By Christopher Erickson
Throughout the year, there is a chance for people to do a test run for costuming, posing, cosplay and photography that is not at the conventions. The NorCal Cosplay Gatherings allow people to get together, hang out and meet new friends without the pressure of making the panels or trying to deal with hassles of a time schedule.
The Gatherings are held three times throughout the year in different locations in the Bay Area. The Spring edition is held in the grove area of Kelley Park in San Jose next to the Japanese Friendship Garden. The Summer version is held at Coyote Point Park in San Mateo. The Fall/Winter gather is held at Lake Elizabeth/Central Park in Fremont.
The events are produced by Bekalou Cosplay. The atmosphere is much like the cosplay photo shoots at conventions, but with a picnic setting. For the low cost of admission (generally set at $5), people get free food such as hot dogs, chips, fruit, desserts, water and soda.
There are many different types of costumes that are on display. There is a large number of anime and video game related costumes, but you can find people dressed in outfits from science-fiction, steampunk, superheroes, cartoons, celebrities, fantasy shows and movies and original creations. Several photographers set up equipment to take photos of people in their outfits.
The relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for people to do group photo shoots since there is no pressure to arrive at a specific place and time and there are no other commitments that interfere with scheduling. A number of the groups also tailor their outfits to match the season, such as beachwear for the summer or Christmas-themed outfits for the winter.
The gatherings feel like a giant family reunion of sorts. There are people from teenagers to older costumers who are welcomed. All of the people at the events are positive in their comments to costumers.
The event spaces allow for amazing photos. The Friendship Garden and History Park areas in San Jose allow for a historical backdrop to the photos. Coyote Point Park has a beach on the San Francisco Bay, so people can get shots with a water horizon behind them. Central Park has both a lake and lots of trees so people can get more nature shots.
The gatherings also let people test run a costume for relative comfort, maneuverability and spacing to see how it might work in a crowd if they have lots of props or attachments that are cumbersome.
To find out about the gatherings, search for Nor Cal Cosplay Gathering on Facebook. The event page for the most recently completed gathering will have the link for the next one as well. People will also post their pictures on the event page after it is over so costumers can find pictures of themselves.
The Nor Cal Cosplay Gatherings are a good way to make new friends, take pictures and have fun in a low-pressure environment. I try to make as many as I can during the year.