Dragon Con 2019 - An Escape From Reality
Over Labor Day weekend, eighty-five thousand people descended into downtown Atlanta for the annual convention known only as Dragon Con - a multi-genre convention that occupies five hotels as well as two buildings of the Mall of Atlanta. Additionally, unlike many other pop culture conventions laden with industry support, Dragon Con maintains its roots as a fan run convention. However, with these facts in mind, one might ask: Do these elements allow the Con excel or falter? Well, let's read on to find out...
An Experience Like No Other
As mentioned before, Dragon Con designates itself as a fan run convention. As such, the convention feels very personal as if the convention staff are there to only ensure that the fans have a good experience. Additionally, despite its size, this same feeling can be felt outside the walls of the event's host hotels: from the various restaurants welcoming con-goers, to bars and clubs hosting parties and gatherings. For the five days that the Con takes place you truly feel like you have left the world behind and entered a world where you can be yourself and fully indulge in your fandom.
Gateway To Adventure Your adventure into Dragon Con begins with registration and badge pickup. As most will take the route of pre-registration from the comfort of their homes there is also the option of door registration. Registration and badge pickup occur at the Sheraton hotel’s lower level. Because of the amount of people that attend this convention, the lines on the event's first day wrapped around the outside hotel - creating line wait times that varied from one to three hours. As with other Cons, Dragon Cons accommodated all its attendees with disabilities - providing a separate line for people to obtain special badges allowing them to be accommodate accordingly.
Upon attending the panels, attendees - as you would expect - do have to have to queue up as you typically would at other Cons, but Dragon Con is again also cognizant of those with disabilities - providing a separate queue area - with chairs - for those in need of accommodations to be seated before the general line is loaded in. With that said, the staff, overall, perform their duty with great efficiency - ensuring that attendees are able to enter the programming spaces quickly and safely .
Finding Your Way Around The Convention
As mentioned before, Dragon Con is broken into five hotels - the Hyatt, the Marriot Marquis, the Hilton, the Westin and the Sheraton. The three hotels Hyatt, Marriot and Hilton are connected through sky bridges which also connect to the underground food court at the Peachtree center. The Westin and Sheraton are nearby but not physically connected to the others. Along with the host hotels Dragon Con uses the first two building of the Mall of Atlanta: the first being used for table top and video gaming, while the other - containing four floors - are used for the dealer’s hall. Overall, everything is in close vicinity to each other and the convention is relatively easy to navigate.
The People Of Dragon Con
Dragon Con celebrates a collection of all genres of science fiction, pop culture, literature and even animation. Therefore it's a Con where you can frequently see Marvel characters, Star Wars characters, as well as video game and anime characters all mingling together in the same space. Furthermore, the statement above highlights one of the major features of the event, and that is, its cosplay. If you're not familiar with the term, cosplay essentially identifies those who dress up in costume to celebrate those characters that inhabit their fandom. Now, in this regard, Dragon Con is second to none (in terms of its cosplay) and people typically will provide their most impressive works to display at the show. However, despite the impressive cosplay on hand, the temperament of the those attendees who participate in cosplay are quite different from other conventions. While audiences at other Cons seem to revel in being super competitive (in regards to their costumes), Dragon Con is quite the opposite, as there is more a sense of kinship amongst cosplayers. Where other conventions are crowded with cosplayers having photo sessions with photographers, the attendees at Dragon Con seemed to be there to have fun rather than progress their cosplay careers. Check out some highlights of what I mean (regarding the cosplay) in the vid below.
The Legendary Marriott Carpet
The story of the Marriot carpet reaches back to 2013 when a pair of creative cosplayers decided to create fatigues in the same pattern as the carpet in the Marriott. After some legal trouble with the creators of the pattern, however, the Marriott decided to replace the carpet with a different pattern. In Dragon Con fashion, the community could not let it go and more variations of the Marriott carpet started to appear. This year was no different and the creativity of Dragon Con's carpet pattern cosplay continues.
This year the Marriott atrium restaurant joined in the tradition and served a chocolate raspberry cake with the carpet pattern imprinted on top.
Finding The Stars At Dragon Con
Being a convention run by fans for fans, Dragon Con does not solely focus on guests; however, being the size that this convention is, the con does have a great litany of guests. You can find guest from shows such as CW’s Arrow or Supernatural all the way through guests from classic hits such as Battlestar Galactica. Outside of television there are also writers of novels as well as comic book and graphic novel artists. This year, Dragon Con had guests such as Catherine Tate and David Tennent from Dr. Who, William Shatner from Star Trek, Robert Lord Taylor from Gotham, and Joonas Suotamo from Star Wars to name a few. With 184 guests that made an appearance at Dragon Con there was never a shortage of events for attendees of the convention. Many of the guests had Q&A sessions where attendees could ask the questions they have always wanted to ask as well as autograph sessions and photo sessions. The convention managed crowds at these photo sessions and autograph session efficiently as they had a ballroom dedicated for autographs where each artist had their own backdrop and table. Lines for each autograph were efficiently managed through dedicated queue lines within the room. Photo sessions were taken care of by Epic Photos, a veteran in handling photo sessions for various conventions. Attendees who purchase a photo session were given time slots where they would arrive and be placed into short queues until it was their turn with the photographer.
Lost Treasure At Dragon Con A new emerging trend of late is the trading of swag. Swag are small giveaways made by different people to express their interest in their fandom. These swag traders create their wares to trade with other crafters or in some cases they give away their creations without an expectation to receive anything in return. Activities like these truly show the kinship felt at this and other conventions. To accommodate the new trend, Dragon Con scheduled different workshops for people to trade swag with others. They even had sessions for children swag swaps.
A fun derivative of this is that some participants will hide their swag in flower pots, around signage or other hiding places for others to find. When found, people would leave a piece of their own swag for someone else in a way to pay it forward. This practice occurred throughout the weekend. Therefore next time when you see someone depositing something in a planter it may not be trash but treasure instead.
Nights Are For Parties Sometime around late afternoon/evening, Dragon Con takes on a different persona. The convention, based on various fandoms, becomes a celebration of geeks as parties can be found all over the event. In fact, many hotels have hired DJs to host parties at their atriums, pools, or ballrooms. Pop-up bars are placed everywhere serving specialty drinks created for the Dragon Con attendees.
The atmosphere is full of energy and does not end till midnight, providing attendees a few hours of sleep before the festival starts again bright and early the next day. However, for those who are not the party type, many hotels enforce a "no room party" policy as well as a noise restriction policy after 10pm each night.
Additionally, to further compliment the celebratory party feel of the Con, some hotels provide a themed atmosphere. One such example is the Hilton who hosted Hilton Wars, a Star Wars themed atmosphere throughout the weekend of Dragon Con. They provided decorations representing different aspects of Star Wars as well as themed drinks. Even the hotel staff donned Star Wars costumes to complete the theme. Outside the convention, other restaurants, bars, and even the Georgia aquarium had parties for Dragon Con. The Georgia aquarium hosted a Dragon Con party where only Dragon Con attendees could visit with an additional purchased ticket. At the party attendees could roam the various exhibits, enjoy the events hosted by the in-house DJ or even partake in a costume contest.
Now For The Parade. YES, THERE IS A PARADE!
Aside the cosplay, the guests, and the parties, is Dragon Con's parade! This parade takes place on Saturday and has a one-mile route down Peachtree street and ends at the front entrance to the Marriot. People from all over Atlanta and some from even further distances come to Dragon Con to experience its parade. Taking place outside, the parade is open to the public and a badge for the convention is not required. During the parade you can find every fandom represented from the popular to the obscure. Groups will have members in costumes as well as vehicles and floats. You will find characters on unicycle or even tall stilt walkers. The parade commences for about one and a half hours from beginning to end and is heavily attended by the public and various media outlets.
Time To Say Goodbye As the convention comes to an end on Monday there is still an air of excitement. You will still see many in cosplay and people still enjoying the convention throughout the day. Many attendees also stay through to Tuesday for the last hurrah with friends or to avoid the rush of checkout. In the tradition of Dragon Con, Monday night will usually contain one last party: The alcohol disposal party where everyone will bring their remaining alcohol to party one last time with their fellow convention comrades before having to face reality again… Until next year that is!
So, all in all, Dragon Con is an awesome event! Minus some wait times with registration or for panels, it has so much to offer for fans of various fandoms.