The Labor Day weekend traditionally gives people time to spend with family at home, partying with friends or just relaxing and enjoying the long weekend.
However, another sort of tradition brings people flocking from all over the country and globe to Atlanta in the form of Dragon*Con. This year, Dragon*Con celebrated its 24th year of unrestrained fandom and passion for pop culture.
For those who have not heard of Dragon*Con before, it is the world’s largest multimedia and pop culture convention that is aimed at possibly every form of entertainment and genre that one can think of.
Fans of science fiction, fantasy literature, movies, music, art, comics and more can find a set of events to attend to meet special guests or mingle with other attendees who share common interests. This year alone it attracted about 40,000 fans, dealers, exhibitors, artists and guests. Founded in 1987 as part of a humble local gaming and sci-fi group, Dragon*Con has grown to cover the space of five hotels in bustling downtown Atlanta.
Even with this amount of space, local hotels were filled to capacity, while restaurants and vendors were tasked with serving the hordes of attendees.
One change from previous years in Dragon*Con is that waiting lines for events only start an hour before the event opens, but even then there were queues stretching as far as several city blocks for some of the more popular panels and guest appearances.
Some key events at Dragon*Con included the Dragon*Con Parade on Saturday morning, with a section of Peachtree Street blocked off to allow legions of storm troopers, wizards and dragons to go on display before crowds of attendees and three world record attempts at gathering the largest number of Star Trek, superhero and steam punk costumers in one place. Charity events such as the blood drive with Life South and Charity Auction for the Lupus Foundation of America were also present and raised some much needed blood donations and funds for their cause.
Numerous costume contests, fan panels, autograph sessions and workshops gave attendees an opportunity to share their skills, passions and interests with guests and other attendees.
Among the 400-odd guests in attendance at Dragon*Con this year, were various actors, writers, musicians, artists and performers.
Notably present this year was much of the voice cast from the hit sci-fi comedy Futurama, including Billy West (Phillip J. Fry, Dr. Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg), John DiMaggio (Bender) and Phil LaMarr (Hermes Conrad). Maurice LaMarche (Morbo, Kif Kroker, Lrr) was unable to attend due to illness, though he plans to come to Dragon*Con next year with hopefully more of the cast in tow.
Billy West is a veteran voice actor in animated shows, having begun his long career in the late ‘80s with starring roles in Doug and Ren & Stimpy, two of the first Nickelodeon animated series. John DiMaggio started his career somewhat later around 1994 and is best known for his role as Bender from Futurama.
Voice actor Billy West was in awe of the amount of people that showed up.
“There’s a sea of people here and I love it… What are the odds that, over the years, people would line up just to hear you talking? I mean, I still can’t figure it out. It’s surreal to me,” West said.
Some particularly notable guests in attendance included Stan Lee, creator of characters such as Spiderman, the X-Men and Iron Man.
The voice actors for Fry and Bender on Futurama, Brandon Routh, who played Superman/Clark Kent in Superman Returns and Summer Glau, starring actress in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles participated in several of the panels throughout the conference.
Actors from other popular TV series and movies such as the Harry Potter movies, Star Trek, Eureka, Heroes and Aqua Teen Hunger Force were also greeted with packed crowds of fans.
Voice actor John DiMaggio reveled in this chaotic atmosphere.
“Cons are great… you always see something new at cons. It’s basically a tide of super-dorks, and nerds and geeks and dweebs,” DiMaggio said.
Browncoats, Trekkies, otakus and more endured the crowds, lines and weather to attend the four-day festival of everything geeky. Dragon*Con is likely to grow even more as it reaches its 25th year in 2011.
As an event that is entirely planned, run and supported by fans rather than commercial interests and media outlets, Dragon*Con is a long-standing part of Atlanta’s identity as a cultural center and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.