June 3-5, 2016A different kind of superhero descended upon Phoenix Comicon 2016 as Arizona National Park representatives from throughout the state setup a booth and participated in a panel. The booth had more than just the standard educational materials as rangers set up opportunities for visitors to take selfies using backdrops created by Montezuma Castle National Monument, and a life-size saguaro cut out from Saguaro National Park.The public could then participate in a social media campaign utilizing #SaguaroSelfie and #AZNPS100 that invited Comicon visitors to vie for a chance to win an annual pass to Saguaro National Park and an annual pass to all federal lands.
"The point of us doing the Comicon event was to connect with the next generation of visitors and stewards," said Sharlot Hart, who is helping to coordinate Arizona's Centennial efforts. "There are many pop-culture fans who love the NPS and parks, but don't know it because they only know parks as backdrops for their favorite movies (e.g., Redwoods as the forest that E.T. was shot in). We had a booth on 3rd Street in Phoenix to reach both Phoenix Comicon visitors, as well as non-paying people on the street. We also had a panel on their Science track, which was approved for Professional Development Credit for K-12 teachers!"
Hart and Scott Babinowich, from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, led a panel showcasing the NPS in movies, the NPS Centennial, and the 4th grader Every Kid in a Park pass.They quizzed audience members on scenes from their favorite movies in National Parks, covering all genres of film from superhero to noir.Six contestants were shown film clips and had to answer the movie name and park represented;after the answers Hart and Babinowich related facts about the park to the audience.The movie Independence Day was featured twice, and while both the Grand Canyon and the White House were easily guessed –many people didn't know that the U.S. President lives in a National Park!Other fun clips included Planet of the Apes, which featured Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Lone Ranger, which displayed White House Ruin of Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
The winner of the NPS Centennial Cinema Challenge was awarded an Annual Pass to federal lands.Wearing a Star Trek red shirt, he boldly said that he'd had a lot of fun, but had to admit that he already had a pass. He courageously offered the pass to the runner up, a local teacher who also came away with professional development credits.
At the 3rd Street outreach booth, Hart and Babinowich were joined by rangers from Tonto National Monument, volunteers from Montezuma Castle National Monument, and NPS employees from the Southern Arizona Office. All of them braved the record breaking heat in Phoenix to connect with Comicon visitors, old and young alike.