FAN ★ FEST Springs Into New Life This Month at BSL Community Hall

FAN ★ FEST is the splash page for an entire issue of adventure this season at the Hancock County Library.

In the immortal words of Lwaxana Troi “life’s true gift is the capacity to enjoy enjoyment,” and the Hancock County Library System is inviting you to enjoy their 2023 FAN ★ FEST on Sunday, April 23rd at Bay St. Louis Community Hall. In the spirit of library cons and mini-cons happening all across the country, FAN ★ FEST 2023 promises to be a celebration of pop culture fandoms, from comic books and anime to tabletop games and costuming.

It’s been several years since Hancock County Library hosted their last Comic Con, but they’re excited to make up for lost time. “What we’re doing this year is bigger than what we’ve done in previous Cons,” says Ash Parker, HCLS Support Services Coordinator. “We’ve moved away from the Comic Con name to FAN ★ FEST, so we can incorporate more fandoms and pop culture; video games, anime/manga, and comic books, of course, but also literary fandom, and television and film fandom.”

Free admission to FAN ★ FEST guarantees an affordable adventure for all, and their day promises to be packed, from a schedule filled with panel discussions and game play, to the expo hall overflowing with vendors and interactive experiences. Local celebrity and comic book creator Steven Harper will speak on how to turn your own ideas into formats to be shared, whether it’s stories or illustrations, or even animation. Another panel moderated by Kathleen Buck and featuring Troy Pierce and Kevin Ammentorp will explore the world of collecting rare comics and film art, and how enthusiasts have turned their hobbies into a lifelong pursuit.

In the expo hall, visitors can expect vendors from all across the Gulf coast. Waveland’s Fantasy Games will be there slinging tabletop board games and card collecting adventures, offering gamers a space to meet and play. Hancock County local artist ImmortalOz (a.k.a. Austin Bell) will have a booth of “cool stuff for cool people” including prints, tees, and mugs. You’ll also be able to visit with and learn from New Orleans-based comic book author and publisher John Holland, the genius behind Die Bold Comics, and graphic novels like A Girl and Her Dog and Marie Laveau. And that’s just barely scratching the surface!

“Library staff are in a unique position to get to do fun things while at work,” says Parker. “We’re going to have a cosplay costume contest and we hope all of our staff will come and be dressed up as their favorite characters.” Guests are encouraged to cosplay as well, for the contest, and for fun! The Dagobah Base of the Rebel Legion, representing both Louisiana and Mississippi, will don their hand-made costumes of hero characters from the Star Wars saga, inviting visitors to stop by their booth to take photos and learn more about the Legion. Speaking of stars, local Star Trek fan group the USS Neptune, the Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of STARFLEET whose mission is to promote an interest in science and space exploration, will be on deck in costume with a bridge simulator, Star Trek objects, 3D prints and more.

Finally, there will also be an open room dedicated solely to video games offered all day long! A full library of games will be available on Playstation and Xbox consoles, as well as a Steam account for PCs. As many of Hancock Library’s events, there will be something for everyone, including young children who can take advantage of a crafting class with Miss Frizzle, face painting, readings by guest author Shannon Atwater and Emily Liner, and a visit from Tinkerbell herself. For more information about FAN ★ FEST 2023’s presenters, vendors and events, please visit

In other HCLS news . . .

While FAN ★ FEST 2023 promises to be a truly stellar, annual event, all five branches of the Hancock Public Library System are always striving to provide programming that reflects the interests of each individual community. For example, for a quarter of a century, the main branch or administrative headquarters in Bay St. Louis has a featured event called Authors & Characters.

Once a month, the BSL library hosts a catered luncheon featuring established regional authors who discuss their latest novels and the creative writing process. “We try to invite authors with a special tie to this area, either because they live here or have lived here, or write about this area, because we want to feature people who will be relevant and exciting and entertaining to our patrons,” explains Leah Holmes, Branch Manager of Bay St. Louis Library. “We are very much about Hancock County, about community, and about supporting the interests of our patrons. We want to bring in people with whom they can most identify.”

Over the years Authors & Characters has featured writers across genres; romantic thriller and mystery writer Erica Spindler from Mandeville; suspense novelist Carolyn Haines, Cat Island historian John Cuevas; and famed Natchez, Mississippi writer Greg Iles.

Just this past fall, Authors & Characters featured New Orleans writer Brian Altobello who was promoting his latest work Whiskey, Women & War: How the Great War Shaped Jim Crow New Orleans, a novel surveying the unique intersection of ideologies during that era, from enlistment practices and Jim Crow laws, to prohibition, the end of Storyville and the emergence of the women’s suffrage movement.

The Bay St. Louis branch is excited to announce they’ll be hosting Dr. Catherine Pierce, an English professor at Mississippi State University and our state’s reigning Poet Laureate. “She will be here for two days in July 13th & 14th, and that is an exciting partnership between the Hancock Library System and the Arts Hancock County,” says Holmes. “Anytime your community can join hands and bring together such a fabulous talent to the area, that is a wonderful thing for everyone involved.”

Authors & Characters is held the second Tuesday of every month and includes a catered luncheon (only $10 per person) provided by BSL’s own Dragonfly Cafe and lovely floral arrangements from the Bay-Waveland Garden Club.

Each branch in the Hancock County Library System has its own unique programming and, though part of a contiguous whole, maintain individual personalities reflecting the communities in which they reside. The Kiln branch (often referred to as “the kill”) regularly offers classes and groups around sewing, quilting and embroidery. On the other hand, Waveland’s emphasis is on fitness with Zumba classes, seated Tai Chi for senior citizens, and their most popular class “Fab, Fit & Fun” aerobics. Just recently they added something called “Pound Fitness,” an exercise routine using drumsticks pounding out rhythms to rock ‘n’ roll.

Entire books can and have been written about the offerings available at your public library and HCLS is no different. From the obvious services such as books, magazines, newspapers, videos, movies, TV shows and other periodicals available for free at your fingertips, Hancock County Libraries offer the use of free fax services, computers, and copy machines. They’ve even recently acquired a 3-D printer, and members have only to bring in their designs or images and the library can research and produce these objects at cost. They also have research services, help with resume writing, and homework and study aids for students. An umbrella concept for programming called GoodToKnow recruits locals experts to present classes on everything from wills and estate planning to veterans benefits and gardening.

Finally, keep your ear to the ground because the HCLS been investing a significant amount of time and funding into “The Library of Things,” a relatively new idea transforming libraries of the 21st century where people can borrow and use things like sewing machines, metal detectors, and more.

Maybe it’s time you renewed your library card?

For more information on all the programming listed here and more, please visit the Hancock County Library System’s website at

*Article originally published in The Shoofly Magazine

**Lead image courtesy of Gregg Martel

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