My first Pyrkon was the 2016 one. In April of that year, Mihaela, Iva Belina and a Zagreb city delegation went on a trip to Poland that eventually put SFeraKon on the European cosplay map. (In fact, at that Pyrkon we made the avi.cosplay Instagram account for Iva!)
Pyrkon is huge and awesome and overwhelming. SFeraKon was home, I have been attending since I was a kid, but I was also a generation or two away from all the SFeraKon regulars and stepping into Pyrkon, I came into my own. It felt like a truly found my tribe. It was all that SFerakon was – if followed the same rules, had the same vibe, – but it was that little bit more me that SFeraKon was, just for the virtue of the number of people closer to my age and my own zeitgeist. I fell in love with it then and there and have been going every year since. (I hope to do so for a number of years yet to come.)
This year, the SFera delegation to Pyrkon was a bit bigger: six of us, all SFeraKon organizers, going to the biggest convention in Europe. It is a fun trip, but also a work trip – we go there also to check what we can adopt from the awesome ideas and solution the Pyrkon team comes up with every year. And we always learn something. Some people tag along just as visitors, and some to do cosplay.
By now, I am not only in love with Pyrkon, but also with the amazing town of Poznañ in Poland, where the con is held every year. It is a special feeling to get into town a day or two early and to witness the rivers of young people, from all facets of fandom, pouring into town, flooding it with colour, costume and enthusiasm. The Pyrkon venue is the Poznań International Fair and is huge. It is as if the entire country of Poland agreed to have just one place for fairs and went all in there. Both the bus station and the train station are right next to it and during Pyrkon, almost everyone you see there is part of SF fandom.
As the vast majority of Pyrkon members, of whom there are anywhere between 30 and 50 000, are younger than 30, a whole pavilion is set aside for sleeping. So once you enter the con, you do not really leave it until it is over. (There is another whole pavilion for food). That makes the atmosphere really special and the fans connected in a way I have not experienced elsewhere.
The Pyrkon program is varied and has a hall for everything – gaming, LARPs, cosplay, literature, workshops, films, comics, TV, crafts… everything and then some. Pyrkon could easily accommodate an entire Worldcon in just one corner of the con and some years, their literature programming is just as good. Among this year’s guests were Adam Koebel, Chris Birch, Mark Rein-Hagen, Brian Mcclellan, Christie Golden, Maciej Kur, Christopher Judge and Martin Gooch.
This year Pyrkon organizers have also surpassed themselves in putting on more concerts and some really awesome live shows. It was great, and not only because the con broke a record with more than 50 000 visitors. There was more than 600 programming items, with at least 30% of them in English. In a country where there are so many people interested in speculative fiction that you can be a well-read genre fan without having to be able to read in English (if you ever wondered why all the Croatian fans speak it so well, that is why – we all read in English!), I think this is awesome. Both the amount of programming and the number of guests from outside Poland is growing.
And deservedly so, it is a convention where everything is fun: from talking to people, and to the GoHs to excellent programming and to parties in the open after the convention. Hope to see you there in 2020!