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, comics, film, theatre, literature, and art to music, robotics, engineering, space exploration, and paranormal investigation. Held annually over Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, programing includes celebrity panels, autograph sessions, workshops, screenings, concerts, art shows, contests, beauty pageants, a film festival, a parade through downtown, a blood drive, and attempts to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
Dragon*Con drew a record 57,000 attendees to Atlanta in 2013 for a Labor Day weekend jam-packed with all things pop-culture. As a result of the exploding attendance, Dragon*Con made the decision to move all of its vendors into their own building this year in order to free up panel space in the Marriott. Although this was a smart decision overall, the implementation of the AmericasMart move was terrible with poor signage, a counterintuitive layout, and a disorganized flow of traffic which created claustrophobic conditions. However, their strict "hotel room key or badge" check policy was expanded to include more hours in order to help keep non-guests from people-watching in the hotel lobbies, which did help alleviate some of the overall crowding. As always, it's impossible to name all the wonderful guests in attendance, but my personal favorites included George Takei, Sylvester McCoy from Doctor Who, Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche from Pinky and the Brain, John DeLancie and Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and RJ, Ron, Laura, Frank from SyFy's competitive creature makeup show, Face Off. The cosplay scene was varied and creative as usual, with Steampunk TETRIS pieces and trooper uniforms that matched the Mariott's iconic CARPET! Popular events included concerts, balls, the Saturday parade through downtown, Night at the Georgia Aquarium, and an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records' number for most people in a Star Trek costume in a single location. As always, there is something for everyone, and for many people, more to see and do than anyone could hope to cover in a single weekend.
We checked into the Marriott Thursday and were surprised at how many people were already packing the lobby in complicated costumes – some even were in full-on body paint! Throughout the evening we met up with friends, and did a late-night cake run to Metro Café. Elly-Star led the way and walked us through the food court straight to Metro’s back entrance. YOU CAN GET THERE FROM THE FOOD COURT?! MIND BLOWN. Friday morning I wore my Steampunk Cheshire Cat and we walked over to the convention space near the MARTA entrance which was housing the vendors this year. It was nice to have the Walk of Fame in the Marriott as a result of the move, but the vendor space was so horribly crowded and disorganized we had to leave. Dragon*Con needs to properly direct traffic and post better signage in this new space. That afternoon we had a fantastic Rainbow Brite photoshoot with Lionel, and then hung out in the Marriott. One girl asked “OMG, you have BOYS?! Are they your husbands?!” which made us laugh. For dinner we hit up Hooters as the Brite cast, continuing our annual tradition of wearing inappropriately childish costumes to Hooters. The staff thought we were adorable and we got plenty of funny photos. That night we hung out in our Firefly costumes for socializing before turning in for the night.
Saturday we had curbside seats to the parade and were surrounded by exceptionally friendly people who were sharing chairs and water, and we let the little kids sit on the street in front of us. The parade was excellent, but towards the end a teenaged girl in cat ears ran up to us screaming that a little kid was "dying" in back and demanded that the people behind us run out into the street. The confused people were stumbling over us and I had to put my arms around the little girl in front of me to stop them from trampling her. Finally, one of our new parade friends from New York (appropriately enough) told this cat girl to piss off. She argued but we all joined in at yelling at her to get lost until she stomped off. We applauded the New Yorker, and found out later that a kid HAD passed out - blocks away, nowhere near us - and officials had made sure EMTs had gotten to his family just fine. Officials are there to handle emergencies; that girl had just caused chaos. UGH. As the parade ended, we hugged our parade friends and parted ways.
That afternoon Sketch and I wore our Castle costumes and hit up the George Takai panel. Takai was interesting and gave long, heartfelt answers to questions while moderator Garret Wang balanced it out with jokes and impersonations. That night we got bloodied up in our Legends of the Hidden Temple gear and after seeing the long line for the shuttle, walked the few blocks to the aquarium party. The party was awesome; attendees were eating, drinking, and enjoying the displays while a DJ spun tunes in the lobby. We wandered the exhibits, calling out “Temple Assemble!” to regroup. We climbed into a rainforest tree in one area for a photo, and into a South American temple display for another. The security guards offered to take photos with our own cameras so we'd get a copy – reason #2,435 why I love Dragon*Con. We even hit up the dance floor using our Temple Guardian head on a pike as a limbo stick, and in response the DJ played the Limbo song and the whole place started limbo-ing! We also ran into the kid who was actually a Green Monkey and gave him one of our medallions because it's awesome he was on the show, even if he didn't get far. We got late dinner at Max Lager's and hung out at the Marriot where we met a real Silver Snake who had MADE IT TO THE TEMPLE ROUND! Amazing! He said that the reason the monkey was so hard is they put grease on it, which explains some, but not ALL, the stupid and nonsensical ways kids tried to put it together. We also met competitors from American Ninja Warrior who wanted photos with us. GREAT TIMES!
Sunday I got into my revamped Poison Ivy and got my Star Trek: The Next Generation poster autographed by Marina Sirtis. We then gave the vendor complex another shot to see if things had improved. It wasn't as crowded but had a maze-like setup and it was easy to get disoriented. By the time we stumbled out the other end of the complex, we were exhausted. Having all the vendors in one place is OVERWHELMING. We cut through the MARTA station and did a quick photoshoot of my Poison Ivy costume, than grabbed lunch at the food court where professor from the University of Tennessee had us complete a psychological survey about cosplay, which had Venn Diagrams and questions like "do you refer to yourself and your character as 'we.'" I felt the survey was geared towards people who have actually disassociated themselves from their real lives and think they ARE these characters when we just like to have a good time. We wrote our own answers to a lot of the questions. After lunch Sketch and I attended the Face Off panel; RJ, Ron, Frank and Laura were standing at the door and gave us high-fives as we entered. They all told interesting stories about filming the show, like how Laura and Roy mess with the camera crew on purpose and despite the BS of reality TV, each of them has actually broken into the movie makeup industry as a result. They took a lot of great makeup-related questions from the audience, and we took notes of their recommendations.
That evening we got into our Peanuts outfits; we had a full cast, including Chinako as Snoopy and Chibi Rinoa as the Little Red-Headed Girl. I had wanted to be Lucy forever, so I was so excited and everyone looked so freaking adorable! I was carrying my “Psychiatric Help, 5 cents” booth and Sketch, as Schroder, had his little piano. Within a few minutes of setting up, random people started coming up to me with nickels and asking for advice. It was a blast coming up with answers! By the end of the night, I had made several dollars worth of nickels! We spent the rest of the night at the Marriott people watching until finally retiring to the room with alcohol and ice cream – a dangerous combination of awesome. Another Dragon*Con wrapped up Monday - we can't to go back!