By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
It was like a TV show. The characters, learning their lines just before the event began and getting prepared, included uniformed police, movie and TV stars, an audience, lights, cameras, props, stage and the CEO in charge.
As thousands of people of all ages -- many dressed as their favorite comic character -- flowed into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont for the start of the annual Wizard World Comic Con, several stopped by Hall F to watch the live show as event officials honored Rosemont’s public safety officers Thursday.
“Comic Con, and in Los Angeles where we are based, is all about imagination and fantasy with heroes like Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Supergirl, Batman and Superman. And it’s great,” Wizard World President and CEO John Maatta told the Journal & Topics before the 4 p.m. heroes recognition on the main stage.
“However, we live in reality where we have real heroes. The Rosemont Public Safety Department officers, all police and our military, are the real heroes. We honor the Rosemont Public Safety Department and their families today,” he said. “They do a great job. Real heroes don’t seek glory or attention and their names may not be in lights, but what they accomplish every day is heroic.”
Maatta said this was the first year Wizard World has honored police at its events and they plan to do the same next year. The group is honoring local police and military as the convention criss-crosses the country this summer, beginning in San Diego in June.
“It’s the least we can do for all that they do for us. We also provide complimentary Comic Con tickets for the officers and their families for the full event,” Maatta said.
Not only that, but five special red, white and blue “Captain America” shields were presented to Rosemont officers at the ceremony. The back of each shield contained a special plaque honoring Rosemont Public Safety with the date of the presentation.
Five Rosemont officers representing each department bureau (fire suppression Commander John Ramirez, emergency medical services officer Nick Koletos, hazardous materials Sgt. Edward Karas II, technical rescue team Sgt. Blake Fiorito, and fire investigations Lt. Michael O’Neill) were called up and accepted the shields on stage.
When Maatta stepped down from the stage after delivering his opening remarks, a series of celebrities stepped up.
Lou Ferrigno, “the Hulk”; Ralph Macchio, “Karate Kid”; Cerina Vincent, “Not Another Teen Movie” and “Power Rangers”; Jason Mewes, “Clerks”, “Comic Book Men”; and Ray Santiago, “Ash vs. Evil Dead” made the presentations. Each celebrity provided an overview of each bureau, presented a Rosemont officer with a shield and stayed on stage with the officer until all had been recognized and presented their shields.
Also participating was Rosemont resident Chuck, a 7-year-old mixed breed/part Dalmatian pup who smiled throughout the event on stage with Commander Ramirez. Chuck belongs to Jenny Bahr, widow of longtime former Rosemont officer David who passed away 11-1/2 years ago. Jenny Bahr was part of the audience.
About 200 people watched and applauded during the ceremony. Many said they shared it worldwide on their Instagram and Facebook accounts.
One man stopped by during a shopping break and said after asking what was going on, “Wow, what a nice event. They should have let more people know this was happening. We should always take the opportunity to thank our law enforcement officials who protect us every day and night.”
The Rosemont officers said they were touched by the recognition.
Comic Con ran through Sunday, Aug. 21. Last year more than 100,000 attended the Rosemont event. Late Thursday afternoon, it was almost standing room only in the cavernous vendors hall at the convention center.