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First annual Yama Fest takes place on campus

Yama+Fest+took+place+Saturday%2C+March+14%2C+in+the+Union+East+building+at+the+Tomas+Rivera+Conference+Center.
Ben Woolridge
Yama Fest took place Saturday, March 14, in the Union East building at the Tomas Rivera Conference Center.

Yama Fest held its first annual convention Saturday, March 14, in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center in the Union East Building to welcome fans of Japanese animation and cosplay enthusiasts. It was sponsored by the Anime Appreciation Society of El Paso.

S. David Ramirez, Yama Fest coordinator, said that the event represents a return to anime conventions that used to be held on UTEP’s campus.

“Since the El Paso Anime Con, there hasn’t been an Anime convention here at UTEP for about four or five years,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said Yama Fest also allows for anime fans in New Mexico and those across the border to take part in the convention at UTEP.

“There’s a huge anime fan base in El Paso, in Las Cruces, in Juárez,” Ramirez said. “We’re really just trying to bring people together.”

The convention scheduled events that included karaoke, a cosplay contest, gaming competitions, anime drawing fundamentals, viewing popular anime television series and an autograph session with Christopher Smith, a popular anime voice actor.

About a dozen vendors displayed their merchandise from Pokémon backpacks, stuffed animals, vintage comic books, anime artwork to anime costumes and suits of armor hoping to pique the interest of passersby.

“We are selling our products that we make from the Anime club,” said Raul Molina, senior creative writing major, who was a vendor at the convention and a member of the Anime Appreciation Society of El Paso. “They’re key chains, drawings, mostly student art that we make.”

Stephanie Mendez, Yama Fest staffer, said that the convention is important because there are people who like different things like anime or comic books and video games to get together to share with others something they love.

The convention also served a dual purpose by providing entertainment and merchandise to sell to the crowds of costumed participants of all ages, and taking two dollars off the ticket price for any two canned goods given in support of El Pasoans Fighting Hunger, a local food bank that partnered with Yama Fest.

“They actually serve a hundred and thirteen different local food pantries and banks throughout the city of the El Paso metroplex,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the appeal of anime is due to its inclusiveness and because it views life from a unique point of view.

“I think anime is really popular because it has a different perspective on life,” Ramirez said. “In Anime, even the geeky person or the LGBT person, or maybe the non-prettiest girl, or the not handsomest man, or not the smartest person can be successful with hard work.”

Ben Woolridge may be reached at [email protected].

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First annual Yama Fest takes place on campus