Over 85,000 attendees descended on Atlanta for Dragon*Con 2019, the larger-than-life annual Labor Day Weekend pop culture celebration. Featured guests this year included David Tennant and Catherine Tate of Doctor Who fame, Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove from The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, William Shatner and George Takei of Star Trek, and cast members of hit shows such as Stranger Things, The Orville, Supernatural, and Star Trek: Discovery. In addition to the annual Night at the Georgia Aquarium and Dragon*Con Parade, events included a performance by the Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra, HamilTunes: An American Sing-Along, and more somber events memorializing the lives of Stan Lee and Peter Mayhew. The dealer's room was again located in the AmericasMart, this time filling an entire five-story building, however the sheer amount of people trying to get in made wait times to enter the vendors space 45 minutes to an hour throughout the entire weekend. Despite all the official hoopla, the most viral event to come out of Dragon*Con 2019 was the attendees' obsession with a FedEx standee advertisement; the unfolding adventures of "FedEx Jon" escalated throughout the weekend, even catching the attention of the model who posed for the ad.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
This year was our tenth Dragon*Con, and for the first time, we planned to fly down to Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon rather than catching a Thursday flight at the break of dawn and scrambling to get settled in before the Thursday night party scene. This was one of the best con decisions we'd made in a long time; Dragon*Con is already in full swing by Thursday these days, and getting in a day early and getting a full night's sleep gave us a fresh start to the weekend allowed us to have more fun at this con than we'd had in years. We can't show up to a five-day con already exhausted anymore; we are flat out too old for that shit. Despite it only being Wednesday there were some committed souls already hanging out in the Marriott in full costume, bodypaint and all. We met a guy who'd built a fully-functional Wall-E droid and without the crowds or accompanying noise we were actually able to chat; it had taken him a full year of trial and error and he was so excited to finally show it off.
Our early arrival meant we slept in good and late Thursday and enjoyed a leisurely brunch at Metro Cafe Diner before getting in the preregistration line. Picking up our badges only took about 40 minutes despite the line being wrapped around the Sheraton when we jumped in around 1PM; afterwards we headed back to the room to lounge in our PJs, watch Dragon*Con TV, and prep our costumes for the weekend. By Thursday evening, instead of being tired, rough around the edges and begrudgingly getting into costume, we were pumped and ready to head out for the night. Shiva wore VICI while Sketch got into Captain Mercer for a comfortable evening and we, along with Majodere, Scarlet and Ellystar headed to Sear, the restaurant inside the Marriott hotel which we'd never been in, for drinks and Marriott Carpet Cake. We had seen photos of the chocolate dessert with the famous carpet design and raspberry dressing since we had arrived and though we knew it was a marketing ploy it was working and we were determined to eat this cake. It was delicious and paired perfectly with Shiva's wine and Sketch's whiskey; yes, we are fully functional adults who had cake for dinner and we regret nothing. On the way out, a group called both Shiva and Scarlet (dressed as Figment) into their dining room just to see their costumes! Afterwards we headed over to the Hilton for their "Hilton Wars" atrium party, which had an excellent DJ as usual. The crowd was tight but the music was great, and we had a blast dancing there for most of the evening.
Friday morning Sketch helped Shiva into her newly redone Amy Pond wedding dress and accompanied her to her morning shoot with Amie; they took some shots at the TARDIS set up in the Hilton lobby before taking more outside. Being early they avoided the crowds but it was already getting hot out; after the shoot Sketch left to change into his Captain Mal costume while Shiva met up with Scarlet and they tried to find the line for David Tennant's panel at 10. After a long, out of the way walk they found the line blocks away from the panel room, and snagged spots; they dragged Sketch in when he finally made it. We weren't sure we'd get in, but we made it - three rows from the back! The panel was great, however; Tennant was hilarious and engaged in office chair races with the moderator and talked about his favorite role of all time: Scrooge McDuck on DuckTales. Following the panel we wandered the con for a bit and then went to get a proper lunch at the food court.
That afternoon, Shiva had a shoot with Riley of ChezPhoto in her remade Queen Frostine costume; unfortunately she didn't realize until the last minute it was in the Centennial Olympic Park so we had to hoof it there in the unrelenting Atlanta afternoon sun. The shoot went great, though it took most of Shiva's self-restraint not to jump into the fountain and cool off after taking pics in front of it - the slight cool spray from the water jets was such a tease! Back at the Marriott Shiva showed off her costume in the atrium for a bit before finally calling it quits by dinner time. We both changed into much more comfortable costumes for the night and met up with the crew for a delicious poke bowl dinner downtown. Afterwards we hit up the comedy show at the Sheraton, featuring standup performances by Leighann Lord and Ian Harris. They were hilarious and it was an enjoyable way to spend the evening. After the show we met up with the rest of the crew and checked out several of the parties around the various hotels before turning in for the night.
After two busy days we took it easy on Saturday, sleeping in and watching the parade on TV in the hotel room. We got into our Han and Leia costumes for the day and grabbed a quick lunch before catching The Orville panel at the Westin. We only had to stand in line for about 30 minutes and were seated in the third row, so we had a great spot for the panel. The actors were personable and told some great stories, including a time in which ants crawled into one of the character's full head prosthesis makeup and it had to be torn off. Yikes! Afterwards we wandered the Marriott and visited the area in which the droid operators tend to congregate; Shiva was soon surrounded by at least three life-sized R2D2s all playing a recording of Leia's "help me Obi-Wan Kenobi" speech and it was hilarious! That evening we grabbed dinner at the Sheraton before Shiva, Ellystar, and Scarlet changed into their Care Bears costumes for the night to wander the atrium - good times!
Sunday morning we were up early and into costume; Shiva had a shoot in her Princess Daisy with MegAnne while Sketch got a few shots of his Captain Mal costume. Afterwards we met up with Scarlet as Princess Rosalina and took some photos at the columns before wandering the con. The first half of Sunday, with most of the party crowd sleeping off Saturday night's hangover, is unofficially "Disney Princess Day" at Dragon*Con, which means the hotel atriums are packed with parents who've brought their little kids to find cosplayers dressed as their favorite princesses. Shiva warned Scarlet that as Mario princesses they should be prepared to be "on duty;" Scarlet didn't quite get what she meant until the first set of little girls came running at them full tilt, arms extended looking for hugs. They spent most of the morning with smiles plastered on their faces, crouching down and talking to the under-7 crowd about their adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom.
That afternoon we made an attempt to visit the dealers space in the AmericasMart; we'd been eying the terribly long line all weekend and avoided it thus far, but when it didn't seem to be getting shorter by late Sunday we decided this was our last chance to give it a try. They had closed off one of the streets to make more space for the line, which snaked down the street and then wrapped around the building twice before being let inside. It was moving, but we still waited over 45 minutes to get in. Once inside, the dealers offerings were wonderful as usual, but it was so crowded in many of the main areas that it was not enjoyable to browse; Shiva became so claustrophobic at one point she left early and waited for the rest of the crew to finish up outside. That evening we grabbed dinner before changing into costumes to party in the Marriott atrium for the night; Shiva wore her Samantha Parkington dress and took a shot from her flask every time someone recognized her - she got more than she expected! Sketch wore Godric Gryffindor for a bit; someone had brought down a cardboard box labeled "If I Fits, I Sits" and was taking photos of cosplayers in it; we crammed Sketch, armor and all, inside. It was a fun way to wrap up the weekend!
As typical for Dragon*Con, some of the weekend's highlights were unplanned; this year congoers took a liking to a cardboard cutout of a FedEx employee advertising postal services displayed innocuously in one of the interconnecting walkways between hotels. Over the course of the weekend, he magically obtained googly eyes, Hawaiian leis, humorous graffiti and other mild vandalism. Monday morning he was removed, and as we walked by his previous location with our suitcases in tow we saw attendees had begun building a memorial to "FedEx Jon," with handwritten notes, balloons, stuffed animals, and the like. By the time we got to the airport, a fully-fledged cult of "Jon the Deliverer" had gained a hot following online, even taking notice on Twitter of the model whose likeness was used for the advertisement. A campaign quickly grew to have the model invited to next year's Dragon*Con as a guest. It was so typically Dragon*Con and made us smile. Another great weekend all around.