Interview: First “Con”tact : ReedPOP VP Mike Armstrong Tells Us What to Expect at Star Trek: Mission Chicago This Weekend

It’s been a long road getting from there to here. Conventions were one of the big parts of Chicago tourism culture that took a huge hit when COVID made its way here two years ago, and though we’ve started to see the gradual and sometimes temporary return of things like concerts, travel and conventions, it’s been rocky. Still, we were there when McCormick Place opened its doors to the nerdy masses for a Christmas edition of C2E2 and were glad for the return of the con life, soaking in the panels, cosplay and merch. We were equally excited, then, to hear news that a giant new Star Trek convention would be making its debut here at McCormick Place in the spring, and are prepared to beam over to the space-station sized convention center this Friday through Sunday to bring you coverage of a Star Trek convention that’s set up to be the premier Trek experience in the nation.

Not all Star Trek conventions are created equal, and this particular convention is exciting because it is the successor to the Las Vegas convention, which saw the most celebrity guests and licensed merch and exhibits in the nation. To see this magnitude of show hit the show floor at McCormick was exciting, presenting a brand new opportunity for Trek fans far and wide to meet up in Chicago and enjoy the fandom and community. Since this is the inaugural convention, we thought we’d forego our regular sneak peek and speak with ReedPOP Vice President Mike Armstrong directly to find out more about what to expect when doors open and in years to come as Mission Chicago takes shape.

 

 When did the idea of Star Trek Mission Chicago first take shape?

We worked with CBS to put on Star Trek Mission New York in 2016 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. We’ve worked together here and there since then, but in 2019 we decided to get the band back together and bring a dedicated event back for the fans. With so much great new material coming out, it seemed like a perfect time to marry the new and old of Trek into one event.

What’s the goal of the show?

Our goal with any event is to bring people closer to their fandoms. With Mission, it’s a great opportunity to get fans up close with some of their favorite cast members and to showcase what’s new and upcoming from the franchise.

 

Why was Chicago chosen?

We’ve got a great built in audience from the 12 years that we’ve been running C2E2 at McCormick Place. Chicago is such a great city for all kinds of fandoms and we knew that Star Trek would resonate.

What was involved in organizing this first show here at McCormick Place?

We’ve got plenty of experience in the building, so it was nice to have that level of familiarity when laying things out. I’ve been a part of 15 shows in this building over my career, so it’s become a wonderful second home.

What can fans expect from this experience? 

Great merchandise, a great assortment of licensees, amazing access to talent and exclusive first looks. The most critical thing for a show like this, though, is the community of fans that comes to make it truly feel robust. Without fan support, these shows feel empty.

Where do you see Star Trek Mission Chicago growing in the years to come? 

The Mission brand will continue on and as the franchise grows in popularity, so will the show!

George Takei @ C2E2 2020. Photo: Marielle Bokor

Who’s your favorite guest?

Hard to name just one, but personally I’m excited to see James Cromwell. He has a small but important role in the Trek universe and he doesn’t do many events!

What can fans expect on the show floor?

Some really great interactive booths from licensees, vintage toys, great apparel–pretty much anything Trek you can think of!

What’s your favorite panel?

I think I’m most excited to see the Lower Decks cast together on stage – [it’s] one of the funniest shows on TV right now.

What does Star Trek mean to you? What were your first experiences with it?

Personally, Trek means family and tradition. Without even really realizing it at the time, my dad and I had developed a tradition of seeing every movie in the 90’s on opening day together. I hope to one day pass down the same tradition with my kids!

In what ways do you hope to see the show grow in the future?

I’d love to see more families enjoying the show together. I’d love to put together panels that help onboard new potential fans. These shows can be a great on-ramp to someone finding a brand new fandom.

Are there any last minute guest announcements or surprises in store?

We just announced Noel Wells from Lower Decks, which is a nice get for the show. But you never know what surprises are in store!

C2E2 2020, Sunday @ McCormick Place. Photo: Aaron Cynic

If you’re interested in Star Trek: Mission Chicago you can get tickets for the show, which begins tomorrow at 10 am, here.

Stay tuned this weekend for Third Coast Review’s complete con coverage, including cosplay, panel catchups and more from the floor!

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Marielle Bokor

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