HALIFAX -- Hal-Con, Atlantic Canada's largest sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and gaming convention took over Halifax's Nova Centre on Saturday. Staffed entirely by volunteers, the weekend-long event continues to grow larger every year. The 10th annual celebration kicked off on Saturday with a record-setting 200 vendors and nearly 20,000 attendees.

"We started really small at the Lord Nelson hotel in 2010 – about 1,200-1,300 people attended,” says Hal-Con executive director, Jennifer Lambe. “We've come a very long way; we've grown in size and scale, and we're still looking for ways to expand in the future."

Many attendees spend months coming up with their costumes and say creating them is a big part of the Hal-Con experience.

“It took about three months of work," says Danielle Bourque, who travelled from Moncton with her Hal-Con partner, Ron Bourque, about their costume, which features piping, electronics, motherboards and computer parts.

For some, the yearly convention is somewhat of a romantic anniversary.

“It was both of our first Hal-Con when we first started dating,” says Erin Saunders. “So it's kind of been part of our love story, I guess, and we just love the community here."

For others, it’s a family affair, with parents incorporating their children into their costumes.

"I am Lieutenant Colonel Mays Hughes, and this is my daughter Elysia," says Adam Jones, who travelled from Moncton with his daughter.

"You can be who you want, dress up as your characters, meet a lot of new people, learn a lot of new things,” says one of Hal-Con’s local heroes, Matthew Bellefontaine. “It's just a great community to be part of.”

Bellefontaine has been to all 10 Hal-Cons. For the 10th celebration, he was selected as one of Hal-Con's local heroes – an honour given to members of the community who volunteer year-round.

“I've been doing charity work and community stuff with Hal-Con for about five years now. We do events like Children's Wish Foundation and other charitable events throughout the year – so that's why I was selected,” says Bellefontaine. ”I don't do this for that; I do it for fun. But it's kind of cool to get out and make a little bit of a difference and have some fun while doing it."

And the heroes don't plan on slowing down anytime soon, with organizers hoping and expecting the annual celebration will persist and continue to grow.

“Pop culture has given us an opportunity to find people who share our interests and really form a connection,” says Lambe. “And I think that's what Hal-Con is all about."

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April