The Weirdest & Most Obscure Conventions In America
Find community and let your freak flag fly at these 12 annual events.
By Sarah Fielding
This year, your new year’s resolution should be to take your niche interests out of the closet. Who cares if they’re weird or super random? If you love paper dolls or secretly want to be a clown, you should learn more about them. If you want to pet exotic reptiles or master the art of ventriloquism, you should make those things happen as well.
Whatever your interest, 2020 should be the year you pursue it. A great way to do that is to attend a convention. Often multi-day events that require traveling, conventions can teach you more about your passions and introduce you to new friends and likeminded weirdos. They’re fun, educational, and also great excuses to dress in costume.
If you think there are only conventions on broad, boring topics like cars, tattoos, and window cleaning, you’re wrong. There’s a bunch of obscure and weird conventions across the U.S. that are anything but vanilla. From Abraham Lincoln to UFOs, there’s no shortage of events for people with particular interest to bond and unite over. Love My Little Pony? There’s a convention for that. Sick of being the butt of every redhead joke? There’s a convention for those in that boat, too.
In the end, you should never feel embarrassed about the things that define and interest you. There will always be someone out there to join in your excitement — all you’ve got to do is find them. And a convention might be just the place to do it.
Here are 12 of the weirdest and most random conventions happening this year that you should make a new year’s resolution to attend.
Los Angeles, California - January 5 to 6
San Diego, California - July 13 to 14
If you’d rather have a pet with scales than fur, then head to one of the upcoming Reptile Super Shows in Southern California. You’ll have the opportunity to “ooh” and “aah” over dozens of breeds of reptiles, arachnids, and amphibians, and even take some home, as a lot of them are for sale. There are also educational workshops about captive breeding and species conservation, and the whole experience has a very science camp-esque vibe to it.
Albuquerque, New Mexico - March 3 to 7
While some might find clowns to be the stuff of nightmares, if you’re someone who sees the fun of them, this convention is for you. This year’s event will take place in New Mexico, which is a big change from its 2017’s location in Thailand. For four days, you’ll get to watch performances by world-class clowns; take classes on juggling, balloon designs, and “laughter yoga;” win weird raffle prizes like a hot air balloon ride; and network. Just don’t forget your red nose.
The Association of Lincoln Presenters (aka: Lin-Con)
Amicalola Fall, Georgia - April 11 to 14
Do you love honest Abe? Well, the Association of Lincoln Presenters honors our country’s 16th president at this annual weekend-long convention that is celebrating its “silver” 25th year in 2019. Taking place in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, fellow admirers will come together to dress up as Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln for a weekend of Civil War tales and reenactments.
Warwick, Rhode Island - April 26 to 28
This fan-led convention is more than just an ode to a great TV show. Every subject and facet of the show gets taught and discussed at this multi-day event, which focuses on the paranormal, conspiracy theories, cryptozoology, UFOs, and more. Visit the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult or test your X-Files knowledge in a grueling trivia contest. This year’s speakers include an assortment of mediums, authors, UFO abductees, and Bigfoot researchers. If you’re curious about the world beyond what they teach in science class, this is a can’t-miss event.
Chicago, Illinois - Sometime in July
Based off the Netherlands’ Redheads Festival, Chicago has brought its own crimson-themed celebration to America. Come together to commiserate with others who have spent a lifetime being asked if the curtains match the drapes. Thousands of redheads flock to the event each year, which includes live music, food vendors, a petting zoo, and a bounce house for all ages.
Kansas City, Missouri - July 3 to 6
Paper dolls might be flimsy and easy to rip, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less cool than 3-D dolls. Created by Paper Doll Studio Magazine, each yearly convention has a special focus, with 2019’s being “mystery, murder, and mayhem.” Expect myriad workshops where you’ll learn to create your own paper dolls, explore the histories of famous artists, and discuss the status of dolls today. The bonus to this convention: You don’t have to worry about overbuying souvenirs because no matter how many paper dolls you purchase, they’ll fit easily into your suitcase.
Sacramento, California - July 12 to 14
If you grew up wishing you’d magically sprout a scaled tail, you’re not the only one. At this yearly event, people who come from all over to make their wildest mermaid or merman dreams come true. Attendees get decked out in everything from tails to shell bras, and the event includes activities like underwater posing workshops and aquatic photoshoots. Gather around the pool with your fellow aquatic creatures and enjoy a time so fun Ariel might have reconsidered wanting those legs.
Erlanger, Kentucky - July 17 to 20
Do you love ventriloquism but haven’t found others who share your enthusiasm? Look no further than Erlanger, Kentucky. Just 15 minutes outside of Cincinnati, Erlanger is home to the annual Ventriloquist Convention, which includes performances from highly skilled ventriloquists, like Australian stand-up Darren Carr, as well as open mics for newer performers.
Baltimore, Maryland - August 1 to 4
Calling all My Little Pony lovers, BronyCon is what you’ve been waiting for. What started in 2011 as a 100-person event in New York City has grown into a weekend-long festival that attracts more than 10,000 fans and changes location every year. Filled with activities such as learning how to draw a perfect pony and “My Little Karaoke,” all that’s left is to pick which character you’re going to channel.
San Diego, California - August 7 to 11
At Tiki Oasis — the so-called largest and longest-running tiki festival in the world — it’s all about mid-century kitsch and Aloha vibes. Originally held in Palm Springs in 2001, it’s now a San Diego mainstay that attracts hundreds of vintage Polynesian fans each year. In addition to a retro car show, educational seminars, burlesque, and lots of live music, expect a lot of lounging by the poolside and sipping on frozen tropical drinks. Mai Tai, anyone?
Orlando, Florida - August 28 to September 1
Over 150 impersonators come together to impersonate their favorite celebs at this kooky convention that, of course, takes place in Florida. A huge draw to this convention are the classes available to learn techniques on how to be a better impersonator, and the numerous “talent agents, buyers, tour companies, casinos, cruise lines, and special events planning companies” that attend looking to scoop up new talent for their rosters.
Baltimore, Maryland - November 1 to 3
Celebrate “the magical life” at this yearly convention most famous for its lively Friday and Saturday night masquerades (which turn into huge dance parties). Dress in faerie, elvish, or otherworldly attire, or create your outfit once you’re there from the many vendors that will be on site. Over a decade old, Faerie Con is full of things to do, whether you decide to attend artist panels, partake in the faerie fashion show and costume contest, shop for one-of-a-kind crafts, or mingle with the many magical guests and actors. Just don’t forget to BYOW (bring your own wings).
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