Trying to explain the appeal of wearing bizarre costumes and colorful makeup while carrying huge props and accessories to an outsider was easy for Jamie Green.
The Melbourne resident had blue-gray makeup all over her face with a bright red jewel covering one eye. Fans of anime would understand, but those who don't know the genre would be clueless.
"I think it's because we belong," Green said. "It's sort of like you get to be who you aren't everyday. And you get to be with the people who like the same things you do."
And such is the story at Metrocon 2014, the annual event for anime, fantasy, and sci-fi fans at the Tampa Convention Center. Thousands have descended on the building, some wearing elaborate replica outfits of their favorite characters while others are keeping the look to a simple mask or jewelry piece.
"Imagine a room full of all your favorite stuff that you thought only you liked," said Andy Does Cosplay of Orlando. "Except it turns out there are hundreds of thousands of people who also like the same stuff."
That's the fun-loving attitude of those attending Metrocon. To security guards, caterers and staff at the Convention Center, many a strange eye greet the passing costumed conventioneers. But anime fans couldn't care less. Metrocon is their event.
"I love it. It's like my favorite convention in the whole world," said Sydney Heller of Orlando, wearing a pointed teeth insert and enhanced animal ears.
Metrocon runs from Friday to Sunday, and actors, writers, and other big names from the anime universe will be on hand for adoring fans to meet throughout the weekend.
Just across the water on Davis Islands, the Grand Prix of the Sea powerboat racing event gets underway Saturday morning, featuring four races. Another four take place on Sunday. The 28-foot, 25-horsepower P1 boats will circle a course that fans can see from the shore.
"We run a two-mile lap with left and right turns. So there's always action on the race course," said Martin Sanborn, commentator for the P1 Racing series. "That's what people want to see and that's what the racers like. It's that deck to deck, tight competition."
Over on Channelside at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Marvel Universe show is going on from Friday to Sunday evenings. The live action event features superheroes versus villains who are out to destroy the world.
Ben Aycrigg, an actor playing the character Cyclops, said it's a spectacular scene.
"There's 50 people, all on the stage, just battling it out," Aycrigg said. "There are so many movie style stunts they incorporate. There's a car that flips."
Trafffic congestion could be heavier at times when all three events are underway.