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Armageddon Expo gets ready to celebrate its 25th birthday

It's come a long way since its Avondale debut back in the 1990s, and now the Armageddon Expo is getting ready to celebrate its 25th birthday in Auckland. 

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Over 60,000 people are expected to flock to the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland this weekend. Source: Seven Sharp

Self-proclaimed geeks young and old will be packing out the ASB Showgrounds from tomorrow, with the event expected to attract more than 60,000 visitors.

Some of those attendees are dressing up and counting down to the biggest weekend on the Kiwi cosplay calendar.

"[You get to] forget about the real world and come into this other world, which is Armageddon," cosplayer Aleena Khalid told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

It's a world Khalid has been immersed in for almost a decade.

Cosplay stands of costume play, and this year Game of Thrones was her inspiration. 

"Daenerys is a strong woman so I feel strong in her costume," she says.

But her Mother of Dragons look doesn't come without blood, sweat and tears.

"It can be [uncomfortable]," Khalid says.

"As soon as you hit the two-hour mark in a day, that's when headaches start, itchiness starts... Beauty is pain, I guess." 

Oddly enough, dressing up as someone else makes Khalid feel more like herself. 

"It's something that has always made me feel like I belong," she says.

"I was always bullied at school. To have a community that's supportive, friends that care, is honestly the best feeling ever."

It's a community that's coming together this weekend - all 60,000 of them - celebrating a bit of everything: cosplay, anime, cartoons, gaming.

Armageddon founder Bill Geradts says it has a different appeal to other events.

"Most expos and events you go for the show specifically, Armageddon you come for the day," he says.

It's a far cry from the expo Geradts started in 1995 as a means to fund his pesky Dr Who addiction.

At the time, its poster proclaimed it was "probably" New Zealand's largest fantasy tournament, drawing in a crowd of 150 people.

It's now definitely the largest: a pop culture show that lets self-confessed geeks, geek out. 

And yes, you have permission to call them geeks. 

"Geek is more general. Certainly I didn't appreciate it when I was a kid," Geradt says.

"Now everyone owns it, who you are and what you do, so many nerds, so many geeks.

"Everybody's got their geek on, to a degree. You go to a rugby game, there are people painting up and enjoying themselves. Those are geeks. They're just doing it for sport. It's the same stuff."

It'll be Armageddon's 25th birthday this year, a party Geradt thought Covid-19 might crash. 

"I'm still worried Covid's going to halt plans for this event," he laughs.

"The event industry has suffered a lot. We're the first thing to get stopped and last thing to get turned back on in lockdown.

"I had people saying, 'Don't do it, cancel it, move it, do it next year, not worth it.'" 

But the show must go on and for people like Khalid, it's totally worth it.