MANATEE -- Manatee County's Central Library will be transformed into a free comics convention this weekend.
"We basically transform the entire building and turn it into a really cool festive atmosphere," said Ericka Dow, library information services manager.
In the last six years, Dow said the event has grown from 250 people attending the first to almost 1,500 last year. The event is the largest event at the library.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the sixth annual Mana-Con Comics Convention will take over the Central Library, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. W., Bradenton. This year's theme is Doctor Who.
"We have just been growing it every year," said Dow, who came up with the idea for the event in 2010.
The event, sponsored by the Friends of the Central Library as well as the Friends of the Braden River, Island, Palmetto, Rocky Bluff and South Manatee libraries, came about because Dow said she knew comics were gaining popularity.
"I think it's just something people like to do," she said. "We just have a lot of cool stuff. Something the whole family could enjoy."
Every year they add activities to the event, which started as something for teens, Dow said.
"We are always trying to be responsive," she said. "Now we deliberately make sure for every teen activity, there is a counterpart for children."
Activities include comic shops, face painting, origami, gaming, TARDIS, a DJ dance party, a portrait studio, a child-level Star Wars-themed cantina, Jedi training camp, Go! Go! Robot Lounge for teens, Cosplay Runway and martial arts demonstrations. There will also be food trucks and other vendors.
"It's just a really cool event," Dow said. "Everyone gets really into it."
Prizes will be given for the Cosplay Runway contestants with the most creativity and craftsmanship. The grand prize is an iPad Mini with an AirPort Express and a $50 iTunes gift card.
Ava Ehde, county library services manager, said she doesn't know of any other libraries around with events of this scale.
"It's a lot of fun," she said. "They end up falling in love with the library. There is not a bigger one in the libraries in the state of Florida."
Kevin Beach, Central Library operations manager, added: "I think it's cool to see so many people in the building at one time."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.