published Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Geeks invade: ConNooga runs through Sunday at Chattanooga Choo Choo

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    Randi LaFerney shows customers one of her "glowing orbs" for sale Friday afternoon at ConNooga held at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This was LaFerney's first year at the event.
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IF YOU GO

* What: ConNooga

* Where: Chattanooga Choo Choo

* When: Today from 9 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. ($30 single day); Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. ($10 single day); $15 kids age 6-13

* Walk-in registration welcomed

THINGS TO DO

Today

* 2 p.m. -- "Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek" debate (Imperial Ballroom)

* 4 p.m. -- "Star Wars" weddings with Lord Sidious (Imperial Ballroom)

* 4 p.m. -- Monster high-jinks hosted by Debi Derryberry (American Car)

* 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- Exhibitor Hall open

Sunday

* 10 a.m. -- Geek Church (Centennial Theater)

* 11:30 a.m. -- Supernatural experiences (Roosevelt)

* 1 p.m. -- Movie distribution in the dgital age (Gallery A)

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Rex Hickey's costume turned heads Friday at ConNooga 2012.

Unlike most costumed attendees, his attire was not made of cloth or silk. Instead, he constructed his out of wood and nails.

"Every convention I go to, I like to add on from the previous year," he said after lifting the contraption from his sweaty head.

Hickey was crouched inside his Dalek costume, a cylindrical robot character from the BBC show "Doctor Who." He operated it by shuffling his feet on the ground to give the appearance of the machine operating by itself.

"Flintstoning," as he called it.

"Fans don't get to often see things like this here in Chattanooga," he said. "It might not be the most comfortable, but it's worth it to see people's reactions."

About 2,000 attendees are expected at this year's fifth annual ConNooga, an annual convention for fans of science-fiction, horror, fantasy, gaming, anime and the paranormal. Costumes of all shapes, sizes, and materials can be seen this weekend at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St.

"There's a little something here for everyone," event Chairman Todd Patton said. "It's a melting pot of fandom. The fan groups are the foundation. Without them, the convention wouldn't even happen."

Fans For Christ, an Internet-based fan group about 10 years old, has been at ConNooga for all five of its years. They even host a "Geek Church" service every Sunday of the convention that continues to grow in attendance each year, spokeswoman Stacey Bern said.

"We classify ourselves as the freakiest of the freaks," she said. "We're the best of both worlds, and a lot of people don't think you can be."

Bern also is the director for ConNooga Kidz, which provides plenty of activities for children including trivia, origami and dancing. ConNooga Kidz's special guest this year was Debi Derryberry, a voice actor for cartoon characters such as Jimmy Neutron and Draculaura on "Monster High."

Bern invited Derryberry after her 9-year-old daughter Elena asked her to. Elena's favorite character on "Monster High" is Draculaura. She even was dressed as her Friday when she met Derryberry.

"I'm a lot like her," Elena explained. "She likes pink, and I love vampires."

Derryberry was excited to be able to interact with her fans of all ages, especially since the characters she voices are in shows that have good messages for kids, she said.

"Jimmy Neutron is smart, and 'Monster High' is goth, but safe. It has a great message to be accepting of all walks of life. Everyone feels insecure, and I think a lot of kids identify with Draculaura."

A lot of connections made at ConNooga last a lot longer than the weekend, Patton said.

"We've had about three weddings and a proposal take place from people who met at ConNooga. We're not necessarily a matchmaker, but there are a lot of people that meet here with the same interests."

Though ConNooga had no special events planned for their fifth anniversary, Patton says the convention will extend to the Convention Center next year.

But it's not just the organizers that already are planning for ConNooga 2013.

"I've got a few costumes in mind for next year, but I don't want to reveal anything yet," Hickey said before disappearing back into his Dalek costume and "flintstoning" back into the crowd.

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