Manatee Central Library hosts Mana-Con Comics Convention Saturday

vmannix@bradenton.comOctober 1, 2013 

BRADENTON

The homemade figurines in Renee Stokes' hands weren't just stick puppets of Chewbacca, Sand People, C3PO and an Imperial Stormtrooper.

The Star Wars characters represented pieces of her St. Petersburg childhood.

"I saw the very first 'Star Wars' when I was a child about 8," said the youth services librarian at the Manatee Central Library. "I got a note from my mom to be out of school so I could see it."

So assembling the stick puppets from felt and foam, pipecleaners, a popsicle stick and google eyes was a trip back in time for Stokes.

"Once you see they actually look like the character, you're like, 'Yes! I did it!' " she said.

The Force is with her.

Stokes and colleagues will share that joy with everyone who attends Saturday's Mana-Con Comics Convention for Teens at Manatee's Central Library.

There will be costume parades, artists and crafters, a comic strip contest, art workshops, Japanese culture exhibits, a Star Wars Reads Day and much more.

Mana-Con drew 200 its first year, 350 the sec

ond, 900 last year and is expected to surpass 1,000 Saturday.

"It's grown and grown and grown," said Ericka Dow, adult services supervisor. "Comic-con was construed to be a teen event, but we want younger kids to feel involved as well. We also focus on art and creativity, things kids can use and do."

Like showing them how to make Star Wars stick puppets.

"Kids love them," Dow said.

Stokes will vouch for it.

"They went quick last year," she said. "I even gave away my samples."

For the second straight summer, Stokes spent three weeks cutting up department materials and dividing them into 140 Ziplock baggies -- 10 bags for each of 14 Star Wars characters, including Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia to name a few.

"I looked at books and pulled up images online to get them just right," she said.

The look on children's faces reaffirms it.

"The kids recognize them by the colors and things in the bags," Stokes said. "Everyone knows the shape of R2D2, everyone knows the color of C3PO and everyone knows Darth Vader is black and the shape of his helmet.

"These characters lend themselves to making them into finger puppets and things."

It gives her a quiet satisfaction.

"This is what we do -- bring stories to life," Stokes said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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