Sy-Con Lite was an event anyone can enjoy, whether 5-years-old or 50 and whether a LEGO or superhero fan.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Syosset Public Library was transformed into a scene of a convention, between gaming and food trucks parked outside, a cosplay contest, table top gaming and a LEGO display by I LUG NY. This year’s event was the third Sy-Con.
“We did it twice,” said Jessikah Chautin, the community engagement specialist at the Syosset Public Library. “We did it once in 2017 and again in 2019. We were supposed to do it in 2021 but [because it takes] a year to plan a Sy-Con, we decided in early 2020 that we have to postpone it until we knew what was going on with COVID.”
Sy-Con Lite is a smaller version of the original Sy-Con event, which is scheduled to take place every other year at the Syosset Public Library.
“The concept of Sy-Con is to bring the excitement of a pop-culture convention like you’d see at a New York Comic-Con to a smaller community using the library’s building as the convention hall,” Chautin said. “Usually we will have vendors, which is a big part of Comic-Con or pop-culture conventions. You’ll have independent artists, crafts people selling stuff. Because we’re still coming out of COVID, we weren’t ready to have the numbers we used to have.”
While there was no vendors at the event, excitement still filled the library this year. Children and adults alike were fascinated by the professional LEGO models assembled by LEGO enthusiasts in the I LUG NY group.
“I LUG NY is a LEGO fan group started in 2009 by myself and we’re about 40 members strong,” said Brian Wygant. “We like to share our love of the hobby with the public. It’s good to see people’s faces and get questions from kids.”
Wygant said he and fellow club members were enjoying the Sy-Con, and that he was impressed about the Syosset Public Library’s ability to “drum up” attention and publicity around the event.
“We’re meeting a lot of young builders that are excited to [make LEGO models],” Wygant said. “So we tell them when they turn 18, they should join [I LUG NY]. Parents are showing us pictures of what their children build.”
When asked what was the most popular LEGO model of the day, Wygant said it had to be the Space Train, which surrounded Starship models.
“It’s beyond intricate and it’s an amazing build,” Wygant said. “We had one little girl transfixed and staring at it as it goes around the track.”
People also enjoyed the LEGO mosaics.
“Kids told us they were going to go home and build today and that makes us happy,” Wygant said.
And upstairs, in the mezzanine, groups gathered around tables surrounded by book shelves to play board and card games they picked from a wide selection provided by Game Master Games, which has been running the table-top gaming every year the event has been held.
“We taught 40 different games today here at Sy-Con,” said David Benderwerf of Game Master Games. “So, Game Master Games used to be a retail store, but now we have a YouTube channel and we do [live-stream platform] Twitch and we come to conventions and local libraries all over Long Island.”
Benderwerf said he and his wife Ginger Walsh were pretty occupied throughout the day teaching games, as at some points all the gaming tables were full.
“We have a lot of young people here,” Benderwerf said. “So this is the first time they’re exposed to these kind of games and people have been telling me, ‘this game is fantastic. I can’t wait to go buy it.’ And I know some local stores so I help them find it… We really enjoy that not only does this build community, but that a family can sit and learn a game together.”
Chautin explained that many enjoy these events at the Syosset Public Library because it is not as intimidating as a bigger convention like Anime NYC or Comic-Con. Attendees really get to enjoy everything Sy-Con has to offer, and it’s a safer environment than a convention hall stuffed with people.
“When we’ve done [Sy-Con] in the past, we got people from the boroughs coming in,” Chautin explained. “The staff at the Syosset Public Library is amazing. Without them, there would be no Sy-Con. It is 100 percent a group effort. It’s all hands on deck. Everybody is willing to pitch in and try something. We have a committee that comes together and we meet and everybody just sort of goes all out and puts in 110 percent to make sure it’s a memorable experience.”
Conventions in general have been growing in popularity, as more and more people are enjoying genres like anime or superheroes.
“It’s crazy because I was an anime fan in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s and you couldn’t find anime anywhere,” Chautin said. “You went to the back of a comic book store and looked through video cassettes. Now it is literally everywhere. You can not get away from it. And there’s people in their 20s, 30s, 40s who enjoy these things and there’s also generational [interest]. I had a mom, who I’ve known for a while when I worked in the Children’s Department, come in the other day and she’s watching an anime with her 16 and 12-year-old. To me, that’s amazing. That’s who exactly is going to come to Sy-Con.”
Sy-Con is also a presentation, Chautin explained, that the library is changing in what it does.
“Yes we have all the things you know the library has, but we also have a great staff that are creative and here’s a way to connect on a local level,” Chautin said.