McALLEN — This weekend’s South Texas Comic Con Anime Fiesta attracted one of the largest crowds in the event’s history after a year of canceled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramzy Ramirez, owner and event coordinator for the South Texas Comic Con events said his team was not expecting to have doubled 2019’s attendance of 4,000 guests on Saturday at the McAllen Convention Center.

“The turnout is amazing,” Ramirez said. “It’s more than we could hope for and I think it’s two years worth of people, all at the same time who haven’t been able to come out, who are just ready to come out and mingle and enjoy their favorite comic con today.”

This year’s return event hosted nine voice actors from popular anime such as “My Hero Academia,” “Demon Slayer” and “Attack On Titan.”

Attendees at the South Texas Comic Con Anime Fiesta event at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

In compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Ramirez ensured that all guests wore masks to the event and opened all sections of the McAllen Convention Center to keep people socially distanced.

“No ifs, ands or buts — if you wanna be in here you have to wear a mask,” he said at Saturday’s event.

The event had many anticipated activities such as special guests’ booths, scheduled Q&A sessions and vendors. 

From booth to booth guests could find anything from Funko Pops, anime-inspired art and replica props from some of the more popular shows.  

Many guests came in full cosplay attire and some entered the events contest. 

George Salazar,19, as “Emil” from the video game NieR Replicant during the South Texas Comic Con Anime Fiesta event at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Kelsey Fleming, of Rio Grande City, joined the cosplay competition as Ernesto de la Cruz from the Disney movie “Coco.

Fleming said she had been planning to wear the costume for comic con in 2020 and was excited to finally strut it down the aisles of the fiesta. Her cosplay was one of the more extravagant of the day with orange marigold flowers haloed over her. 

“The movie ‘Coco,’ it’s part of our culture and I really wanted to cosplay this character,” she said at the event. “I’ve been doing Disney villains for a while and since this is Amine Fiesta, might as well dress as Ernesto de la Cruz. … I love seeing everyone dress up. It’s so much fun, like, it’s my passion.”

Fleming said one of her favorite shows is “Attack on Titan” and hoped to speak to one of the voice actors Sunday, as the fiesta is a two-day event held through the weekend.

She has high expectations for the event since anime fans in the Rio Grande Valley could not attend last year. Fleming said she understood that the event had to be canceled in 2020 and appreciates that the coordinators put up strict guidelines. 

“The fact that they are enforcing mask mandates is really appreciated because you know, there’s still a pandemic going on,” she said.

Brandon Gonzalez, 20, of Mercedes as “Beast Boy” from DC Comics during the South Texas Comic Con Anime Fiesta event at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez | [email protected])

Also dressed for the occasion were sisters Clarissa, 21, and Celeste Paz, who turned 15 Saturday, and took the opportunity to celebrate her birthday at the event.

The Paz sisters were dressed as Jedi knights from Star Wars and were most excited to spend some quality time together and make memories. 

They attended the first Anime Fiesta and had been anticipating the event for over a year now. 

Before the event began, Devin Ramirez, of Mission, expressed passion for the event and said although he had attended similar events, the anticipation for this one in particular was of a greater magnitude.

“I enjoy the culture,” Ramirez said. “I love the fanbase. I’m a dweeb. … I love how everyone can come together just to show that love and it’s really great to see everyone. … A lot has been happening in the world so I think it’s nice to have a day where we can come and enjoy some of the things we like doing.” 

Ramzy Ramirez admitted that he first started Anime Fiesta as a small show to get the kinks out for the bigger events but, “Lo and behold, it ended up being a big show.”

He said there are at least four shows in the works for 2022, including a gamers expo, comic con, anime fiesta and one other surprise event.

[email protected]