Big Lick Comic-Con returns with COVID-19 prevention guidelines

Changes included constant sanitizing, temperature checks

ROANOKE, Va. – One of Roanoke’s most notable annual entertainment events took place during the weekend, but it looked a little bit different than in years past.

The Big Lick Comic-Con attracted thousands of fans on both Saturday and Sunday. Organizer JD Sutphin said he’s grateful the convention could happen at all, because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I asked myself many times: ‘What was I willing to lose just to be able to get back out and have some fun for the weekend?’” Sutphin said. “Everyone missed each other so much, that just being able to come together for these things we love was completely worth it.”

Sutphin and his company, Big Lick Entertainment, made several changes to keep the convention safe. Comic-Con staff constantly sanitized the event space, all of the bathroom utilities did not require touching the appliances and a temperature check was mandatory.

“We’re doing temperature and wellness checks before you can come in," Sutphin said. "That’s for everyone: staff, exhibitors and celebrity guests.”

Sutphin said he’s pleased the convention could proceed because many of the vendors rely on its income.

“So many of these small businesses have had all of their events canceled this year," Sutphin said. "They were hoping this could be their last chance to get out and get into the community.”

“It’s an opportunity for vendors to get out of the house and celebrate the things they love, but to get some money in their pockets as well," said Matthew Guilliams, who owns The Basement Toys and Comics and had a booth at the convention. “Since the store is closed, this was a great opportunity to bring our stuff down here, not only for the fans to buy great products, but to keep our name fresh.”

This year’s event featured guests such as ‘Flash Gordon’ actor Sam Jones, ‘The Neverending Story’ actor Noah Hathaway and legendary Disney voice actor Jim Cummings.