Cosplay and controversies dominate at RadCon


Couple Zack McNaughton and Amelia Burke dressed up as Alucard and Sera from “Hellsing.” The two have been cosplaying together since 2013 | Erica Halbert for The Easterner

By Erica Halbert, Contributor

Despite the controversies surrounding the event this year, thousands of fans flocked to the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco, Washington, for the 26th annual RadCon.

RadCon, which describes itself as “The big con with the small con feel,” is a yearly sci-fi and fantasy convention, taking place every President’s Day weekend. The convention hosts a variety of events and attractions, such as panels, gaming tournaments, and guest speakers.

One of the main reasons people attend RadCon is cosplay.

“The amount of people dressed up is what I love most about RadCon,” Tracy Relic, one of the convention’s many vendors, said.

Cosplay, short for costume play, is a hobby that originated in Japan, in which people create and wear costumes. These costumes can be recreations of fictional characters, historical figures, or original creations. RadCon hosts a cosplay contest, called the Masquerade, where contestants perform on stage in costume while judges place them based on their craftsmanship and likeness to their characters.

EWU senior Amelia Burke and her fiance Zack McNaughton have been cosplaying together since 2013. This year, they were dressed as Seras and Alucard from the anime “Hellsing.”

“These have been our most expensive and our most time-consuming costumes,” Burke said.

Both her and McNaughton’s costumes were almost entirely handmade. Burke spent over 72 hours stitching, painting, and embroidering her costume, while Mcnaughton’s only took 40 hours by comparison.

“He loved anime and I’ve always loved crafting,” said Burke, on why the two decided to start cosplaying. “So when I found out cosplay was a thing, I was like, I get to sew, I get to paint, I get to act and embody these characters that are really awesome. Now it’s probably my favorite hobby. It’s everything I love all rolled into one.”

McNaughton has been attending RadCon for 11 years, while Burke started going in 2010.

This year, the two competed in the RadCon Masquerade together. The competition is something that Burke loves.

“I remember watching the Masquerade every year and thinking, ‘I want to do this,’” said Burke. “I’ve always wanted to try it, and I think I’m at a level now where I can have some success.”

Success was right. The two went on to win Best in Show at the Masquerade.

While cosplaying is currently one of Burke’s favorite hobbies, she’d like to see it turn into a profession.

“I’d like to start doing commissions. I do eventually want to be doing it full-time though, but that requires a bit of luck,” Burke said.

The couple does currently have a business, Fox & Otter Crafts and Cosplay, complete with a business license and an online store.

To anyone interested in getting into cosplay, Burke says, “Do it.”

“My first costumes were not well put together, and I still had fun,” said Burke. “The important thing is just to enjoy it. If you can figure out how to sew a straight line and figure out how to sew a curved line, that’s all you need to know.”

While most of RadCon’s attendees are local, the convention does attract some people from around the state.

Alex Plaza, another attendee, has traveled from the west side of the state just to attend RadCon for two years now. Due to his job, Plaza is only able to attend one convention a year, and decided that RadCon was the convention of choice.

“I went to Norwescon for 22 years, but I got sick of all the politics there,” Plaza said.

He showed up to RadCon this year cosplaying as a barbarian, with a costume that’s taken him over 20 years to make.

Of course, RadCon isn’t immune to politics either.

Two weeks before the convention, the con committee released a draft of their updated rules on their Facebook page. The changes included banning masks, requiring all men to wear shirts, and prohibiting women from showing cleavage. Additionally, the convention didn’t renew their liquor license and got rid of the “party wing,” a section of the hotel dedicated to hosting late night booze-filled parties.

“It was a big s—storm,” EWU alumnus Lynden Rothfork said about the reactions to the rule changes. “It ruins a lot of costumes.”

The backlash to the changes was massive, with several people declaring that they no longer planned to attend the event. The convention’s vice chairman stepped down following the controversy.

“I think that they did their best, and there were some poor word choices,” said Burke on the convention’s policies. “The mask rule got changed rapidly after people complained, to that you must be able to take it off if security asks you to.”

According to Rothfork, the mask change was in response to vendors complaining that people were stealing items by hiding things in their masks.

While the compromise helped, it didn’t eliminate the problem entirely. One of Burke’s costumes had a mask that must be glued on. Removing her mask for security wouldn’t be an option.

“A lot of the rule changes didn’t end up getting enforced,” Burke said.

A convention security source confirmed that they weren’t enforcing the rules as much as they could be.

“People misunderstood our intent,” said the source. “We weren’t trying to restrict what people wear. We were trying to do the opposite.”

The enforcer added that several of the policies, such as the liquor license and the shirts for men were simply updated hotel policies that they had no control over.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if numbers dwindled,” Rothfork said.