The beloved science fiction television series, “Star Trek,” along with its many spinoffs and films, has accumulated legions of devoted fans since it debuted in 1966. Canadian-born actor William Shatner played the beloved Captain Kirk throughout three years of network television and seven feature films. Every summer, Star Trek fans, lovingly nicknamed "Trekkies," venture down to Las Vegas for an annual convention that features many series headliners.
This year, Las Vegas Trekkies are on a mission to break a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed in Star Trek costumes in one place. The convention, which takes place at the Rio Suites Hotel on 8 to 11 Aug. 2013, may draw over 20,000 attendees. The Rio Suites is offering rooms at discounted rates for the nights of the convention. However, you can also find a number of cheap hotels throughout Las Vegas and commute to the convention to attend the events.
Star Trek Conventions: How They Got Started
Science fiction conventions were born at the Philadelphia home of Milton Rothman in 1936. About six or seven fans of science fiction traveled by train from New York City to Philadelphia. The following year, 30 to 40 science fiction fans joined the original Philly fans for a follow-up convention in Astoria, Long Island City. The events continued to grow until the 1939 World's Fair in New York City, where fans held the first World Science Fiction Convention.
Sources conflict as to when the first Trek-specific convention took place. Some claim that the first convention happened in New York in 1972, while others claim that the first convention was held at Lincoln High School in San Francisco. When fans started to gather at these conventions, “Star Trek” had been off the air since 1969. "Star Wars" hadn't debuted yet, so fans had no concept that the series might come back as a feature film juggernaut. They certainly couldn't have envisioned the four spinoffs that would air between 1987 and 2005.
“Saturday Night Live” immortalized the Star Trek Convention in 1986 when William Shatner performed his famous "Get a Life" skit. In the present day, Star Trek conventions offer a series of top-flight stars, autograph signings, photo ops, costume contests and vendors. At last year's Las Vegas convention, one creative vendor offered trip itineraries to Enterprise, Canada.
Fast Forward to 2013: Trekkies in Vegas
During each day of the convention, fans can enjoy performances and panels from some of Star Trek's top stars. In addition to featuring actors who will talk about their Trek experiences as well as current projects, day sessions will showcase panels of writers, makeup artists, sociologists and other Trek-affiliated people. Fans can also enjoy auctions and the infamous vendor room in which merchants of all sorts peddle Star Trek wares to eager fans. Additional day panels will feature information about the new feature film, "Star Trek Into Darkness."
During the day on Saturday, Trekkies in costume can participate in the costume parade, with $1,000 awarded to the best costume at the convention and an additional $500 awarded for the best "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" costume in honor of the series' 20th anniversary. To claim the world record, 1,063 fans will have to show up in costume.
The Las Vegas Star Trek Convention also features plenty in the way of nightlife. On Thursday and Friday nights, guests flock to the Rio Suites Voodoo Lounge for entertainment, food and drink and a chance to mingle with fellow fans and any celebrities that may drop by. The convention sponsors karaoke nights and at Saturday night's Gala Celebration, Trek actors that have also appeared on Broadway will be invited to perform, while other actors will sing in the Celebrity Cabaret.
Additionally, convention-goers can participate in a series of contests. The Music Video Competition pits video editors against each other as they create DVDs that honor “Star Trek" and its characters. Gold and Captain's Chair patrons attending an exclusive party can participate in the Centerpiece Contest, in which the best Trek-themed centerpiece is awarded a $250 gift certificate.
For Star Trek fans in North America, Las Vegas offers the continent's largest annual convention. You won't be going where no man has gone before, but if you leave your pointed ears in Vegas, don't expect to ever get them back.
About the Author: Stephen Kilpatrick is a science-fiction-convention groupie that reports on dozens of conventions and other events for a number of publications.