Dragon*Con is one of the largest pop-culture conventions in the world, with four days of events broken up into "tracks" of interest covering everything from science fiction, fantasy, gaming, film, literature, and art to music, robotics, engineering, space exploration, and paranormal investigation. Held annually over Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, the Dragon*Con experience is equatable to a Mardi Gras For Nerds; costumed parades winding through the city, booze free-flowing in public, high-profile guests mingling with the crowds. The spread-out, multi-building nature of the con adds to the party atmosphere, though can be intimidating at first with so many locations to explore. The convention's guest list is as impressive as it was extensive and included Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Kate Mulgrew, The X-Files' Dean Haglund, and Mythbusters' Adam Savage. There was even an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance simultaneously. With so much going on, however, attendees were forced to carefully select which events to attend and plan ahead as the lines for popular events were long and required waiting an hour or more for a guaranteed seat. The con's organizers tried to alleviate this somewhat with popular guests by hosting their panels multiple times and broadcasting many events live on Dragon*Con TV, available on closed circuit television channels in the official hotels' rooms. The crowds were felt the most in the dealer's halls, which are tightly packed and the registration line, which checks in guests by hand and takes about two hours to navigate.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
After having such a blast at last year's Dragon*Con, Sketch had planned to drive down to this year's event and bring his TARDIS along for the ride; he invited Shiva and PatrickD to accompany him. The TARDIS plans fell through last minute, but since it was too late for all of us to buy plane tickets at that point, we still chose to drive rather than fly. Lolita joined us for the trip, and she, Shiva, and Patrick were looking forward to their first Dragon*Con experience. After being on the road all day Wednesday, we arrived in downtown Atlanta by Thursday afternoon and met up with roommates Ellystar, Iceman, and Crazyflower. After setting in at the Sheraton. we got in line to pick up our pre-registration badges. We knew we were in for a long wait, but as we stood in line outside the building, con vendors came around selling beer, chicken fingers, pizza, sodas, and other snacks to the people in line. We were flabbergasted: we get to drink beer while we WAIT IN LINE?! Clearly we were not in New England anymore as we sipped open containers in the street and the line slowly trudged forward. After about thirty minutes we made it inside the Sheraton, and our good mood faded as we were herded into a large ballroom where we inched our way through a snaking line for almost two hours. Finally we reached the front, which was lined with booths where our names were looked up by hand in three ring binders. It was such a manual, old-fashioned way to manage so many registrations that we could hardly believe they were using this system. Badges obtained, we headed to the Metro Café Diner for dinner, which had delicious pub food, a karaoke bar, and mouthwatering seven-layer cakes on display in glass cases. After a wonderful meal we crashed hard after our two day drive.
Friday we woke up well-rested and ready to begin our Dragon*Con weekend in earnest. Sketch got into Jack Harkness and Shiva wore her Arwen coronation gown from Lord of the Rings and our group set out to explore the host hotels. At the Sheraton, we found a replica TARDIS brought all the way from Colorado by its creators. Sketch and PatrickD chatted them up about construction techniques while Shiva, Ellystar, and Lolita took some great costume photos out in the Sheraton courtyard. We all then headed to the Marriott for the Disney meetup, as Ellystar was dressed as Briar Rose and Lolia was Ariel. The meetup had a large group of diverse characters, including several adorable Tinkerbells, a frighteningly accurate Queen from Snow White, and a kickass Jafar from Aladdin. After lunch at the food court, we headed back to the hotel where the girls got into their My Little Pony costumes for a meetup at the Marriott. Sketch accompanied them to the meetup, and any concerns we had about finding the right spot were erased when it became apparent it was impossible to miss a trove of brightly-colored Pony girls with wings, ears, horns, and tails!
After the shoot wrapped up we attended the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog stage show, which was similar to Rocky Horror with the film shown on giant screens while simultaneously being acted out by live performers on stage. The audience sang along to the songs, shouted out their favorite lines, and overall had a great time. For dinner we decided it would be hilarious to go to Hooters dressed as Jack Harkness and the My Little Ponies, so we did. We were a huge hit; the place was packed with college football fans in town for several games, and they all chatted and took photos with us, and even bought us several pitchers of beer. Another group of cosplayers were dressed as Smurfs and received a similarly warm welcome; the patrons chanted "Smur-urfs! Smur-urfs!" and bought them a round. It shocked us just how positively the public in Atlanta reacted to our costumes and the convention as a whole, which is very different than the stares and disgusted looks we're used to back home.
Saturday Sketch and Lolita got into Xenmas and Roxas and we found a great spot to watch the Dragon*Con parade; we had expected a lot of costumed marchers, but didn’t realize that the event would also include bands, celebrity guests waiving from cars, Stormtroopers in kilts, fully functional replicas of the campy 1960s Batmobile and 1980s Ghostbusters’ car, and elaborate floats which included pirate ships and castles! It was crazy! That afternoon, we went back to the hotel to change into our Mulder and Scully costumes from The X-Files and once again surprised at the reaction to our simplistic, relatively old-school cosplay; people started jumping out of lines – literally losing their spots – to take pictures of us, and yelled “Mulder!” and “Scully!” as we made our way down the street.
We hit up Adam Savage's panel; the Mythbuster shared his personal wish list for life as part of the panel, which was both entertaining and touching and we both agreed someday we'd also like to have a house with a secret passage in it. That evening we checked out the art show, which was huge and full of interesting and unique artwork by a slew of very talented people. Unlike most con artist's alleys, the majority of the art was original as opposed to fan work and prices ranged from $5 to $50,000! We caught up with the rest of the group at the Sheraton and changed into regular clothes for dinner; we headed back out to Metro Café Diner and the party was in full swing. We had to wait for a table and Shiva got pulled into the dance party by the locals, learning the Cupid Shuffle and several other dances while we waited. During dinner we joined in singing along with the karaoke bar contestants, and after wrapping up we had a blast walking around downtown and enjoying the warm night weather and the party atmosphere. Somebody had drawn chaulk killer robots on the sidewalk and we took a few photos lying on the ground, pretending to have been attacked by them.
Sunday morning Sketch got back into Jack Harkness and Shiva got into her new Deanna Troi uniform from Star Trek: The Next Generation and we managed to find an amazing spot in line for one of our all-time favorite actors, Patrick Stewart. As we waited, Shiva was impressed by how many Trekkies addressed her, quite seriously, as “Commander." We ended up in the third row, and Stewart came out to a standing ovation. His talk was hilarious and we were impressed with how many details he was able to recall from his time as Captain Picard given that its been over 15 years since the show ended. We also enjoyed hearing new stories about the famously close and well-humored TNG cast. After the panel Shiva did a Little Mermaid photoshoot for Crazyflower, Lolita, and one of their friends; Sketch put Shiva on his shoulders to get a fantastic shot of the girls though the water wall at the Marriott that came out exceptionally awesome. That evening we ordered Chinese take out and watched the masquerade in the hotel on Dragon*Con TV. The food was questionable and the masquerade was terrible, but we were glad we were comfy and hadn’t bothered standing in line to see the show live.
That night we walked back to the Marriott to enjoy cocktails at the Pulse bar and enjoy costumes and people watching. There was such a long wait for drinks we learned ordering double was the best way to go as Shiva walked away from the bar double-fisting white Russians. We met many creative costume groups; one of our favorites was a group of guys dressed as the cast of King of the Hill who had set up a fake fence and were standing in front of it all evening, drinking beers from a cooler and commenting on passerby, which we thought was a brilliant idea. Monday morning we packed up the car and visited the Walk of Fame, where we saw Felicia Day, Garrett Wang, and Dean Haglund before checking out the huge dealer's rooms, grabbing lunch and starting our long drive home. The trip took two days, which consisted of a ridiculously hysterical dinner at a Denny's in West Virginia and a night sleeping outside on the ground at a truck stop in Pennsylvania. This was one memorable trip that we will never forget, though next year, we definitely think we're going to fly down instead!