|There were GI Joes for all at the Toronto Sheraton Hotel - Pearson Airport on Saturday. (VICTORIA PTASHNICK/QMI Agency)
TORONTO -- By the right, quick march!
That was the response from hundreds of people as they soldiered into the Sheraton Hotel on Saturday for the 10th annual Canadian GI Joe Convention.
“We came for the nostalgia and to check out what sorts of things they have,” Luke Pruden said, motioning to the well-stocked tables and displays that filled the huge conference room at the hotel.
Pruden and his wife, Rosey, drove to the convention from Hamilton after heavy rain nixed their beach plans.
“It was a cool way to spend the day; there was so much stuff in there that reminded me of being a kid,” Pruden said.
The iconic toy was introduced in 1964 by Hasbro, then re-launched in 1982 with a cartoon and comic book to support it. Since then, the toy line has become a global phenomenon that has been the inspiration for many video games, animated series and films.
The convention was formed by GI Joe fan Michael Heddle, who began a store called Bounty Hunter Toys in Hamilton that specialized in the toys more than a decade ago. Seeing an opportunity to expand from the huge fan base that he was constantly in touch with at his store, he held a small conference in a church hall one year, and kept having to move it into larger venues.
“Finally it received convention status and we’ve been having it here ever since 2010,” convention spokesman Bryan Williams said.
Williams was once a devoted customer at Heddle’s toy store and has seen the convention grow since it began.
“It’s just a great, family-friendly way to spend a day. We see generations of people in here, old people and young kids, because it’s a toy that has touched so many people,” he said.
Williams said he’s chatted with people who have come as far as Australia and all over the U.S. for the convention.
The one-day event features talks about the toys and plenty of vintage and new toys that several vendors and collectors sell.
“If you’re a GI Joe enthusiast, this is the place to be,” he said.