It will be hard to ignore the fact that MisCon is back in downtown Missoula this weekend.
On Friday, the four-day annual convention of all things fantasy, sci-fi and horror will have a costume parade starting at 6 p.m. through downtown. No streets will be blocked off, but watch for full-on costumes on the sidewalks.
The costumes circulating around downtown came as a bit of surprise last year, after MisCon moved to the Holiday Inn Downtown from its long-running location at Ruby's Inn on North Reserve Street.
If those costumes don't signal the presence of a con, keep your eyes peeled for a DeLorean, built by a Billings resident as a replica from the "Back to the Future" movies. Or, watch for live-action demos in the park near the hotel.
Organizers said the move downtown went over well for attendees last year.
"It's nice to be right in the middle of things and allow people from walking distance to hit restaurants and bars and feel the culture of Missoula," said chairman Justin Barba.
Each year, they invite guest writers, actors, artists and more for a laid-back convention setting. Attendance is expected at 2,000, Barba said. In contrast to massive conventions that can draw more than a 100,000 people, Barba said attendees can expect to mingle with speakers.
"If you want to come meet our guests of honor, you're going to have the opportunity to do so," he said. The guests participate in meet-and-greets and panels throughout the weekend.
This year, the guests are fantasy/sci-fi novelist David Farland; Philo Barnhart, an animator on Disney films; actor Aaron Douglas of "Battlestar Galactica"; and Claire Eddy, an editor for Tor publishing house.
For fantasy/sci-fi newbies, here's a quick rundown on their work:
• Farland is best known for his "Runelords" fantasy series, as well as a popular "Star Wars" franchise book, "The Courtship of Princess Leia." He's also a Hollywood script doctor and a writing instructor. (Stephenie Meyer of the "Twilight" series is a former student.) He also judges the Writers of the Future contest.
• Aaron Douglas played a popular character, Chief Galen Tyrol, on the celebrated reboot of "Battlestar Galactica." Since then, he's had roles in "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" "The Strain" and "The Flash."
• Claire Eddy, a senior editor at Tor, worked with Jacqueline Carey, Sara Douglass and Juliet Marillier.
• Philo Barnhart worked for Disney on its classics "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." Outside the Disney stable, his work can be seen in "Scooby Doo" and "The Smurfs." For the sci-fi contingent, he helped create special effects for the first "Star Trek" movie. (Barnhart will be on hand for a screening of "The Little Mermaid" at the Missoula Public Library at 11 a.m. Saturday.)
• A Billings resident is bringing a replica DeLorean that he built, based on the famed "Back to the Future" vehicle. Watch for it around town, and attendees can get their picture taken with it at the hotel.
The schedule, available on miscon.org, is crammed with activities: everything from gaming (live-action and video) demos; make-up workshops; film effects panels; kids' activities; and a host of craft workshops for aspiring and professional writers. On the new-tech front, the con will have three HTC Vive virtual reality units, with artists giving live demonstrations of the possibilities.
Many are put on by the guest speakers, and very, very many of them are put on by enthusiastic creative types, who do it for the love of their work, and not money.
Barba said MisCon isn't a nonprofit, but it is more of a community organization. All the profits go back toward next year's convention. He said they've cultivated more family-friendly activities during the day, followed by the night-life activities for after-hours.