Courtesy of FantasyCon

Josh Patel has spent the last five years turning his fantasy into reality.

And like many fantasy heroes (think Bilbo Baggins, Luke Skywalker and Ron Weasley), Patel came from humble beginnings.

He grew up in Kansas farm country, where out-of-state vacations and trips to theme parks were almost unheard of. “As I got older, I thought it’s a tragedy not everyone has enough money to go to these major theme parks,” he says. “So that’s part of what inspired FantasyCon.”

After attending Weber State University and settling in Utah, he started working on his dream: Creating an affordable, almost theme-park experience, where fantasy geeks could cosplay, gaze upon fantasy artwork and meet the people behind the artwork, books and movies they love. Also, there would be a really, really big dragon (scroll down for more info).

We chatted with Patel about FantasyCon, coming to SLC in July.

This seems like it’s coming off the heels of Salt Lake Comic Con’s success. Are you striking while the iron’s hot?

“I’m a big fan of Comic Con, and I have met [founders of SLCC] Dan [Farr] and Bryan [Brandenburg] before—they’re good guys. For FantasyCon, our reasons to do it here in Utah are: I love it here—I’d rather do it closer to my hometown than anywhere else, and what their convention showed me. The people of Utah are willing to support a convention like this. It’s the perfect demographic. They love it.”

And you’ve already got some big names coming—Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings).

“We have them. We also have John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in Lord of the Rings and some of the other cast. One of the reasons they decided to come out is they said nobody has ever done what we’re doing for a convention. Our focus is in three main areas: We really want to focus on the art and the artists, on the fans and on the experience. We want them to walk away with memories that will last a lifetime."

What are some of the big projects underway?

“We’re building one of the world’s biggest, if not the biggest, dragon. We’re waiting on the Guinness Book of World Records to confirm it, and it looks like it’s going in our favor. We have animatronic rock monsters and 30-foot sentinels . . . We’re also going to have elves hanging from silk drapes from the ceiling, doing aeriel acrobatics . . . and we’ll have runways for cosplayers to walk on during the competition for all the fans to see.”

We love Sean Astin here at SLmag. How did you get him?

“Really, it was the experience. Talking to him about the huge dragon that’s never been created before—the dragon is going to be almost three stories tall and has a 40-foot wingspan . . . Sean Astin loved that part of it. And it was just different. He’s been to conventions before and hasn’t done a ton, but doing the things we’re doing—focusing on the fans, the cosplay, the entertainment and the experience—really got him excited. And how can you not like Sean Astin? He’s Mikey from Goonies, he’s Rudy, he’s Samwise Gamgee, the unsung hero of Lord of the Rings. 

Do you have a favorite aspect of FantasyCon?

“For me, it's the artwork. Fantasy artists from all over the world have gotten involved, and they’ve all agreed to make some of the world’s biggest fantasy paintings. Right now, a few of them are hanging in our office, and the minimum dimensions of these fantasy paintings are four feet by six feet. Most people would have to travel outside the United States to see fantasy paintings and creations like this, but all of the artists are flying here and unveiling the paintings for the fans.” 

And we saw something that said FilmQuest. Explain.

“Jonathan Martin is spearheading that for us. He’s got some really successful short films under his belt, and we’re putting together a film festival. Film and fantasy go hand in hand. You really can’t have one without the other. We’re getting submissions in from all over the world, and I’ve already seen a couple that were filmed with Doug Jones (Hellboy) and a few other big name actors.”

Courtesy of FantasyCon

Other than runways, what’s offered to the cosplayers?

“I feel like cosplay is kind of a frame around the beauty of the convention. They complete the package. And for me—I’ve attended conventions all over the country—it’s one of my favorite aspects of any convention. So, we decided to give back to the fans in a huge way. We’re going to do over $10,000 in cash and prizes for the cosplayers.”

And, of course, talk about the medieval warriors.

“We have a huge battle arena, where we’re having warriors (for lack of a better word), come from all over the country. They’re going to fight in medieval combat, and people can sit in the bleachers and watch these knights beat the tar out of each other.”

Kind of like the show at the Las Vegas Excalibur?

“A lot like that, minus the jousting and horses. That was a little too difficult to do the first year, but it’s in the future.”

And since this is during the Fourth of July, you have to be planning something patriotic?

“It’s in the works. I’ve got to hold something back . . . We’re negotiating on that right now—to make it a big fantasy Fourth of July experience.”

FantasyCon is July 3–5 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, SLC.

Tickets to FantasyCon are $20 for Thursday, $30 for Friday and $40 for Saturday admission. It’s $60 for all three days. Three-Day VIP passes are $150. Ticket vendor fees are covered, courtesy of FantasyCon. Kids 10 and under are free. Click here for tickets.