Over 46,000 attendees flocked to downtown Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2011, celebrating the convention's 25th anniversary with a sprawling four-day party over Labor Day weekend. Headlining the celebrity guest lineup for Dragon*Con's silver anniversary was Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, Marvel comic legend Stan Lee, everyone's favorite 1980s time-traveling Doctor, Christopher Lloyd, Star Trek captains William Shatner and Kate Mulgrew, and the seventh incarnation of The Doctor from Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy. Other popular guests included Felicia Day of The Guild, Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Bill Corbett and Trace Beaulieu from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the casts of hit shows Supernatural, True Blood, and Eureka. Major events included the Dragon*Con Parade, a Night at the Georgia Aquarium, Robot Battle Microbattles, and an attempt at a Guinness World Record: the largest gathering of people with Steampunk gadgets in one location. A big anniversary also came with several big changes; Dragon*Con finally implemented a computerized registration system which allowed staff members to distribute tens of thousands of badges faster than ever before, cutting their hours-long registration line wait to under 45 minutes. The ever-popular parade, which traditionally allowed signups for marchers at the convention, also streamlined its organization by enforcing a pre-registration policy with all marchers required to be accounted for prior to arrival in Atlanta. This year also saw the creation of a new fan track within Dragon*Con aimed specifically at children and the young at heart; entitled the Kaleidoscope Track, it's content focused on Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network programming.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
Hurricane Irene knocked out our electricity the week of Dragon*Con, and after struggling to pack by flashlight we somehow managed to get ourselves to the airport and down to Atlanta Thursday afternoon with all of the correct costume pieces in tow. Majodere, Ellystar, Iceman, Nigoki, PatrickD, Christa, Avien, and Joy were all on our flight which we dubbed the Dragon*Con Express, and we we were highly entertained the entire flight by playing trivia against each other on the back of the seat screens. Once we arrived in Atlanta and checked in at the Marriott, we made our way to the Sheraton to pick up our badges. We had heard that the con had finally implemented a computerized check-in system this year, and while we were relieved they were trying something new, our expectations were low. Still, our hearts sank as we joined the giant line wrapped around the building which, from the outside at least, appeared twice as long as it ever had in the past.
We were pleasantly surprised, however, when the line moved relatively swiftly, and it only took us 40 minutes to get inside the building compared to TWO HOURS the year before. When we entered the ballroom, the line moved so quickly that attendees were jogging in opposite directions through the maze of ropes as registration staff at the front were handing out badges faster than attendees could navigate the maze. The visual of hundreds of people moving quickly in opposite directions was actually slightly nauseating. In total the entire process took 45 minutes, down from four hours last year. Enjoying our newfound free time, we walked downtown to check out Centennial Olympic Park, a remnant from the 1996 Summer Games, which is absolutely beautiful with reflecting pools, fountains, and statuary. Shiva had fun finding celebrity bricks in the walkway, including David Duchovny's. That night we grabbed dinner at Metro Café Diner and rested up for the weekend ahead.
Friday morning we were up early so the girls could get into their Eternal Senshi costumes and meet up for a shoot with Judy Stephens at the Hilton. Sketch was serving as wrangler for the group, and ran around fixing bows, wigs, and other items as Judy set up the group shots. It was a blast, and some of the photos made it into Judy's 2011 cosplay book. After the formal shoot we had fun having Sketch take silly photos of us together as a group and then we wandered the convention a bit before splitting up for lunch. Friday afternoon we got into our Mal and Inara costumes from Firefly and met up in the Marriott atrium with the rest of our crew as Simon, Kaylee, Wash, Jayne, River., and Saffron. We were surrounded by photos, and as we were chatting with the crowd we met a fantastic Zoe cosplayer and invited her to join us at the Hilton for a group photoshoot. She agreed, and we have a blast taking pics around the metal staircases in the Hilton courtyard in the fading sunlight. We had almost a full cast and the industrial backdrop really fit the characters well! Unfortunately there was no Firefly Shindig this year for us to wear the costumes to, but we hope it returns next year.
Later that evening we changed into regular clothes and pre-gamed in the room before heading down to the Marriott atrium. Shiva was tipsy but as soon as the elevator bounced when arriving at the atrium level she loudly announced, "OK, now I'm definitely drunk!" so the evening was off to a good start. We ended up hanging out with Brian Brushwood and his entourage at the Loft; Nigoki was wearing his Infinity Gauntlet and taking arm wrestling requests, which Brian and several others took him up on, including several actors from The Guild. Brian also posted a pic of Shiva's nerdy “Coexist” T-Shirt to his fans on Twitter, prompting Sketch to go around bragging that his girlfriend’s boobs were now famous on the internet. Iceman, still dressed as Jayne from our Firefly shoot, was egged on to throw replica Alliance money to the atrium crowd below the Loft and yell, “I’m Jayne, The Hero of Canton, and I’M MAKIN’ IT RAIN!” which he refused to do. Nigoki stepped in and did it for him, to everyone's delight.
Saturday morning we were up early and into our Doctor Who costumes to march in the parade; Sketch was wearing his Jack Harkness costume while Shiva wore Amy Pond's wedding dress with PatrickD as the wedding version of the Eleventh Doctor. Nigoki and Ellystar kept it old school as the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane respectively. Any insecurities Shiva had about not being able to finish all of the flower detailing on the wedding dress vanished when the other marchers thought she'd bought the actual Ben DeLisi dress used on the show. There were lots of great cosplayers joining us in the Doctor Who contingent; our favorites included several ladies who had done excellent Idris costumes, a little girl who was the spitting image of Amelia Pond, and several girls in Steampunk-style Dalek costumes who wore wheelie sneakers under their skirts and skated the entire parade route.
Shiva and PatrickD danced rather than marched, doing a little ballroom when the parade paused and running around doing the Doctor’s crazy reception dance when they had to catch up. Sketch and a gaggle of other Jacks were lining up and periodically charging the Daleks, which was hysterical. After the parade, we headed to the Hilton staircase for the Doctor Who photoshoot; the 11th characters were stuck all the way in the back of the group shot, which meant Shiva and PatrickD had to stand the longest in the scorching midday sun while they arranged everybody else in after them. Ellystar and Nigoki were a bit luckier, getting to wait in the shade until they called the 4th characters, but Sketch wasn't much better off as part of the 10th section. By the end we all thought we were going to melt; once the shoot was over we were all such hot sweaty messes we couldn't wait to go change.
That afternoon we changed into our King Kandy and Queen Frostine costumes for a Candyland shoot with the rest of the crew at the Sheraton. It had gotten so hot outside, however, that as we walked down the sidewalk, Sketch's COSTUME started to melt. Gingerbread was falling off of him, berries were falling off of him, and we pissed off at least two dozen people who begged us to stop for a picture and we had no choice but to refuse as we tried to powerwalk the rest of the route, Shiva grabbing armfuls of Sketch's disintegrating costume pieces as they fell. We made it to the Sheraton pool area and managed to hold King Kandy together for the shoot, then immediately disassembled Sketch and got him and the pieces of King Kandy back to the Marriott. Shiva, Majodere, Ellystar, and Crazyflower showed off their costumes in the Atrium while Sketch spent two hours putting Kandy back together in the hotel room before reemerging to wander the halls with the rest of the group. King Kandy is clearly the biggest draw out of all the characters, and once Sketch returned we were surrounded for photos. Finally we called it quits before dinner, and afterwards we changed into our Princess Leia and Han Solo costumes from Star Wars. We had a few drinks with friends for before hitting up the “Last Night On Alderrann” party for the rest of the evening, complete with light saber mosh pit.
Sunday morning Sketch got into Flynn Rider and Shiva into Padmé for the day. We headed to the Walk of Fame where we met Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner, aka Dr. Crusher and Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Shiva got both their autographs for her TNG cast poster. Gates is still absolutely gorgeous and both she and Brent were incredibly friendly and talkative, which we did not expect. We then met up with Majodere as Rapunzel and Nigoki, and we all walked a few blocks to Centennial Olympic Park to take photos. Shiva got some fun shots of Majodere tied up in her own hair while Sketch looked on, and Nigoki got some great pics of Shiva's Padmé while Sketch flipped the layers of her dress into the air for effect. That afternoon Majodere headed to the Harry Potter themed Yule Ball with Christa while Shiva and the rest of the girls wore their My Little Pony costumes from the 1985 “Sundae Best" series. Sketch wore Castle and served as photographer for a shoot at the Hyatt The hardest part was getting photos of just the girls as an unending stream of congoers kept jumping in the shots because they wanted photos of themselves WITH the ponies, which was cute even if we eventually had to say TIME OUT! to get our own shot. Later that evening we all went out to dinner at Hooters; while we were seated eating, a little girl came in and starting jumping up and down and screaming “MY LITTLE PONIES" at the pastel-colored group and we all gave her high-fives. Afterwards we hit up Brian Brushwood's panel and enjoyed a night hanging out in the Marriott atrium; the ponies got photos with Darth Vader while Sketch got pics with the entire crew from Beerfest. Great night!
Monday morning we managed to get an elevator for all of our luggage and get out of the room on time; Majodere and Christa went to wander while we grabbed a leisurely breakfast from Caribou Coffee before hitting up the art show at the Hyatt. One of the artists had a series of unique drawings of humans contorted into poses reminiscent of carousel horses, and Shiva bought several "My Little Demon" prints from Heather Kreiler of Shaman Soul Studios, a series depicting adorably evil versions of My Little Ponies with names like “Electrocutie” and “Corpsie Puff.” That afternoon we went to the Georgia Aquarium for the first time, which as of this year is the largest aquarium in the world! They had huge displays and countless unique species to gawk at, and it was all presented in an entertaining way. It was also the first time we'd seen whale sharks in real life! It was a wonderful way to end the weekend and we definitely plan to come to the Dragon*Con aquarium party next year.