Wandering through the land of the dragons

Photo by Brenda Lin

For the uninitiated few, Dragon Con, founded in 1987, is a convention which celebrates all things nerdy such as anime, comics, anything related to science fiction, actual science topics, LARPing (Live Action Role Play) and fantasy in general.

Every Labor Day weekend since the convention’s conception, attendees swarm Atlanta’s streets on their way to the host hotels. Last weekend, these buildings were five of Atlanta’s top hotels (Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Sheraton and Westin) as well as part of the AmericasMart.

While the convention offers a host of events such as panels and competitions, simply wandering through the hosting venues is a novel experience. Fans of various art forms, happy to display their support in the guise of cosplay; throughout the hotels and nearby streets are a multitude of attendees dressed as their favorite characters from video games, shows and books. Simply watching the crowds was a treat on its own.

Of course, the most concentrated display of cosplay was the Dragon Con Parade, which took place starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. This event was open to the public, and people crowded the sidewalks to watch as the strange amalgamation of fandoms walked by.

As in previous years, the parade was led by a bagpipe player and was divided by who the participants were dressed as. There were sections for such diverse groups as Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and one dedicated to the Periodic Table featuring, among others, a Potassium banana.

Well after the spectacle of the parade, at 5:30 p.m. of the same day, a Deadpool conga line formed. This line was exactly what it sounds like: a group of well over a hundred Deadpool personalities (including one with a very large bomb, another with a bear, a Deadpool sporting a chef’s hat and apron and one dressed as The Doctor) paraded through the convention halls.

Even without testing one’s own character knowledge by guessing who the cosplayers were dressed as — a dead sport by Monday, the last day of the convention, due to attendees being, for the most part, too tired to dress in costume — there is still plenty to do outside of guest panels and other strictly scheduled events.

The Walk of Fame was a hall in the Marriott were Dragon Con guests held signing sessions for their fans. Though overcrowded and noisy, this converted ballroom managed to enchant attendees through the sheer popularity of those present, including Felicia Day, Grace Park and many from the cast of Arrow and Flash.

If one is feeling charitable, then there was a LifeSouth blood drive taking place near the table top games in the basement of the Hilton, the hotel otherwise dedicated to gaming. On each floor, attendees find a different genre of gaming with LARPing on the fourth floor, table top games in the basement and everything from Role Playing Games (RPGs) to Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) in between.

The AmericasMart was home to Dragon Con’s dealers and exhibitors, though the distinction between these two groups was not made clear. The convention directors should be commended for their planning around these shops, for the entrances were well set up to handle the large crowds of people. Unfortunately, the vendors themselves were too close together for the eager shoppers to maneuver in the cramped aisles, especially at those tables selling blades and lightsabers. In order to fix this congestion, it is most likely necessary to expand to a third vendor room, lending each dealer more space instead of attempting to include more vendors in the newly added area.

These steps have already been made by another area of Dragon Con, the Art Show and Comics Artists Alley which occupy the Grand Hall of the Hyatt. The artwork displayed here is considerably more spread out (with far fewer works hanging on each surface) and the actual walkways seem to be wider meaning that the viewers are not quite as cramped. Convention goers therefore have the option of passing by certain areas quickly should they so desire. Admittedly, this may be simply due to less foot traffic though.

After perusing the art, Dragon Con attendees could descend to the lowest level of the Hyatt to enjoy one of two ill-frequented rooms that showed movies and anime 24 hours a day or to visit a quite popular area, the Armory. These two rooms were dedicated to blades and guns of all kinds, and friendly, slightly over-eager hosts were always present to answer any questions weapon enthusiasts might have about the displays.

Although the Armory was well-frequented, the visitors were even more enthusiastic about the programming associated with the weapons (including an information session about fencing and how movies tend to use the same few moves in varying combinations in order to keep the illusion of real fencing.) The Armory was one of the few places that combined the fun of wandering through the convention and going to actually scheduled events, which was the main point of Dragon Con.