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STORMTROOPERS, EARTH’S MIGHTIEST Heroes, the Justice League, Shinobi Warriors and Devil and Demon Hunters were among the thousands of costumed characters who took over the grounds of Stockton Arena over the snowy weekend.

StocktonCon Winter returned to San Joaquin Valley for its fifth annual convention Feb. 25-26, expanding to two days for the first time since its inception.

“There’s a lot of people here that I actually know, also cosplaying, and I see them every year only here,” Noe Romero said. Romero, an avid cosplayer from Patterson, has attended StocktonCon every one of its five years.

James Taylor, left, and Chris Palmer engage in a light saber battle during StocktonCon Winter at Stockton Arena on Feb. 25, 2023. Palmer, a “huge Star Wars fan and nerd,” was cosplaying as “Darth Xandar,” an original character he created. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

While some fans cosplayed existing characters from the comic universes, a few others took the liberty to create fantasy characters all their own.

Chris Palmer, who considers himself a “huge Star Wars fan and nerd,” attended the convention cosplaying as “Darth Xandar,” sporting a light saber staff that also detached into two individual light sabers.

“I’m an original design of a Sith Acolyte or Inquisitor,” Palmer said, explaining his costume. “My character was apprentice to Ailis Akira, but after Order 66, he fell to the dark side and became an inquisitor.”

The event had a huge Exhibitors and Artists Alley inside the Arena, with more than 200 booths and tables of merchandise, comic books, manga, posters, Funko Pops, games, action figures and more collectibles.

The convention’s panels included 19 special guests and 12 special guest creators such as Kyle Hebert (Dragon Ball Z, Street Fighter, My Hero Academia), John Morrison (WWE, Impact), Dan Parsons (Star Wars, Game of Thrones) and Mark Irwin (Green Lantern, Batman, Star Wars).

Fans of anime show “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba,” Aimee Maloney and her 8-year-old daughter Delilah Maloney, attended the event dressed as Shinobu Kocho and Nezuko Kamado from the show. The mother and daughter said they had attended at least six other such conventions including in Lodi and Manteca, cosplaying as characters from the show.

Leilani Andrade, of Stockton, attends StocktonCon Winter with her cat Mocha. Andrade and Mocha cosplayed as Nezuko Kamado and Zenitsu Agatsuma from the “Demon Slayer” anime series. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

“We really wish that we could go to San Diego but we just don’t have the money for that,” Aimee Maloney said. “But we love that the organizers provide things like this [StocktonCon] that we can come to enjoy at such a reasonable price for our family.”

The tickets to the convention were $15 for one day or $23 for two days if purchased in advance and $20 for one day or $30 for two days if purchased the day of the show.

StocktonCon will return to Stockton Arena for its 11th summer convention scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekend of July 8-9 this year.

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.