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Nickel City Con 'geekend' features Trekkies and more

Self-proclaimed “geeks” are boldly exploring the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center this weekend in search of Captain Kirk, Darth Vader and Captain America.

For these thousands – from Western New York and worlds beyond – who crammed the floors of the second annual Nickel City Con Saturday, it was a voyage to the ultimate frontier.

“It was kind of crazy walking into the room and seeing Captain Kirk there. He was just so smooth,” said Mariami Bekauri of Fredonia, who met William Shatner, the actor who played Kirk in the "Star Trek" television series and movies.

Luckily, Bekauri, a master’s voice student at SUNY Fredonia, looked the part to make him comfortable.

Using a red knit dress from the Salvation Army, black duct tape, gold ribbon and sparkly paperboard, she wove together a perfect imitation of communications officer Nyota Uhura’s uniform on Kirk’s USS Enterprise.

Fredonia's Mariami Bekauri, dressed as a "Star Trek" communications officer, stands with Amy Shake, who models a homemade T-shirt paying homage to Data of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" at Nickel City Con in Buffalo Saturday. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

Uhura – who was played by Nichelle Nichols – also was at the event.

Many who emerged from the curtained maze where Nichols was stationed beamed after a brief meeting with the "Star Trek" star, considered a television trailblazer for both women and African-Americans.

“Her character was very, very intelligent and very self-aware, and she really emits that vibe and energy and awareness of who she is,” said Amy Shake, a professor at SUNY Fredonia and a friend of Bekauri.

Brian Ziemer of Cheektowaga gets an autograph from actress Nichelle Nichols during Nickel City Con. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Sharon Camizzi of Buffalo was lured into the TV series by her mother as a child and was naturally drawn to Nichols’ character.

Uhura is the reason she felt she needed to be at her first convention this weekend.

“I didn’t have a Barbie doll, but I did have an Uhura,” quipped Camizzi.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Crowd turns out for Nickel City Con]

There were more than Trekkies at the Nickel City Con Saturday.

Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in "Star Wars," was there, too.

He kept his distance from Darth Vader and the storm troopers, who were also in the house.

Meanwhile, Brad Biddle took some time away from his regular duty with the U.S. Coast Guard in Buffalo to amaze the crowd as Ironhide from "Transformers."

“People seem to be inspired by it, and that’s fine with me,” said the 33-year-old from the Town of Tonawanda, who volunteers with the charitable The Superhero Alliance of WNY. “It’s not a paid thing. I just like to make people happy.”

Brad Biddle, dressed as the Transformer Ironhide, poses for pictures for people in line waiting to get into Nickel City Con.
(Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

For a minute or two, Ironhide was even caught out of costume enjoying an Italian sausage with peppers and onions for lunch.

Biddle, who doubles as OBX Megatron, put the finishing touches on the foam constructed Ironhide for the weekend event.

Comic book conventions like Nickel City Con were born in the 1960s, and enthusiasm for them has only grown, according to Graham Nolan, an East Aurora-based comic book artist who co-created the villain Bane in the Batman series in the 1990s.

“It was more like a niche thing back then,” Nolan said. “Now, it’s more mainstream.”

Since age 12, all Nolan wanted to be was a comic book artist. His career has taken him around the world, but he was happy to be in Buffalo this weekend.

“I can sleep in my own bed,” Nolan said.

Sunday, Nickel City Con takes a turn toward the sports world.

Football Hall of Famer and Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Dwight Clark will be in the house Sunday, along with Jim Craig, the gold medal-winning goaltender from the 1980 U.S. Olympic “Miracle on Ice” men’s hockey team.

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