“It was hard to comprehend how blue the ocean was on these Rodos beaches. We parked our rental car on the side of a village road to take photos. Outside of a restaurant called Panorama Cafe, we stood there in disbelief to absorb the panoramic view. It was at that moment that I first realized that the ocean water in Greece has layers to its hues. Closest to the shore, the water is clear, then green, then Mediterranean blue, then navy blue and then, miraculously, purple. Together they make that Grecian blue but if you look closely, it’s layers of blue except on the island of Lefkada, where it is solidly the most turquoise blue the eye can absorb. It was opaque, thick, sensuous and shockingly turquoise blue. On the boat cruises through the Ionian islets off Lefkada, all I can remember feeling is ecstasy of physical feelings of happiness and peace. The body was totally consumed with the feeling of happiness, separate and together with the mind and soul. Every fiber of my being was out there in that sea of turquoise, lapping up every breeze, every wave crashing, every beam and ray of sun shining on us.”
In writing this book, I learned even more historic facts about the various countries we visited. There are recommended hotels, restaurants, excursions and recipes included as well as cultural nuances and historic factoids….for those who are interested! And a lesson plan for children illustrating how to implement itinerary building collaborations.
India —a sea of colors. Whether it’s at a simple food stand or the resplendent Taj Mahal, a vibrant sari is around every corner. Is daily dressing a celebration for the Indian female? The combination of colors, the choice of sari, the bangles, the jewelry,…I took a photo of these ladies at the Amber Fort in Jaipur and was lucky enough to get in a photo with them. I wrote about what that moment revealed to me in my travel memoir.
Saris evolved from three piece garments and have changed throughout history. There have been saris that exposed the navel and covered the navel. I was fascinated to learn that the reason for exposing the navel was because it represents the source of life and creativity. There is so much history and information about the history of the sari and I was impressed to learn that there are more than 80 ways to wear one!
Stories about India can be found in the book, A Magic Carpet Ride. Profits from the book go to various charities.
Driving down the streets and highways of India took a Herculean strength of visual patience. Our eyes absorbed so much activity, so many details and so much new comprehension of lifestyles in a new land. Food stands, shepherding, farming, outdoor barbershops and various other occupations were in co-existence on these hustle-bustle streets of India.The lightweight fabric of mens’ clothing allowed them to spend long days in the heat, doing their rigorous tasks. The delicate, colorful and feminine fabrics of the ladies’ clothing were in juxtaposition to the hard labor they do. If fascinated me to see this duality.
What irony to find in my photos a picture of a modernly dressed shepherd wearing a t-shirt titled “Highways”…as we drove past him on a highway between Agra and Jaipur.The colors were vibrant and popped out among the debris and pollution. The fields and shacks could never seem “simple” with such imagery.Driving down the highway, we saw tuk-tuks and heard nonstop beeping of horns. I was astonished later to discover the ladies in this photo who were sitting so elegantly in the back of this truck. As I cropped in on the photo, I was desperately curious to know what their thoughts were on this truck ride. Their gaze penetrates me. Their scarves have now become the prettiest green I’ve ever seen…I’ve renamed it India- green and that’s how I’ll always think of that shade.A rusty old truck transporting these elegant ladies in their India-green scarves…..their jobs might be simple in reality but all I see is opulent hues and regal females.By far, my favorite visual memory of India might be this food stand photo. A hot day, a cold shot of espresso (probably) and the succulence of fruits. All the imagery together is how I’ll remember India. A kaleidoscope….tapestry….. mosaic….right there on the streets of India.
Photos by Gina Kingsley
Different and in-depth stories about India can be found in the book, A Magic Carpet Ride. Profits from the book go to various charities.
In the beginning there was no marketa, no loukoumathes, no formal entertainment….just dinner and baklava. Eventually, through the years, Tulsa’s Greek Festival added special touches. Wine tricks, honey puffs, church tours, non-stop dancing on stage, bakery items, delicious Greek food and much more can all be found every September at 12th Guthrie in Tulsa. Tulsa’s oldest ethnic festival originated approximately 55 years ago in 1961. Ideas evolved from several parishioners with an innovated spirt.
Reportedly, in 1960, parishioners discussed a dinner idea with a fellow Greek who was the manager of Tulsa Hotel. Giving the church members a room in the hotel and use of the kitchen was the opportunity that became the first Greek Festival (in 1961, approximately). It was a one night dinner and the customers were Greeks and their close friends. The committee was made up of chairmen, cooks, assistants and volunteers and they gave parishioners ten tickets each to sell. Everything grew from there!
The original menu was lamb, rice, pastichio, Greek salad, dolmathes…..Pictured here are the original tickets.
The original ticket price was $2 . The outcome was a good start for the church members. At that time, the community was building a new church hall. They had two festivals a year with about 1,000 customers attending. They gauged this from the 1,000 kabobs (souvlakia) they served. The original festival was accomplished on one refrigerator, one sink, and one oven. The neophyte team was strong and full of energy and they continued to hold the festival every year after 1962.
At that time, several female volunteers dressed up like Greek goddesses and served the dinners. Years later, some volunteers wore regional Greek costumes and accessories as their attire. Two young boys, dressed as Greek Evzone soldiers, were the entertainers, dancing every hour. The sight of the cooks in their aprons coming out to dance for the crowd is a favorite memory for many. This has remained a tradition through the years, usually on the last night of the festival weekend.
The menu developed through the years, as well. Kalamari (squid) and souvlakia (kabobs) became favorite additions and one of the most progressive developments to the festival was lamb. The cooks presented the idea and eventually it became accepted. It has been a tradition now for ten years or so. This year, a new item will be introduced: “Greek fries” which is an appetizer topped with a special seasoning, feta cheese and oregano.
The Greek dance groups are enjoyed not only by the parishioners but also by the spectators who appreciate that the tradition of regional dancing is being preserved and passed down to the church youth. Lately, a live band and emcee have become worthwhile and engaging additions.
More exciting than ever this year are the new venues and additions to make it more family- friendly.
There’s a Kids Zone complete with a petting zoo. The Olympia Venue , sponsored by KTUL Channel 8, will have cooking demonstrations, and other perks. Saturday will be all NCAA football viewing with in-seat service. There will be a limited menu there with kalamaria, greek fries, gyros….Sports fans don’t have to miss the festival to watch the games because they can watch the games there and be part of the atmosphere!
The new logo ,”OPAHOMA”, combines Greek pride with state pride. “OPA!” is a term which expresses passionate spirit, similar to “yahoo!” The term “opahoma” is designed in the shape of our state. It’s also a way to thank Oklahomans for the half-century of support for our festival.
TOGA RUN– Greek Festival is partnering with Runners World for this event which takes place at .6:30 p.m. Saturday evening, Sept. 10th, with a 5k and a Fun Run. There’s a party afterwards under the tent with food and drinks. While togas are optional for the run, there will be a toga contest and even dogs are welcome to come in togas!
Corporate lunches–This new feature allows the customers to order online and drive up to a special area for their carry out food.
VIP NIGHT- On Sept. 11, Sunday night, the theme of “Santorini Night” beckons the customer to wear casual or dressy white attire and enjoy gourmet food, auctions and entertainment. Reservations have to be made in advance for this event. A portion of the proceeds from the event go to support: DVIS, Iron Gate, Day Center for the Homeless and Camp Agape.
Greek week–For the first time ever, we are offering almost an entire week of events with the festival itself (Sept. 15-17) being the finale.
Tulsans ask every year “when is the Greek Festival?”, “Did I miss it?”, etc.. so we came up with a poem to help you memorize the date….
“Never forget; always remember, it’s the third week of every September.”
Corfu is so lush because of the rainfall this island gets. Most Greek islands are rocky and barren but Corfu is green, lush and colorful with its florals. In Corfu, no matter where we sat to dine and take in the view, we were surrounded by beauty. The landscaping of any restaurant garden was resplendent. One particular town we drove to, at the recommendation of the villa proprietor, was called Perouales. We drove up to Perouales to have lunch there and we were stunned by what we found when we arrived.
Our restaurant was on the cliff’s edge overlooking the sea. There was a ledge you could walk out onto, with a railing around it, to “become” a part of the view. I am not a fan of heights so I let my husband take our sons out onto the ledge. As many times as we’ve been to Greece, we had not observed a view of the sea quite at this angle. It felt like a 180 degree view. Every Greek island has a vibe to it of ultimate relaxation. Corfu had this vibe, of course. We dined for a long time, enjoying each other, laughing, savoring the meal and cherishing the vacation pace.
The truth is, however, that the locals appear to dine this way, too! They were not on vacation like we were, yet, they treat mealtime as if they are. That’s one of the things people love about Greece—leisure is an art! Coffee breaks last for hours in the town squares. People converse, debate, and discuss politics passionately.
Village people sit in silence peering out onto the mountain landscapes. This baffled my husband at first—how people could sit in silence but be together? I pointed out to him that with a view like that, how could someone NOT sit in silence, relishing the moment? What is there possibly more important to talk about that just observing the beauty of a Greek island? We, too, would be distracted by such beauty in our hustle-bustle pace of a life if we lived on a Greek island.
Lunchtime was a good time to test out Greek words and phrases on the boys to see if they were hearing, learning and applying the vocabulary. Although they hear Greek language spoken back home, the pace of the language is much quicker in Greece.
Another nice aspect about lunchtime was that it was the natural break in our day of sightseeing. We used the mornings to visit museums, churches, monuments, etc and we used the afternoons to hit the beach and do beach excursions. Lunch was time to recharge from all the walking and sightseeing.
Kassiopi, a village up north in Corfu, had a colorful, scenic port and offered day trips to the neighboring country of Albania. You need to have your passport on you, though, and if you have them locked up in the hotel or villa safe, then it’s not too convenient to go back and get them. We had driven all over Corfu in our rental car so this was the case for us that day. Corfu was a kaleidoscope of florals, vistas, textiles, marina boats and landscape.
If you plan to see Corfu which is on the Ionian Sea side, you will also enjoy seeing the other four islands: Lefkada, Kephalonia and Zakinthos all below Corfu.
More information about islands and places in Greece like this are in the book A Magic Carpet Ride.
My artistic, exquisite and adventurous sister-in-law went to Africa a few years ago for a trip she dreamed of for a long time. I remember her passion beforehand in the planning of the journey and afterwards as she and her husband regaled us with stories of their adventures. The exotic adventures and deep reflection of their journey there makes it a perfect interview for the spirit of the gyspyfamilytravel.com blog. I’ve enjoyed traveling with my in-laws and sister-in-law, specifically, to some unique destinations. Her love for animals is apparent in her penetrating photos.
What inspired you to travel to Kenya (and later Tanzania)?
When I was a young girl, I had dreams as big as Africa. I dreamed of a world lost in time, windswept plains as wide as my little arms could spread, rhythms, drumbeats, the cradle of civilzation, the heartbeat of the world. I longed to someday hear the pounding hooves of the wildebeest migration, glimpse an elephant herd, see majestic giraffe grace their way across a golden savannah, feel myself tucked in at night by an endless blanket of stars. I dreamed as only a child can. Decades later, those dreams would come true.
Where did you find this trip?
Through Extraordinary Journeys, an award winning travel outfitter with outstanding personal service.
I had long hoped for a chance to interact with an indigenous tribe; to photograph and experience a culture vastly different from my own; and to go on safari. Through this outfitter I became aware of an extraordinary foundation that works with very remote communities of in Kenya in an effort to build sustainable models of education and basic needs. It is not a model of charity, but rather self-reliance. It’s a model that appeals to me. And the trip also included a safari. It was a perfect fit.
The itinerary included a taste of Nairobi, a safari, time in the bush with a Maasai tribe, and downtime on the beaches of Zanzibar. We traveled by jet…slicing silently through the sunset over the Sahara; bush plane…buzzing zebra of the dirt landing strip before landing; safari jeep across the vast, open savannah…encountering lion, elephant, cheetah, giraffe, hyena, wildebeest, among a vast array of wild animals.
Tell me more about your experience with the Maasai community:
Under threatening skies in an open safari jeep, we traversed rutted dirt roads and undulating savannah with Under the Acacia founder Jess Teutonico and Country Director Joseph Koyie to a remote Maasai community uncharted by tourists. After many hours, we arrived at an outpost that housed one of the two schools Under the Acacia had built. The Loita Maasai community, including chiefs, elders, mamas, warriors, and students greeted us in song and dance. In oral tradition they sang the history of their tribe, danced out the victories of warriors, and presented us with a goat as a gift of gratitude and kindness. After a most incredible day we left just before sunset, as the first raindrops fell and an enormous rainbow crowned the horizon.
We spent the following day at Esoit Academy, also build by Under the Acacia, where we were once again feted with chanting, song and dance, and a community feast. We were greeted with a warmth that I carry in my heart to this day. The dazzling smiles and infectious joy of the Maasai resonated throughout the day. We were given piece after piece of beautiful beaded jewelry made by the tribal women. We were honored by being “married” to the tribe, with rings of hide from a freshly slaughtered goat slipped over our fingers.
We were uniquely immersed in a pocket of a culture that still largely live as they have for centuries, retaining the social structures, customs, and rituals. As they have for centuries, this tribe of Maasai lives remotely in mud bomas (houses) and manyattas (compound) scattered across their herding lands. Young boys play and herd livestock. Older boys on the path to manhood endure a painful circumcision ceremony before become tribal warriors. Girls fetch water and learn cooking, milking, hut building and other domestic skills. The children we met are the first of their tribe to ever attend school. They long for formal education and most walk several hours to school and back daily, grateful for the opportunity.
To be given such a personal and unique glimpse into this fascinating, ancient culture was an honor and privilege beyond my dreams.
How would you describe the perfect Kenyan meal?
I don’t know what the perfect Kenyan meal is, but I can tell you about one of the most extraordinary meal experiences of my life. The Maasai are semi-nomadic pastoralists. Their measure of wealth is their children and livestock. In celebration of our visit cattle and goats were slaughtered for a huge tribal meal.
The men were in charge of the feast. There was no building or kitchen, no cooking or eating utensils, just a cool grove of trees, one big pot for boiling potatoes and machetes used to hack the fresh slaughter into large pieces. The meat was laid out on fresh green leaves newly stripped out of nearby trees. In a small clearing red-hot coals filled a fire-pit. Big slabs of meat were skewered onto green wood sticks and planted next to the glowing embers. As the potatoes boiled and the meat slowly roasted, we were feted with song and dance by the tribal children and mamas.
What excursion do you most recommend?
A safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Contiguous with the Serengeti (Tanzania), the Mara is a lush, sweeping savannah rising to a high plateau, as well as woodland along the banks of the Mara River. The Mara teems with wildlife and is most famous for its big cats and wildebeest migration. For the richest experience, arrange for a private safari guide who lives and breathes the rhythm of the Mara daily. Our guide was Joseph Koyie, a former Maasai warrior and a current leader of his tribe. His vast knowledge and passion led us to extraordinary sightings that frame my love for this raw and beautiful land, including:
A large pod of elephants gracefully crossed a quiet river one soft morning, letting the babies play and tumble in the cool water before marching on…
Another family of elephants in the middle of the endless grasslands that encircled their young to form a barrier against an approaching lioness…
A lion pride mere feet away from our safari jeep that cooed and preened their cubs, which crawled across their mothers, nibbling at their ears…
A freshly discarded wildebeest carcass, abandoned by lions and devoured by vultures in a frenzy of blood lust…
A sea of wildebeest and zebra painting a surreal landscape across the plateau…
A zebra mother who brayed piteously on the banks of the BBC crossing after her offspring was taken before our eyes by a monstrous and terrifying crocodile …
A lilac-breasted roller, a bird that is a kaleidoscope of color that exploded from the golden waves of grass…
A days-old baby elephant hiding beneath the canopy of its mother…
Giraffes galloping across the plains in slow-sway elegance …
The sky radiating pink and gold as it set beyond the Mara as we sipped sundowners on the escarpment…
And that is just a tiny taste of the wonders of the wild, majestic splendors of this extraordinary region.
What other excursions do you recommend?
In Nairobi, don’t miss the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the AFEW Giraffe Centre and nearby Giraffe Manor. I recommend fostering an elephant before traveling. You will have a chance to meet your adoptee at the orphanage at a special time reserved just for donors. It is a touching experience you will never forget.
What lodge do you recommend?
Olanona Lodge, www.sanctuaryretreats.com/kenya-camps-olonana …a beautiful, luxurious, “traditional tented safari camp located on a private stretch of the Mara River at the foot of the impressive Siria Escarpment, close to where the famous last scene from Out of Africa was filmed.”
What I encountered were happy, embracing people everywhere, full of life and effervescent smiles. Proud, dignified, gracious.
What did you learn about yourself on this trip?
Travel liberates one from bias. It gives one perspective and opens the mind and heart. At least, that’s what it does for me. This trip was no exception. Traveling to Africa was the culmination of a lifetime of dreams and passions. Kenya was real, raw, unpolished, unedited, and breathtakingly beautiful. Though my dreams of Africa were always as big as the Mara sky, this journey exceeded what I could have imagined.
I was totally and blissfully immersed, baptized in Africa.
People get their “fix” in a different ways. One of my favorite hobbies is vintage fashion shopping. ReRuns in KC’s eclectic Westport district is religiously on my route. Because there’s new displays frequently, here’s an update on the selections.I’m always on the lookout for accessories..these bags have so much purse-a-nality!Not to be redundant….because I’ve said it before—but vintage items are made with such high quality!!!Next year, I’ll have to remember to buy a glamorous clutch for a girl’s graduation gift! Wouldn’t that be unique?? Necklaces are fun to layer…..
I saw this poncho and loved its colorfulness.
A beaded bag like this—-makes me go weak in the knees! So darling!
Ooooh la aaaa—–jewelry and clutches!
Something for the men….ReRuns never disappoints. The treasures they seem to excavate—this is MY kind of archaeology! This is the be all and end all of all vintage purses. Fit for the traveler, especially. Wait until you see what this purse can do. The proprietor, Ken Coit, knows what I need…..
Open it up and look what pulls out…..The individual pouches organize your traveling needs. Gives me goosebumps ….and caters to the organizational tendencies.
I love a purse with “feet.” (the brass tabs that stand a purse up.) The lining and compartments in these vintage bags are in perfect shape, too! The passports/currency/tickets pouch pulls up but not all the way out, so that’s even better because you won’t lose it! Reminds me of airport-chic days.I can’t wait to actually use this new bag on a future trip!
Discovering “gems” when you’re a tourist is one of the perks of traveling. There’s a chemistry that happens when you’re in relaxation mode and you allow yourself to be drawn to certain buildings or landmarks. Sometimes the things you find inside are not just items, merchandise or implements but history, culture, artifacts and hopefully, someone’s passion! Re-Runs is a fabulous vintage store in the Westport district of Kansas City. The “vintage apparel and accessories of distinction” store is a destination I love to get lost in each time I go there. My husband and sons have become fans of it, too. Men can find suits, cowboy boots, bolo ties, hats, ties, jewelry, etc….and kids can find great outfits for theme parties. Women can find hats, purses, jewelry, clothing, fur coats, sunglasses, etc. My youngest son found retro items and I find something there each time I go.
It’s like a walk into the past….a clothing museum, per se! Back to a time when fashion was about artistry. Vintage clothing is timeless. It’s structure stands the test of time, usually. Back in the 80’s, when most teens were wearing name brand clothing, my friend and I used to go to the flea market and vintage shops. We loved cat-eye glasses, army jackets, velvet dresses, etc. A red satin vintage dress came in handy for a wedding….and was sure to not be duplicated. I like how this pink dress below captures the movement in it—and of it’s era.
At Re-Runs, there is a fun tradition called “Spin the Wheel”, where a customer can spin to see what discount percentage they won. I have been very lucky doing this!
I interviewed Ken Coit, the proprietor of Re-Runs. He was articulate and knowledgable about this subject and I was fascinated with the history of his passion for vintage clothing.
Where do you acquire most of your items…..the Kansas City area?
In general, the midwest—-mostly Kansas City and surrounding cities. I go through people’s attics and basements, at their invitation, when they inherit an estate…estate sales, thrift stores, ….always building the collections. I also buy online when I find a good deal.
What is the most valuable thing you acquired?
I honestly don’t know. Based on past experience, I determine prices but I may have something that may be quite valuable because there’s so many things to know. When you have a general sort of merchandise like I do, you can be an expert on a certain style and still not know it all. It’s hard to say. Occasionally, we get some couture pieces from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s –but we sell them substantially lower than they would in L.A.
Would you say there was a “heyday” era for Kansas City? or has it been consistent?
What is available has changed. 30 years ago, when I started this, I was buying 40’s and 50’s items all the time in good condition. Now it’s rare and we’re buying a lot more 60’s-80’s.
Tulsa, in the early 1900’s, was the oil capital of the world…a time of swagger and then later, the art deco era (1920’s). Was it the same for Kansas City?
The 40’s and 50’s–that was the prime era of interesting clothing for Kansas City as well as most midsized, midwestern towns where we had a thriving downtown at that point. There were wonderful, individually owned department stores that were competing with each other for the best goods. I would say, that’s probably the best time for fashion and maybe into the 60’s when people really paid attention to their outfits and had everything matching.
This top below is one of my favorite items I bought at Re-Runs a few years ago…..in ivory and ice blue.
Writer’s side note: I learned what “boot poodles” are! They are inserts that keep the boots’ shape.
This gown is a Bob Mackie!
This particular purse was not only wonderfully unique but also in amazing condition inside!
What inspired you to start this vintage clothing business?
It began as a means to make extra spending money for medical school. I began by sharing a booth at a weekend flea market with a young lady that I met at a garage sale. She left after a year so I decided to forge on and eventually left my professional job and decided to do retail. It’s a great business to have. As Robert Frost says, “……that made all the difference”.
Writer’s side note : I found it interesting and serendipitous that the owner quoted Robert Frost in his background information about what inspired him to start his business. What a perfect quote for an article on a travel and culture blog! “
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”– Robert Frost
The Porter Peach Festival is an annual family tradition for us. No matter how hot it is every July, we still can’t resist going to this sweet festival. Not too far out of Tulsa, we arrived at Porter and enjoyed peach cobbler ala mode and the parade of all things Porter Peaches.All kinds of booths are represented at this festival—businesses, pies, funnel cakes, wind chimes, dream catchers, tattoos, clothes and more. Inflatables and pony rides are in the “kids zone” as well as feeding the camel!
Apparently, camels like taking “selfies”, too.
We learned about super strength wind chimes–hoping to find out if they scare birds and squirrels away from gardens!
Bands, barbecues and a pageant were all on the agenda!
The houses and buildings in Porter have that old charm. The friendly neighbor saw us admiring her garden and camper and came outside to chat with us.The parade usually starts at 11:00 a.m. but we headed to the orchard to buy our pecks of peaches there and some huge watermelons, too! You have to eat your cobbler and ice cream quickly because it melts in the hot sun.Where else can you find apple butter, bushels and pecks of peaches, veggies, fruits, cake batter AND a parade and festival going on?
Every year, when we return from the peach festival, we cut up the peaches to make cobbler and pies to serve with vanilla ice cream later that night with family. Annually, I try a different peach recipe from the internet. For us, mid-July, we always look forward to our peaches ‘n cream!
I knew my lovely and dynamic friend for awhile before I discovered that she was involved in the Comic Con hobby, passion and adventures. I was so intrigued by this since I only knew her in the capacity of church volunteering and leadership. She defines effervescence and has the most contagious laugh. I really admire so many things about her and especially, most recently, her journey down the path of comic conventions and her perseverance to make her own elaborate costumes. To me, Rachel’s superpowers are her friendliness, convictions and loyalty. She’s perfect for Gypsy Family Travel journeys!
What inspired you to get involved with Comic Con?
My husband and I went to two Comic Cons here in town when we first started dating. The next few years we didn’t go because of life and other things that happen. In 2013, my best friend in Wichita sent me a text saying, ” Wil Wheaton is going to be in Kansas City in April at Planet Comic Con!” I told her we needed a road trip and that if we were going to go, we are going to dress up one day. She helped me make a costume and one for herself.
You can attend without wearing a costume?
Absolutely! I would say it’s about 10-20% who wear costumes and everyone else is in jeans and t-shirts. More and more people are starting to dress up.
I thought that’s how you enter—by wearing a costume…?
A lot of it is celebrity guests that people want to meet. They are on their favorite shows or movies. That’s a big draw. There are panels on different topics ranging from how to get started in cosplay and prosthetics to crowd funding to giving back to the community. You get to hear them talk and ask them questions and hear them talk about their backgrounds. There’s also vendors –all kinds of geeky things—glasses etched with your favorite characters, t-shirts, posters, 3-D printing of yourself, and artists’ alley: independent artists, writers, comic book writers who are self-promoting in an industry that used to be hard to get into. Comic Cons have gotten larger in the last 10-15 years. Artists find independent markets to promote themselves and feature their work.
Is it in every major city?
It depends. There’s a big circuit called Wizard World. It tours the country and people travel from city to city but some artists stay local. There’s Tulsa Comic Expo in May and SoCon which is a one day event in September and Wizard World will be here in October . There are a couple in OKC which are 1-2 day events. There’s Tokyo of Tulsa in July which is focused on anime.
Anime is a stylistic animation that comes out of Japan. It’s Japanese-inspired but not done by only Japanese artists, now. It’s a different type of comic than Superman or Batman.
Would you say the inspiration for getting involved is a variety of self-expressions, fantasy of comic books and super powers?
It’s the uniqueness of it and the super powers.
Why are you into it? What are your observations? Is it your talent in making the costumes? What does it feel like to walk in when you’re the participant? I was in dance for 10 years so I imagine it’s similar to a stage experience.
When I’m in plain clothes, it is to watch artists and vendors. 1 of the 3 days of the convention, I check out all the vendors to soak it in. When I’m in character, I’m on display. It’s really interesting with the costuming because some people do it to challenge themselves artistically with building a costume….to see what they can build. This was the first year I made my costumes myself. I was Joy from Inside Out. I have a really strong connection to that character. When you have someone come up to you and say, “IT”S JOY!! or “Oh my GOD, I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT”; they want that experience. That’s what it’s like when they meet your character. (like people feel at Disneyworld). They want to talk to you and know how you make your props.
They want to absorb your passion?
They do! They want that experience. It’s a very different creative process than what you think it is.
So does Rachel fade away and become invisible when you become Joy? Is that what you try to do through dress up?
That’s what I try to do….not 100% of the time. When you call my name when I’m in costume, I probably won’t turn around. But I can hear someone across an entire convention floor yell “It’s Joy!” and I’ll turn around and see them waving to me. It’s an amazing experience. You’re ON. You’re turning yourself on to be this character and portray it.
What’s been your favorite costume to wear or make?
Joy. Last year my friend Teresa Marler of CosplayOK made my costumes. Shera was a costume everyone loved and it was my favorite costume then. She made me Shera, Jessica Rabbit and Abby from NCIS. For Shera, her husband Jeremy made me a fantastic sword and headdress. People pulled me aside in Portland to take pictures of that outfit. I took Joy for the first time to Portland. I started Feb 1 and finished Feb. 16. It was the first time I ever sewed for myself, made resin, electrical wiring…. I wanted the dress to glow so I sewed rice lights into the crinoline of my dress. I thought, “how can I make these orbs glow?” My friend’s husband sent me information on LED lights and another friend told me about an electronic store on Admiral. So we tested one to see how long they’ll run on battery. I wanted a fractured look. (Rachel showed me the resin mixture and orbs) I had to carry these around for 8 hours.
How did you know to put resin in it?
I didn’t. My friend sent me a link about making jewels and using epoxy. I had never worked with epoxy before. Every red flag was going off in my head. We poured it to see how it was going to happen. I was a little prepared because the reference material had said you could use vaseline as a release. By putting in vaseline coated boxes, I created recesses for the battery packs. Epoxy is a two part solution and is very sticky as it hardens.
Who was the originator for the Comic Con idea?
In the 1930’s or ’40’s, a prolific science fiction writer and her significant other (or husband, can’t remember) started dressing in costumes and went out together in cos-play. Cos-play is a snigglet for ” costume play.”
What was your most favorite costume to see on someone else?
A beach-Ariel (Little Mermaid) in burlap. Neelix from Start Trek Voyager in a face mask and suit was cool.
What’s the furthest you’ve traveled for comic conventions?
Portland and Philadelphia.
What’s the youngest your son was when he traveled with you? How has this experience influenced him?
He was six years old. He loves super heroes and was able to meet his idol, Stan Lee (the creator of Marvel Comics). I always look up the FAQ’s and dress codes of the conventions and choose the family friendly ones since my son attends with me.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the conventions ? Controversial? crazy? hilarious? coolest?
Michael J. Fox did a panel in Philadelphia. He has a wicked sense of humor. It takes him longer to get out the words now but that was the coolest thing I’ve seen. Kevin Smith was in KC. You expect funny stories but there’s really pearls of wisdom and life experiences that’s applicable to everything else in life. Sometimes you meet random people and talk for hours after having a connection from a show. You talk about something and it leads to other conversations…
If you’re that creative and expressive then I think that aura happens when you get together….that wisdom is going to be there because you’re among non-conformists and free spirits.
I don’t want to say they’re outspoken but they’re not afraid of voicing their opinions.
Like you! 🙂
Oh! hahaha…. I have opinions, I don’t always voice them. (long laughter here between us).
I saw a Steampunk Convention once in Denver when we were there for an oratorical regional competition. We didn’t know what was going on at first! We saw panels, vendors, etc. Steampunk fascinates me because it’s so historically time-specific. Have you been? Is it literature based?
No, I haven’t…but it’s mixed into Comic Con. I saw Steampunk Belle and Beast costumes that were really cute. Imagine a world running off steam and coal power instead of gas and fuel.
To watch uninhibited free spirits, you could sense their real personas fading away as they express themselves more boldly through their characters. I bet their after-parties are crazy fun.
I’ve only been to one. I stayed in my Joy costume so that made it fun. No one is closed off or super rude. Everyone is open to you and kind. They ask questions and share ideas and collaborate.
As a mom of a little boy, you got into this early whereas some moms wait until later to express their passions and hobbies. Is it therapeutic to put the other Rachel roles aside and be Rachel the Artist?
It’s not stress free—-the costuming. When I started making my own costumes, I realized that I didn’t pay Teresa enough!
I’ve experienced that feeling on a Greek costume I designed with someone a long time ago.
I love the results I get out of it but it’s not stress free!
The admission prices, travel expenses and registration must get expensive….but it’s your vacation, though, right?
It adds up but you can buy a 3 day pass. At Wizard World, it’s $80 for a 3-day event in St. Louis…so that’s less than an amusement park and I get to meet incredible people and hear them speak.
It’s community building, too, and you are seeing people do something positive! They are carving out a niche!
Yes. And some of the autograph fees and photobooth fees get donated to charity. An artist in Kansas City donated all of his fees to community gardening.
Where is the convention center in KC?
Bartle Hall is the convention center in the Power and Light district of KC.
What do you want to share with us about this experience?
Cosplay and Comic Con really promote and talk about body positivity and acceptance no matter who you are, what you look like or what’s going on in your life. The message is ” You are accepted here and don’t need to fear when you walk through the doors.”