Home Arts & Culture K-Town Expo bigger than ever 

K-Town Expo bigger than ever 

Julian Schwartzel The Eastern Door

Jason Kalinowski reached up and clutched a foggy plastic package, the iconic Scooby-Doo van, atop a stack of vintage toy figurines. “This,” he said to his wife and child, “this is the Mystery Machine!” 

The Kalinowski family was among the early birds rummaging through the vendors’ wares at the annual K-Town Collectables Expo, held May 4-5 at the Kahnawake Sports Complex. “It’s incredible,” said Kalinowski. “I can’t believe how much stuff’s back from my childhood.”  

Kalinowski has been attending fan expos for 20 years, but this was the first time attending with his son, and while the nostalgic atmosphere seemed to be awakening his inner child, his seven-month-old was ready to tap out. “I don’t think the baby’s going to last too much longer,” he joked. 

“You bring your kids here, you bring your families here,” said Mark Braithwaite, one of the event’s organizers, who emphasized the philosophy that distinguishes K-Town from other collectables conventions. “We want to cater to everybody. We want to make this more of a family event than a strictly collectable show.”  

Braithwaite, alongside fellow toy enthusiasts William Rice and Eric Ravenelle, conceived of the annual event when the trio united through a shared desire to bring the joys of toy conventions to Kahnawake.  

“When I saw the nostalgia and the toys, I said, ‘We have to do this in town. I need people to see this,’” said Rice. 

The organizers pointed to the low cost of entry and table rental as ways that the event remains accessible to the public. “To us, it’s not a business,” said Ravenelle. The entry fee was $5, with free admission for children 12 and under. The goal is to charge the lowest prices possible so every family can attend, Ravenelle said. 

An emphasis on accessibility seems to be paying off – Saturday was their busiest day yet, with a line that stretched out the door. “We have people literally camping in our parking lot, cooking their eggs on a little stove,” said Braithwaite. 

According to organizers, a record 2,800 attendees came out over the weekend, an increase of nearly 1,000 from the year before. Ravenelle attributes the rise to a promotional campaign that included creative touches, such as Star Wars-inspired graphic design and homages to Saturday morning cartoons. “I think it’s little touches like that also help people realize that something different was going on at the expo than other collectables shows,” explained Ravenelle. 

“We have a lot, a lot, a lot of non-locals,” said Jordan Diabo, the tours coordinator at Kahnawake Tourism. The K-Town convention has become one of the biggest tourism events in Kahnawake leading up to the Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow-Wow, she said.  

Her presence at the convention wasn’t just from a professional standpoint, however. “I’m a big Star Wars fan,” she said. Last year, she bought five lightsabers from a K-Town vendor. “You can have full-on battles with them. We tested it,” she joked. 

Attendee Sam Lorenson was most pleased with the Jurassic Park dinosaurs he found. It seemed his enthusiasm over the find paid off – literally – with the vendor offering him a special price. “My eyes lit up when I saw it,” Lorenson said. “He’s like, ‘I’ll give it to you for cheaper.’” 

Ravenelle said that the number of vendors has grown with the event’s popularity, beginning with a fledgling 20 and expanding to more than 100. The Whyte Crow, B&K’s Ghoulish Goodies, and 392 Pepper Co. were among some local businesses with tables at the event. 

Kahnawake artist Teiowí:sonte Thomas Deer ran a booth draped in glossy posters of comic book characters that he has drawn in his life as a comic book colourist. 

“Some of them are actual covers from comic books that I’ve worked on,” he said. “And then I have a mix of horror and sci-fi, Star Wars, Batman. Whatever I’m interested in, I’ll draw.” 

As someone who attends shows regularly, he appreciated the short commute. “It’s only five minutes away from my house,” he said. 

There were also attractions such as James Day’s Haunted Woods, which brought actors in costume on Sunday, and the Inter-Species Wrestling feature, where local favourites Dad Bod Squad – Kyle Zachary and Thomas Leduc – retained their tag-team championship belt. 

While some patrons may have come to the K-Town Expo in search of something specific, other attendees kept an open mind as they waded through the sea of memorabilia. 

“I’m just looking for anything that really catches my interest,” said David Hill. “Either a comic book, poster, or even a mousepad. I’m not really picky.”  

Hill is a repeat attendee and was pleased to see the way the event has grown over the years, with more and more vendors and participants. 

“I get to meet some old friends and make some new ones,” he said. 

news@easterndoor.com 

This article was originally published in print on May 10 in issue 33.19 of The Eastern Door.

Julian Schwartzel
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