If you've wondered whether the Bakersfield Museum of Art has been trying to reinvent itself, the crowd that packed the museum's "Mini" Comic-Con on Sunday may provide all the evidence you need.
"I'd say at least 50 percent of the people here today have never set foot in this building," said Bakersfield resident Valiant Koa, who when reading about the event in The Californian decided missing it was not an option.
"I had to be here," he said.
So, apparently, did R2-D2, at least one imperial stormtrooper, Princess Leia and a Tusken raider who goes by the name of Chad Grady of most weekdays.
Even the weather cooperated as a slight cooling trend kept those wearing heavy costumes from keeling over.
"It's not too bad," Brady said of his costume, a robe made from multiple layers of coarse-twilled fabrics.
"There's a pretty nice breeze today that goes right up this skirt," he added, chuckling through his mask.
So why host a celebration of warriors and princesses, freaks and geeks, comic book heroes and illustrators at Bakersfield's citadel of high art?
"We want to do more community outreach," said museum Marketing Director Matt Munoz. "We want this to be a community center, not just a museum."
Besides, art simply doesn't fit into narrowly defined categories. Indeed, the rows of comic and fantasy art that lined the museum's corridor had visitors' attention.
"It's nice to see they're opening the doors to different levels of art," said Portia Kincaid, who stood in the museum's beautiful garden wearing an English lady's costume, circa 1536.
The local group she was with is part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. The character she has developed is named Colette Olivier La Fourniere.
There are no wizards or dragons in this group. But, swords? Yes. Medieval cooking? Yes. Ancient craftsmanship? Yes.
Even the centuries-old art of ale brewing is studied and practiced.
"We strive for period accuracy," said Allysa Jones, another member of the group who goes by the Romanesque alias, Euphemia Nerva.
All the vendors and much of the art were local, said Steve Wyatt, the creator of Bakersfield Comic-Con, which is scheduled to return this year on Oct. 26.
Munoz and Wyatt decided there was potential to create a "Mini" Comic-Con at the museum, so they started planning weeks ago. There was no charge for entry Sunday, though organizers asked for a $1 per person donation. Many gave more.
It was impossible to count the number of people who attended, but Wyatt said it easily topped 500. Others estimated the number was higher.
Joel Peden, 32, drove down from Hanford to attend. After all, the event featured a replica of the DeLorean time machine from his favorite movie, "Back to the Future."
After getting a chance to be photographed at the wheel of a DeLorean, complete with gull-winged doors and flux capacitor, Peden said it was great to be able to attend an event like Sunday's without leaving the valley.
"It's nice that it's not in L.A.," he said.