A cornucopia of geekdom, Dragon*con in Atlanta, Georgia takes over downtown and continuously spirals throughout the weekend into a giant convention party. Anything and everything can be found at Dragon*Con, as it encompasses so many aspects of geek and nerd culture. It literally takes over downtown Atlanta, as the event has five host hotels, several overflow hotels, a giant Saturday morning parade, a night at the Georgia Aquarium, a night at Turner Field, and many more events spreading throughout the labyrinth of streets.
Taking place on Labor Day weekend, the event has steadily grown each year. This year was particularly crowded. Very, very crowded. Other events take over huge convention centers, while Dragon*Con just takes over hotels which, often, do not offer that much space when you pack in quite a few people in narrow hallways and skywalks. Honestly, convention center events feel quite stuffy compared to the carefree feeling of Dragon*Con. It’s not uncommon to see someone walking around in just pasties with an alcoholic beverage of choice in hand. It’s not uncommon to see some quirky, obscure costume from a millisecond of an episode of a sci-fi show that aired in the 80s. Dragon*Con is amazing because of how it feels.
The cosplay scene at Dragon*Con is immaculate. Unlike any other convention, these costumes run the gauntlet. People care way more about the costume then the person in it. You can find costumes from nearly everything at Dragon*Con. People have been working on some of these costumes for years, with crazy details and heavy bead work. Other people probably thought up their costume the night before just to run around and cause hilarity in the hotel lobbies. It’s hard to find people not in costume at some point during the weekend. This year, people even dressed as the carpet in the Marriott Marquis. Yes. The carpet. Dragon*Con attendees are not shy either. Kiddos need to vacate the floor at night, because that’s when all the risqué costumes come out. Dragon*Con is definitely a night convention, as some attendees don’t even get into costume until the sun is nearly going down. Also, there are massive gatherings and photoshoots that make other conventions pale in comparison. Marvel and DC typically have photoshoots with hundreds of cosplayers lining the back stairs of the Hilton hotel. It’s hard to come home from this convention without being completely motivated to jump behind the sewing machine and start work on a new costume. Dragon*Con can be an incredibly inspiring event for a cosplayer.
This article is not some massive love letter to Dragon*Con – the convention is not without its faults. The aforementioned crowds made it nearly impossible to get anywhere at certain points during the day. Whispers of an attendance cap began to spread, as the registration line was capped several times during the event. Dragon*Con remains one of the few conventions that allows registration throughout the weekend. There is no insane rush to buy badges that sell out in mere minutes. This is both a good and bad thing. It separates this event from the Comic Cons and PAXs of the world and alleviates some of the stress that comes with convention planning. However, it also creates massive crowds of fans packing into the hotels. There were lines everywhere to even get into parts of the hotels.
The parade was no better. Open to the public and held every Dragon*Con Saturday, the parade is one of the highlights of the convention. No other event has a parade, and Dragon*Con’s parade is stellar. Costumed attendees, marching bands, giant floats, and pop culture vehicles take to the streets of Atlanta to show off. Crowds of visiting sports fans and citizens of Atlanta also line up on the sides of the streets. This year, the parade route was changed, and it seemed to add to the hostility of the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowds were quite thick, causing many people to get irritable and pushy in the hot, Southern humidity. The majority of these people were not at all attendees of Dragon*Con, so the parade was probably not as important to them as it was to those who were attending the convention and probably knew the people in the parade. There is no way to close off this particular event to the public, but geeks share the space quite well with the Muggles. This is not the case vice-versa, however.
Despite crowd issues, Dragon*Con still remains one of the better (if not the best) multi-genre fan conventions in the country. It offers up many events and panels for all walks of geek culture. An attendee can spend the entire weekend checking out one track of entertainment or hop between several. They can meet their favorite authors or actors as well as rub elbows with people cosplaying those characters. They can let loose and have fun with thousands of fans. It is an incredible event, a celebration of a beloved culture. There is no other convention that touches it (sorry, PAX). Leaving Atlanta each year is undeniably difficult, but there is one thing fans have to look forward to: Dragon*Con happens every year. Same weekend. So, time to get ready for next year. Allons-y!