Photo Credit: Jessie Goodson
Among the nerdiest and most well-attended events of its type on the East Coast, Dragon Con has something for everyone: cosplay, (board) gamers, art exhibits, literature, live music, gala dinners, a parade, celebrity guests and numerous panels for education and entertainment. Four guys in 1987 planned the first convention for about 1,200 people. Today, the Con encompasses five hotels and averages 80,000 guests for the four-day event.
Here are five reasons why I love Dragon Con, and why you should go next year:
Every year on Labor Day weekend, thousands of people line the streets of Atlanta for the annual Dragon Con Parade. Cosplayers of every genre imaginable participate and march. Lasting around an hour, the parade is full of themes from movies, anime, video games, haunted houses, high-school marching bands, pop culture, local businesses and pretty much all things fiction. It’s definitely the most crowded event of the weekend, but if you’re willing to face the mob, it’s worth getting there early with a chair.
Photo Credit: Jessie Goodson
Although I have never personally cosplayed at Dragon Con, it’s a large part of the reason I have gone for the last 10 years. It’s not limited to movies, anime or comic book heroes. People dress up as Disney characters, random animals and unnecessary inanimate objects. This year, I saw someone dressed as an Amazon box (two-day delivery). Popular themes were "Stranger Things," "Supergirl," The Incredibles and "The Handmaid’s Tale." If you want to see some cool, well-done costuming, scary-good makeup and a few naked butts, go to Dragon Con, even if just to people-watch.
Panels are a huge part of any convention, and Dragon Con is no exception. Panels are hosted hourly, and there’s pretty much one happening every hour of the day in all five hotels. Panels are filled with famous actors, authors, artists and musicians, and they cover a countless number of topics.
Two that I loved this year were on "Smallville" and "Black Mirror." The former is my favorite TV show of all time, and is about Clark Kent growing up and discovering himself as Superman. That panel featured Tom Welling (Clark Kent) and Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor), and together they answered fan questions and discussed the show and their experiences. It was mostly interesting because, every so often, Rosenbaum would get up and make noises or take laps around the room to talk to people while running from his handler.
The "Black Mirror" panel I went to was completely discussion-based and featured some pretty well-known writers and con guests, who led questions with fans about the British science-fiction anthology. Some people argued, some yelled, and some just got really deep into the discussions. Dagon Con panels vary year to year but also have a huge variety of topics for anyone, no matter where you land on the spectrum of “nerd.”
The Walk of Fame
The Walk of Fame is hands-down my favorite thing about Dragon Con, which is saying a lot. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a giant walk through a room of famous people. Placed in the ballroom of Atlanta’s Marriott hotel, the Walk of Fame brings in a huge variety of stars from movies, TV shows and cartoons that everyone loves. This year, some big names were Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin ("Stranger Things"), John Barrowman ("Doctor Who"), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Walter Jones ("Power Rangers"), Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum ("Smallville"), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) and many more.
Over the years, I’ve met characters from Star Wars, "Star Trek," "Battlestar Galactica" and even actors from Disney shows. No matter who you are, you will recognize someone on their guest list each year. Sure, the autographs cost money, but when Superman says he’ll take a picture with you, you give him whatever he wants. You might even cry afterwards. I did.
It may seem kind of silly to pay money to get into a place to spend money, but when you enter AmericasMart Atlanta and see the wall-to-wall vendors selling unusual and spectacularly nerd-influenced items, you will beg to return. The three floors of art displays and vendors are one of the largest attractions at the convention. As it's impossible to see everything in one visit, most will return again and again to search for more treasure.
Items range from the unusual to the exotic. You can purchase incredible art, small knick-knacks, gaming materials, books, comics, wands, artificial elf/creature ears and faces, corsets, costumes and so much more. Did I know I wanted a painting of every Star Wars character piled into a VW van promoting world peace? No, but you bet I bought one, signed by the artist right in front of me. Did my brother really need a life-size keyblade (a weapon on the video game “Kingdom Hearts”)? Absolutely not, but it now has a home in his room. There are so many things you don’t think you need, but they’re fun and carry great memories that you know you couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.