Inaugural ‘SwampyCon’ Unites Fandoms at Swampscott Public Library
On Saturday, pint-sized superheroes, mighty princesses and demigods from the enchanted worlds of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Star Wars and Marvel took to the first annual SwampyCon.
New England’s notoriously temperamental weather luckily held up as children of all ages roamed the lawn dressed in capes and masks, wearing wands and brooms, received Jedi training with inflatable lightsabers, and played Quidditch, the beloved sport of Harry Potter and Hogwarts alumni.
For children weary of the pandemic and their caregivers, SwampyCon was a well-deserved day of transporting magic, fantasy, creativity and fun.
âThis may be the first large-scale event people are going to attend,â said library traffic manager Caroline Margolis. “It’s a wonderful celebration of the things people love – longing for parents and something fun and new for the kids.”
SwampyCon is the brainchild of Margolis, who – with the generous help of other library staff and volunteer friends from Swampscott Library – also ran the library’s Harry Potter festival which had a resounding success in 2019 in the wake of the pandemic.
âI grew up reading Harry Potter and watching Star Wars,â said the Saugus resident, who wears a green sweater covered in images of Baby Yoda. âI expected 30 or so people to show up at the Harry Potter event but it was closer to 300,â she said with a surprised laugh.
Reflecting on why comics and superheroes speak to children, Margolis tilts her head thoughtfully and responds, âYou could be that special kid and your own life is an adventure. Comics allow kids to be the good guys who save the day. It’s safe escape and fun.
Margolis explains that with SwampyCon, she was determined to surpass the unexpected success of the Harry Potter Festival by offering more crafts and interactive and socially distant activities, and more food, including savory empanadas and popsicles.
In addition to being a traffic librarian and library impresario, Margolis built the frames for the quidditch hoops herself with PVC pipe from Home Depot and as a trained Jedi she led the master class at the lightsaber that kicked off SwampyCon.
At the end of lightsaber training, Darth Vader – Margolis’ husband Brian, dressed in the iconic black cloak and spooky mask – made a surprise appearance to challenge the brave young Jedi.
Parents Kate and Zak Barry proudly watched their three children – Sawyer, Scarlet and Willa – bravely challenge Darth Vader.
âIt’s so much fun,â said Kate, who also attended the Harry Potter Festival in 2019.
“We read all the Harry Potter books to children,” Zak added. âWith us, it was compulsory.
In the crafting table area, Eli Naperstek of Marblehead watched his 3-year-old son, Dylan, dressed as Spider-Man, carefully color a mask with magic markers. Naperstek recalled the superheroes of his own youth, especially his favorite, Superman.
Volunteer Ryan Hebenstreit and his friend John Raycroft, both 17, held a craft table where kids could draw superheroes on cork stoppers. Hebenstreit fondly remembered attending his first Comic Con in Boston at the age of 12.
âI went as Batman,â he said with a laugh. Today, he is a fan of Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation film studio that has created classics such as “Princess Mononoke”, “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro”.
In addition to quidditch matches and lightsaber practice, the kids designed their own superhero masks, crafted glow-in-the-dark “galaxy” mud and lapel pins featuring their favorite mythological god Ã la Percy Jackson. from the popular fantasy adventure novels of Rick Riordan.
There was a costume contest, a scavenger hunt with the “Oracle of Swampscott” (aka Sarah Giardina, the SPL’s teen librarian), a superhero-themed photo booth and an animated comic book master class. by illustrator extraordinary Cathy G. Johnson of Rhode Island.
Dressed in Princess Leia buns and a flowing cape, Mary Cullin, a friend of the Swampscott Public Library alongside fellow FOSPL Julie Butters, both led the draw table for the gift baskets.
Cullin proudly recalled that when she was in her final year of high school, she had seen “Star Wars” twice when it premiered in 1977.
âI have always loved Princess Leia,â she said. “She is such a strong and fearless heroine.”
Wearing a LucasFilm cap and her husband’s Captain America T-shirt, Butters thanks the Swampscott Public Library for their engaging and up-to-date programming.
âI am a big supporter of this library. They have so many great programs – from Frederick Douglass’ lecture to their Dismantling Racism series. They’re always looking at issues that are important to the community, especially during COVID, when people have the potential to be isolated, âButters said. âIt reminds us that we are all part of a community and that we are there for each other. “