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Hello Kitty Convention in LA Expected to Draw 25,000 Fans

Image: Hello Kitty Convention in LA Expected to Draw 25,000 Fans
Women pose with big Hello Kitty slippers at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles on Oct. 24, 2014, when guests were invited to the first-ever Hello Kitty Convention in LA a day before the event starts for a four-day run. (Kyodo/Landov)

By    |   Monday, 03 Nov 2014 10:00 AM

Hello Kitty Con, the first Hello Kitty fan convention, took over Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles and was expected to draw some 25,000 fans over four days.

The Associated Press reported long lines snaked through the sold-out event Thursday at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, where conventioneers could pose for photos with Hello Kitty, get permanently inked with her image, hear lectures about her popularity and shop for exclusive products created for the mouthless cat character's 40th birthday, which fell  on Nov. 1.

"I grew up collecting Hello Kitty and being in love with her," said 30-year-old Grisel Esquivel, who was having a Hello Kitty face etched onto her wrist.

Chicago tattoo artist Mario Desa created about 100 Hello Kitty-inspired designs for ink-friendly fans. Organizers expected that about 50 conventioneers a day would receive free tattoos from the five artists at "HK Ink."

Frank Clow, a 51-year-old collector, spent hours waiting in line to get a Hello Kitty mermaid tattoo while his wife shopped for limited-edition collectibles.

"I like tattoos in general," he said, adding that he took the day off from work to come to the convention.

Elena Ramirez and Janet Tongtip also took vacation days to come to Hello Kitty Con, where they were dazzled by the cuteness – and the crowds.

"Since we were little, we've been big fans," said Ramirez, 29. "We're getting sentimental looking at all the old bags and things we used to have."

"The lines are pretty bad," Tongtip said, "but they're moving quickly."

Though Hello Kitty is popular around the world, Sanrio spokesman Dave Marchi said the Los Angeles convention celebrating her 40th anniversary is "the only one happening anywhere in the world."

Scores of fans came in costume, wearing Hello Kitty dresses, cat ears and the character's signature red bow. Among them was 23-year-old Ana Sanchez, who was decked out head-to-toe in Kitty attire, from the whiskers painted on her face down to her printed Hello Kitty sneakers.

"There's just something about this cat that I just love," she said, adding that she is actually allergic to cats. Her dutiful boyfriend, who bought the couple's tickets, stood by her side with a camera hanging from his neck.

Photo possibilities abounded: There were couture fashion creations inspired by Hello Kitty, an entire home outfitted in licensed products, and many vintage items, including the Hello Kitty coin purse issued in Japan in 1975 that launched her popularity.

For its first U.S. appearance, the tiny, original vinyl purse is displayed with all the pomp of the Hope diamond. It sat atop a pile of blue velvet inside a glass case rimmed with red ropes, all alone in a room manned by security guards.

Lectures, panel discussions and hands-on craft workshops were offered throughout the convention, along with ample shopping opportunities. Companies such as Sephora and Spam created special products for Hello Kitty Con, including a $450 crystal-encrusted makeup-brush set and Spam shaped like a Kitty face.

Another pop-up shop carried convention souvenirs and 40th anniversary limited-edition items, while a "Vintage Shoppe" offered authentic antique pieces, including a Hello Kitty plush doll that cost $14.50 in 1976 and now sells for $150.

Hello Kitty helps generate $8 billion a year for Sanrio, Marchi said.

Conventioneers were invited to play Kitty-themed games in the free Target arcade, where they could collect points redeemable for keepsake merchandise. The neighboring Japanese American National Museum was showing an associated exhibit, "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty," through April that features a breadth of Hello Kitty products as well as creative interpretations of the character from 40 international artists.

Yuko Yamaguchi, Sanrio's lead Hello Kitty designer since 1980, provided the most priceless souvenirs: personalized sketches for fans.

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Hello Kitty Con, the first Hello Kitty fan convention, took over Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles and was expected to draw some 25,000 fans over four days.
hello kitty, convention, la, 25000, fans
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2014-00-03
Monday, 03 Nov 2014 10:00 AM
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