Not a bad day at the office for Max Spaeth.
The 11-year-old from Teaneck, N.J., attended the first-ever Dunder Con, an interactive experience for fans of "The Office," at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus on Saturday. He was dressed in a suit, carried a large pot of chili and wore Kleenex tissue boxes as shoes. Oh, and he also started going bald overnight.
"I shaved my head for the occasion," Spaeth said. "I'm dressed as Kevin Malone from "The Office."
Spaeth was waiting in line at the time to meet the real Kevin Malone from Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, who was played by actor Brian Baumgartner.
"What are you doing?!" Baumgartner shouted at Spaeth as the mini-Kevin Malone first approached his autograph table. "Who shaved your head? Did your dad shave your head? Well done. Very well done."
Thousands who attended the two-day event had the opportunity to meet 22 of their favorite characters from the hit mockumentary sitcom, which aired on NBC from 2005 to 2013 and is now streaming on Peacock. Many were dressed as their favorite character, but it was Spaeth who won best costume while on stage at Saturday's Dundie Awards ceremony.
"It blew my mind," said Spaeth, who drew the loudest cheer from the crowd to win the award. "Kevin said to me 'Identity theft is a crime.' I was like 'You're Kevin, not Dwight,' because Dwight is the one who says that line."
Super fans who know every line from the show got autographs and took selfies and professional photos with cast members. That included headliners like Baumgartner, Kate Flannery (Meredith Palmer), Creed Bratton (Creed Bratton), Oscar Nunez (Oscar Martinez) and Andy Buckley (David Wallace).
"It's like a flashback and an acid trip," Flannery said of being reunited with the cast and meeting fans. "It's surreal. I mean, I feel like we're kind of being treated like the Beatles. I don’t even know what to compare it to. But it's amazing. I've never had so many people dress up like my character before. It's crazy."
Costumes included Causal Day Meredith and Shaved Head Meredith, as well as other cosplay characters like Prison Mike, Pumpkin Head Dwight, Florida Stanley and many more. One fan even dressed as a beet in honor of Schrute Farms.
"Dressing up like an office worker just didn’t seem to do it for me," said Peter Smith, who traveled to the event from Virginia with his family. "Just thinking outside the box and it kind of made sense to me. Something different maybe that other people wouldn't be doing."
Kristan Gillis of Dayton, Ohio, displayed her devotion to the show in a more permanent fashion. Gillis has 18 tattoos on her legs related to “The Office,” including CPR mask Dwight, Nard Dog and a Stanley nickel.
“At a place like this, I can’t stop getting stopped,” said Gillis, a volunteer at the event who runs the Instagram account @the.office.tattoos.and.trivia. “People are like, ‘Ohhh, look at that Dwight tattoo!’ or ‘Look at that Prison Mike! And I’m like, ‘Yeah, these are all actually ‘Office’ tattoos.’ And they’re like, ‘Shut up!’ So, it's been really cool just to let people look. They’re like, ‘Can I take a picture? Is that weird?’ I’m like, ‘This happens all the time. I’m used to it.’”
The event also included a dance contest (using only Michael Scott moves), a hot dog eating contest (like in the episode "Beach Games") and a paper airplane throwing contest (made with Dunder Mifflin paper, of course). Fans were able to sit at Michael Scott’s desk, conduct an Office-style interview in the conference room and take a photo with a Dwight Schrute impersonator. There were Q&A panels, a trivia session and even a Saturday concert by Creed Bratton.
Immersive photo ops included a group picture with the main cast members in attendance, a “Suck It!” music session with David Wallace, with fans seated at a drum set while Andy Buckley played keyboard while wearing his famous yellow hoodie and a recreation of the scene where Michael Scott hit Meredith with his PT Cruiser, with fans seated in the car while Kate Flannery laid across the hood and windshield.
“I was just holding on for dear life,” Flannery said with a laugh after the photo shoot.
Guest stars from the show – which included fan favorites like Bobby Ray Shafer (Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration), Jack Coleman (the Senator) and Kelen Coleman (Pam’s friend Isabel) also drew lines of fans looking to get an autographed picture, prop or Funko Pop.
“A couple for their anniversary, she was like, ‘It's his anniversary present to meet you,’” said Coleman, who was appearing at her first fan convention. “So nice! You don’t think of these things when you’re just at home eating your cereal. And now, all of a sudden, people like want to meet you, and it's so lovely.”
The event was organized by co-founders Arnold Cuervo, who runs the Instagram account @TheOfficeFunkoPops and has held private autograph signings with the show’s cast members, and Jesse Cohen, who previously helped organized other fan conventions in New Jersey like SopranosCon.
Set up for the event continued into the early-morning hours on Saturday, as volunteers helped turn Secaucus into Scranton, which included a 625-square foot inflatable replica of the Dunder Mifflin office building.
Dunder Con formed the show's largest reunion since "The Office" wrap party in 2013. But might the cast ever reunite on-air?
"I would love it,” Flannery said. “I would absolutely love it. I mean, I'm going to get emotional if it ever happens. But whatever it's supposed to be, it's supposed to be. Because I know there's a sacredness about the way we ended it, and I get it. But ... let's do it!"