“Last year this was a local convention. This year, it’s a national convention,” said Awesome Con co-founder Steve Anderson at the convention, which took place this past weekend.

The numbers may back him up. The District’s fledgling comic-con saw at least 250 percent more attendees this year, its second year of existence. Sunday estimates from the ticket counter suggest that at least 18,000 people attended the three-day celebration of geekery in pop culture.

In addition to one lame world-record attempt, this year’s convention had better food options, more massive cardboard cut-outs, and lots of people wearing Google Glass who didn’t take kindly to being asked if they were in costume.

Congressman John Lewis, on the other hand, is considering getting some skin in the costume game after attending several of the biggest conventions in the country to help promote his graphic novel March. On Sunday at Awesome Con, Lewis said that he’s decided to dress “the way I did at the march across the bridge” for upcoming conventions.

The bigger Awesome Con attracted attendees from all over the region. Lindsey Anderson-Pilcher, 31, and Kenneth Pilcher, 32, both of Gaithersburg, Md., didn’t know about the convention last year. This year, they came dressed as Khajiit from Skyrim (top photo).

Costume contest winners Kenna Libes, 20; Kerri Yount, 24; Meaghan Horak, 19; and Ana Rosic, 20

“I like the anthropomorphic characters,” says Anderson-Pilcher. “We did Avatar drivers a few years ago, just because when we walked out of the theater and [Pilcher] said, ‘You can wear comfortable shoes and you can carry a backpack.’ That’s awesome!”

As for the Khajiit costumes, Anderson-Pilcher used some unconventional materials. “The leather and the fabric are easy to recognize, but the tail is actually clear plastic rubber tubing that I used because it holds its shape but also gives it some bounce,” she says.

Other cosplayers—-like the winners of the group costume contest, four women dressed as the Sons of Feanor, elves from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion—-still think of Awesome Con as mere practice for bigger conventions across the country.

Winner Kerri Yount says that props that are “actually functional,” like her legitimate medieval armor, are more fun to make. The women’s swords were sculpted from clay, made into silicone molds, cast into plastic, engraved, and painted.

Some of those labors of love are retired to the back of a walk-in closet, while others may be sold. Yount says a commissioned costume of Loki from The Avengers once earned her $1,800.

Not everyone was delighted with the convention and its attendees. One woman, who requested anonymity, said that while she was happy to see signs that encouraged attendees not to make unwanted advances, it didn’t stop one man from grabbing her breast, holding her in a way that prevented her from moving, and telling another person to hurry up and take a picture. 

Though the woman spoke to a volunteer and the man was asked to leave the convention, she said that she would have liked the opportunity to ask him to delete the picture.

Her friend, Christina Parron, said that improvements like designated safe spaces and better training for volunteers made this convention better than last year—-but clearly, there is much work to be done.

Photos by Megan Arellano

Updated 4/28: An original version of this post included the name of the harassment victim. We have removed it at her request.