The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

The Prairie Chicken’s Swan Song: A Finale at Cosplay Hill

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” —Seneca

After seventeen years at the University of Calgary, Otafest announced that they are to move their venue to the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Calgary. Besides this change in venue, Otafest will be held during the depths of summer, overlapping with Anime Expo 2016 during July. Last Saturday, Otafest’s organisers hosted one final event, celebrating the memories that countless attendees have of the Prairie Chicken Sculpture. Completed by sculptor George Norris in 1975, the Prairie Chicken occupies a hill in the middle of campus and is supposed to evoke an open book blowing under windy skies, but the 5.49-metre high stature is better known as the Prairie Chicken owing to its similarity to a chicken. A fine place to rest during the warmer seasons, this hill is informally dubbed “Cosplay Hill”, and under variable skies on Saturday, a small group of cosplayers gathered for the last Otafest event hosted at the University of Calgary.

  • On the day of the event, I happened to be on campus; I was completing the documentation to one section of my simulation. The event was largely limited to Cosplay Hill itself and a section of one of the older science buildings: other places on campus normally host to Otafest events were deserted.

  • I briefly strolled by the events but did not stick around, as I had some additional assignments to handle. During Otafest, Cosplay Hill itself is packed with cosplayers and attendees, but for most days of the summer, the hill is deserted. Campus is a surprisingly nice place for a stroll, and during breaks, I take walks to clear my mind out.

  • This smaller event felt a little more melancholic owing to the knowledge that it would be the last time that any major events will take place on campus. It’s a reminder of how fleeting things can be: the Prairie Chicken predates Otafest and has seen all seventeen events, including the year this web series took place.

  • Otafest 2016’s attendees will find Olympic Plaza a suitable replacement for Cosplay Hill: built in 1988 for the Winter Olympic Games, it is where medal presentations were held. In time, it will be as iconic as the Prairie Chicken. One thing’s a sure thing: rather than earning quizzical looks from the university’s staff, cosplayers will earn quizzical looks from the City of Calgary’s employees.

The timing of Otafest 2016 could prove interesting, though: the larger Anime Expo 2016 will run from July 2-5 in Los Angeles, and some of the anime community’s most well-known names (Danny Choo, Aimer, Aya Hirano and Minori Chihara, to name a few) have been special guests in previous years. Even with a new location would add new dimensions to an anime convention with nearly two decades of history and a pledge to turn Olympic Plaza into “Cosplay Plaza”, the timing could impact which special guests make an appearance. In the meantime, the corridors and lecture theatres on campus will fall silent during the Victoria Day long weekend for the first time in eighteen years, marking the end of one chapter in Otafest’s history as a new chapter unfolds.

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