charity. I also heard Jeffrey Dean Morgan stayed way past the convention hours to make sure the people who stood in line to see him got their picture/autograph. There’s often a barrier between actors and fans, but Walker Stalker Con delivers an up close and personal experience unlike anything else. At Comic Con you might see your favorite actor on a panel from 50 rows back or quickly walk past them and their dozen security guards on the show floor, but at Walker Stalker Con you can oftentimes have a brief chat with them at their signing booth, and more often than not they’re way more accommodating during photo ops.

 

Of course there are bound to be a few hiccups at any convention of this magnitude. I was interested in seeing the Walker Stalker documentary that was showing but an unfortunate technical issue moved the film’s screening to a different date and time that I wasn’t able to attend. I heard there were also some issues regarding some of the more popular celebrity autographs like Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. But then there were moments like this and this, and I think that more than makes up for it in the end.

 

At one point during the convention, staff honored James Frazier by setting up his very own signing booth and then surprising him with multiple pies to the face. While everything unfold I couldn’t help but notice the staff shirts that said, “STAFF: It’s not just fandom, it’s family.” Family has always been what The Walking Dead is about. Just check out the hashtag #TWDFamily on any social media platform and you can see why. Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2017 saw over 70,000 in attendance for its 5th year anniversary, and it was something quite special. I can’t wait to see what its 10th brings.

Matt Rodriguez
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