You may have watched Daryl Dixon and Carl Grimes and Carol for years on AMC's most popular drama "The Walking Dead." In November, you'll be able to see them in person at the first "Walking Dead"-inspired convention in downtown Atlanta, the Walker Stalker Con.
Credit Nashville residents Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, "Walking Dead" fans who were inspired to create the convention after visiting Senoia last November, where "The Walking Dead" is partially shot.
While the show was producing its season 3 finale, the two friends were able to meet several of the actors and decided soon after to start a "Walker Stalkers" podcast about the show. Over a span of a few months, they began drawing a following, peaking with 23,000 downloads in March. They interviewed executive producer Greg Nicotero and several of the actors.
"We were blown away he wanted to be on our podcast. And it snowballed from there," Frazier said.
Frazier, an attorney who was obsessed with "Lost" and attends sci-fi conventions regularly, convinced his music producer friend Nordhoff to put together a "Walking Dead"-style convention in Atlanta.
They drew up a budget and figured they needed $15,000 upfront. Using Kickstarter in June, they raised more than that amount from 162 fans and decided to move ahead.
"We started out as just normal fans but as we have gotten to know the cast members and some of the production staff and executives who run the show, we have been so impressed with the quality of the people," Nordhoff said. "They are the most humble people. There's not an air of 'we're too good for anyone.' They're great with the fans. They are giving us such a great fan experience and loving on Senoia and local areas we're theyr'e shooting. It's worth investing from the people alone. It's a joy to cover them. I feel like part of the extended family."
So on November 1 to 3, organizers anticipate thousands of people descending upon downtown Atlanta - the Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart, to be exact. Nordhoff and Frazier have nabbed several of "The Walking Dead" cast, past and present.
So far, with no marketing beyond social media and word of mouth, the convention has sold 600 advance tickets with hopes of getting at least 1,500. Nordhoff said based on what other convention organizers have said, most of the people will show up at the last second. He hopes at least 7,000 people show up.
"We want to have a real fan-centric convention," Frazier said. "Not everyone can make it to the set. Let's try to create that experience. Let's also center this around the whole zombie genre movement. We want an awesome weekend for everyone."
That means people involved in other zombie films will be there as well, including "Dawn of the Dead" and "Warm Bodies."
The convention's biggest gets are Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, arguably the most popular character on the show, and the lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes. (Both will be there on Saturdya only). Here's a list of some of the confirmed guests as of Oct. 9. (A spokesman for "The Walking Dead" itself confirmed with me that this convention is legit.)
- Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie
- Greg Nicotero, executive producer who is responsible for the zombies
- Melissa McBride, who plays Carol
- Emily Kinney, who plays Beth, will sing in a Saturday night concert
- Lawrence Gilliard Jr, who plays Bob Stookey season 4
- Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl Grimes
- Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Lori Grimes
- IronE Singleton, who played T-Dog
- Laurie Holden, who played Andrea
The three-day general admission pass for the Walker Stalker con is $99. The three-day VIP pass (limit 500 total) is $199 in advance, $250 at the door, if available. For an extra $70, you can get special fast access line for a Reedus autograph and photograph with faster access than general admission line. (with a limit of 100 of these available) Daily passes are $30 on Friday and Sunday and $40 on Saturday, when more of the stars will be there (including Riggs, Reedus and Cohen). A weekend pass is $65.
You will have to pay extra for autographs with the stars. Pricing is here.
The Westin Peachtree is the affiliated hotel for the convention.
Nordhoff sent me a summary of the intinerary as of late last week:
The convention floor opens with 60 vendors, 15 artists/professionals and tons of floor activity. Plus, we will have space dedicated for photo sessions and autographs with the celebrity guests coming in on Friday.
Friday night we will have a VIP Meet & Greet event - a chance to meet & greet with the celebrities and other VIP attendees (those who have purchased a VIP ticket). Friday late night (9-11pm) we plan on having a party. Details are not yet finalized.
Saturday is our busiest day. The floor will be open all day with the same as the day before. Norman Reedus and Lauren Cohan are the only two celebrities just coming in on Saturday. The cool thing we are doing for Saturday is we will have VIP line passes and special Norman Reedus VIP passes that allow people the ability to not have to wait in long lines. It kind of works like a Fast Pass at Disney world. We have hired a Virtual Que company to manage this. Our whole intention is to give a great fan experience for every attendee.
On Saturday night, we will have a VIP Meet & Greet, a musical concert with a celebrity guest (which we can't announce yet, but it will be really REALLY cool) and then a Zombie Bash Costume Party which will run late into the night.
Sunday, more of the same during the day. This will be our second busiest day because most of the celebrities will be staying that are here on Saturday. You saw the line-up on the poster, so it should be lots of fun - photo sessions, autograph sessions and interaction for the fans to hang with the celebs.
On Sunday night, we may plan a after-Con party in the hotel - that will not be ticketed, but will just be great for those not planning on leaving until Monday morning