Comic book conventions recognize teen for lemonade stand

Joe Cane shows off his Fan of Honor pass and card game given to him by the owners of Golden Triangle Comic Con. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

When Golden Triangle Comic Con co-owner Zac Ashmore read about a young man selling lemonade on the side of an Oktibbeha County road to fund a trip to a comic book convention, he knew he had to do something.

For the last three summers, 15-year-old Joe Cane has sold lemonade at the same gravel intersection of Old West Point Road and Sixteenth Section Road. His yearly proceeds are squirreled away after each summer for a trip to Mississippi Comic Con in Jackson - a pop culture-themed comic book and gaming convention.

Ashmore first saw Cane’s story in the Starkville Daily News and approached his convention partner Chris Tarantino, to see if they could find a way to reward the hard work put in by the young entrepreneur.


“Because I’m a nerd, we have a board game night once a week at my apartment with a group of friends and one of my buddies said they had heard about a story that had to do with Mississippi Comic Con and that you might want to read about this kid,” Ashmore said.

Tarantino saw the story around the same time and immediately contacted Ashmore to see what they could do.

While the duo formed a plot, Cane remained hard at work. Each day he sets up shop with a yellow Igloo cooler full of ice, his different jugs of drinks, a small table and a metal folding chair.

Cane is soft-spoken and makes sure to tell each customer to “have a blessed day,” as they purchase ice-cold drinks for 50 cents each. He sells lemonade, lemonade iced-tea and pink lemonade, with the latter being his biggest seller.

From roughly 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., on every day but Sunday during the summer months, Cane can be found waving to customers and motorists, some of which stop and donate without buying anything.

But on Monday, Ashmore paid a visit to Cane’s place of business on the other side of the crossroads from Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. He wasn’t empty-handed, either.


Cane stood at the intersection on Monday with a camouflage baseball cap shielding his face from the brutal sun overhead. In the thick afternoon air, temperatures rose into the low 90s.

He held a neon green sign this particular day, a slight deviation from the white sign he held when his story was first told by the Starkville Daily News.

When Ashmore got out of the vehicle to walk across the road to meet him, the teen immediately recognized the bearded man in sunglasses as a fellow churchgoer at the First United Methodist Church Connection in Starkville.

What he didn’t immediately notice were the two things Ashmore held.

When the two finally shook hands, Joe was handed a starter deck of cards from the game Magic: The Gathering, along with a “Fan of Honor” pass to Golden Triangle Comic Con in Columbus.

“Aw man, thank you!” Cane said as he flipped around the green laminated pass.

The yearly event will be held at the Trotter Convention Center on Aug. 18. This year, Cane will be able to attend the convention for free.

The two then hugged and Joe smiled wide as he put the lanyard and laminated pass around his neck.

“I just want to live my life knowing I did something great and I want to achieve something,” Cane said after receiving the gifts. “I’m pretty sure I will get a decent amount of customers now.”

Golden Triangle Comic Con, however, would not be the only group or people to take note of Cane’s hard work. In the days after the story was published, several private individuals reached out to the newspaper to see how they could donate to help get Cane to Mississippi Comic Con.

What’s more, Stacy Irby, who runs the Oxford-based convention “Nerd-Vana” also planned to offer Cane passes to that convention in August.

Cane is excited for the events in Columbus and Jackson, but even when receiving praise for his own hard work, he mentioned how he wanted to use the experience to also grab goodies for his younger sister.

“I just like collecting a whole bunch of stuff (at conventions) and gaming and I love collecting posters,” he said. “And I’ll get stuff for me and my sister and my mom.”

At last year’s Mississippi Comic Con, Cane said he managed to get his sister a “Five Nights At Freddy’s” purse wallet.

“She loved that,” Cane said.


A consistent commentary on Cane’s story from those who have shown support has been his willingness to forge his own way through sweat and perseverance.

“He gets off his butt and decides to work for it,” Ashmore said. “When I was his age, I didn’t do that. I didn’t have the gumption to get off my butt and do something about it. This kid in many ways is an inspiration to how hard work can pay off.”

Cane turns 16 next month and is studying for his driver’s permit. He also expressed his gratitude when accepting the support and said it was made possible along with help from his mother Nena Cane and his sister Jonena, along with others in the community.

When asked what advice he would give others facing adversity in the face of wanting to accomplish a goal, he said to always keep your head up and move forward.

“Once you start working hard, it might start off slow and as long as you keep motivated and keep doing it it will soon get traction and you’ll get popular with it,” he said. “It took me three years to get to this and I’m pretty sure things will just get better from here. It may take three years, five years, who knows? But somebody will recognize your work and you’ll be rewarded for it."