Sunday, January 29, 2012

Riverside Lunar Festival 2012 Report

Larissa in her Beautiful Cosplay
The city of Riverside unfortunately gets lots of dissension for being a commuting city that does not really have a vibrant social culture. Some of the most vocal dissenters are the local residents who have lived there for a long time. Thankfully, events like the Riverside Lunar Festival is adding some charm to the city and bringing out the large Asian communities in the Inland Empire. Riverside Lunar Festival is an event that started recently and this year I was the principal organizer to get the anime/cosplay community to come out to the event. Over the course of the day, there were around 70 cosplayers in the event, including 40 participants in the Cosplay Fashion Show. There was also heavy support from the Inland Empire anime community and the Anime Expo staff. For an event that had zero cosplay before to have such a heavy cosplay presence was amazing to say the least.

When I heard that the City of Riverside was starting a Lunar Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year in 2011 I had to attend. My experience at the time was a great experience, but I felt that I could personally add something to make it a fun experience. I thought about incorporating events in the festival that had some appeal to anime fans. This idea was in the back of my head, but I felt that it would not really be something to work on if the Riverside Lunar Festival organizers did not support my endeavors. There was serendipitous timing on my part when May Davis, the chair of the Lunar Festival, contacted me to add Cosplay events for the Riverside Lunar Festival. With the full support of Lunar Fest, Anime Expo, and a great team of event planners, we have created the first cosplay event at the Riverside Lunar Festival.

Mami and Homura
My day started when I arrived onsite at 9am. The event had not started yet so it was easy to get the closet parking garage. It was awesome that the event was free and that parking in Downtown Riverside was free, so it did not cost me a single penny aside from gas to drive there. After arriving, they had the parade for the Riverside Lunar Festival as a sort of opening ceremony for the event. It was a great opener and it really gets you into the spirit of the event. I was invited to have cosplayers at the parade, but I politely declined since it takes a while for most cosplayers to get ready. By the time most of the cosplayers were ready the event would be in full swing, and my assertion was correct since a majority of the cosplayers arrived between noon and 2pm.

It was so great seeing many familiar faces in the cosplay community and the cosplay photography community. I ended up doing four shoots before the day ended, which was below the eight I scheduled. Unfortunately, extenuating circumstances got in the way of a couple of cosplayers. One was stuck in traffic since she drove a long distance to the event and by the time she arrived, we had to start prepping for the cosplay fashion show. I really did not have any issues, except for my first shoot. I was doing a shoot and was told by Mission Inn security that I could not do any photography with my “professional level equipment” without permission from the hotel. During the shoot, a rude man was doing catcalls to my cosplayer, which interrupted the flow of my shoot, rude jerk. Aside from that, the flow of the shoots went well.

Richard and Sam talking to
the Yuna Cosplayer.
The cosplay gathering did not go the way I planned because I failed in one thing; the timing of the gathering was TOO CLOSE to the cosplay fashion show. It was fine to have a gathering, but 40 minutes is not enough time for people to hang out and catch up. I learned my lesson and I will have a cosplay gathering spaced at least 2 hours before the cosplay fashion show next time. The cosplay fashion show ran well without a hitch, we hit our goal of having at least 30 cosplay fashion show participants. The problem was that there was not enough posing and the hosts ran through the script too fast, so the show ended in 30 minutes. Next year we can improve it by having the cosplayers do multiple poses on the stage as they walk from one side to another. It was our first year running a fashion show and I felt that it was a good base to make next year’s fashion show miles better than it is now. Overall, I was very pleased with the fashion show and the number of cosplayers who attended the event.

Having cosplay events at the Riverside Lunar Festival means a lot to me because it is the closest thing we have in the Inland Empire to our own major cosplay event. We had a great turnout and I feel that there is potential to grow it far beyond where it is now. I have many amazing ideas to add more programming so we can establish the Riverside Lunar Festival as an amazing event for cosplay/anime fans to attend. With my great team, I was able to create a great event that was only hopes and dreams only 3 months ago. I am so proud of what we did to make this even happen, and next year will be even better.

I would like to thank several people and groups who supported the event to make it a reality:
  • May Lynn Davis: As the chair of the Lunar Festival, she contacted me and initiated what would become the cosplay events at the Lunar Festival. They have given me the best support that I could possibly need in running the event.
  • Richard Phon and Samuel Wall: They hosted the Lunar Festival and we wrote the script of the Lunar Festival together. It was a new experience for them to host the event, so give them time to polish their craft and get good at it. For their first time they did a great job.
  • Samantha Honda: Samantha was my main assistant when it came to reaching out to the local cosplay community. She helped so much to make the event work so well.
  • Anime Expo: The organization donated 57 Miku Posters, 150 Anime Expo Postcards, and 200 shirts. It really got the crowd excited during the cosplay fashion show.
  • Cosplayers: Thank you all for attending the event and making the first cosplay event at the Lunar Festival a great event. I hope you all had a great time and I will continue to expand cosplay programming to make future Lunar Festivals even more exciting for the anime/cosplay community.
If you want to help us in Cosplay Events for next year’s Riverside Lunar Festival, send me an email at

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast.


Maria T. said...

Thank you for running such a great event. I had so much fun seeing all the cute outfits. Next year I am dressing up in cosplay.

Anonymous said...

That is amazing, I didn't know that there was a cosplay event in Riverside. Next year I will definitely go.

Anonymous said...

The cosplay was awesome, I had a great time at the Lunar Festival. Some of the outfits were soooooo beatuiful.

KrisZ said...

Thank you everybody, it is because of your support that we can pull of such a great event. I promise to make next year even bigger and better than this year's cosplay event.

Akira K. said...

Hi Kris, you got an awesome blog. Great report on the Lunar Festival, I really liked the Madoka magica cosplay.