RALEIGHGalaxyCon promised to be an escape for the senses, and it didn’t disappoint.

For the second year running, I found myself lining up for this four-day pop culture festival, when the Raleigh Convention Center becomes a playground for cosplayers, gamers, pro-wrestling fans, and more.

It was a people-gazing bonanza. Officials estimated around 60,000 full-fleshed bodies charged through the convention’s doors over the weekend, spilling out into the streets dressed as animes, superheros, plus everything in between.

Here are some of my big takeaways from this year:

No matter what age, people love to play

It didn’t seem to matter your age, your generation. From babies suited up as mini superheros, to teens in skimpy leotards and fishnets, to baby boomers in full-body paint, everyone was welcome.

I saw one woman in her 60s dressed as the fairy godmother, her pink, glittery six-foot-wide skirt stopping foot traffic. Nobody could get around her. She sparkled from the inside out.

The take-home message: People have an overriding need to get silly, dress up, dance and play, and they’re willing to come out in droves and pay to do just that, in one great mass. GalaxyCon answers that need,  cashing in at the same time.

Esports is here in a big way

GalaxyCon’s gaming section doubled in size this year. It’s gotten so big that operations had to be moved into a completely building at the Marriott Hotel.

After taking last year off, the Carolina Games Summit (CGS) moved in to run things, transporting gear from their warehouse in Goldsboro.

“We brought every piece of equipment we had,” CGS’s creative director Michael Everett told WRAL TechWire. “About 120 consoles, 120 different computers, Xboxes, PS4s.”

The new and bigger gaming section at GalaxyCon.

It all got used. The room remained a hive of activity into the wee morning hours, with most consoles occupied and competitions running around the clock.

I met the Noolan family who had three generations – including grandma — competing together on one team in the Rainbow Six Siege competition.

“It’s something we like to do together,” Adam Noonan said, adding that he had spent “thousands” in the last five years buying multiple consoles so family members could play at the same time.

Barton College, which has launched its own competitive esports program, was also on hand giving away scholarship prize money to winners.

All this to say: Esports is going mainstream in a major way. While Fornite’s popularity may be waning (according to some reports), people continue to flock to their consoles in droves these days. And now they can even make millions doing so. (Just check out the first-ever 16-year-old Fortnite solo champion who won $3 million in the Fornite World Cup over the weekend in New York.)

The 80s weren’t so bad after all

I don’t know if it’s a middle-aged thing, or if GalaxyCon just brings this out in me. But I’ve been feeling sentimental for all things 80s these days: the big hair, charm necklaces, bum bags.

Thankfully, I got to be transported back this weekend. The 80s featured in a big way at GalaxyCon — from the pop-up dance sessions to Limahl’s 1984 hit “The NeverEnding Story,” to the “brat pack” lineup of celebs.

My main mission was to get Leslie David Baker’s autograph, aka “Stanley,” from The Office, for my nine-year-old son. But then I spotted Anthony Michael Hall from across the room, and my heart jumped. I literally turned into a bumbling, red-faced teenager right before my son’s eyes.

“I could hold your hand,” one of the festival volunteers offered, as I worked up the courage to meet him..

I declined.

Finally, I walked over and Hall couldn’t have been nicer, shaking my hand and making small talk with my son. He’s definitely not the lanky, awkward teen he played in those iconic John Hughes films. But then again, I’ve grown up as well. We all get older, but there’s fun in that. Of course, I drove straight home and watched The Breakfast Club on Amazon Prime. The first time in 20 years or so. It’s still as good as I remembered.

I guess every generation has its thing, and it takes festivals like GalaxyCon to remind us that, just because time passes, we can still take the time to pay homage to all the things that made us. Sometimes it’s just fun to remember. Plain and simple.

Bring it on, GalaxyCon: I’ve been waiting all year for this