DragonCon roars on for 30th Anniversary

Photo by Sara Schmitt

Once a year, for four days in September, a migration occurs into Atlanta. For four days, tens of thousands of people will flock to Atlanta to attend DragonCon. They come here to see their favorite celebrities, enjoy panels and discussions, game and enjoy in merriment, and  bond and socialize with those who share their love of fantasy worlds.

Originating in 1987, DragonCon began as a project of a local science fiction and fantasy group, Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players (DAGR). The first ever DragonCon had a total attendance of 1,400 people. DragonCon celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

With a crowd of approximately 75,000 people, this year was one of their busiest years ever. Boasting over 3,500 hours of panels, seminars, demonstrations and more, DragonCon is becoming one of America’s biggest conventions.

While DragonCon offers a variety of events, the convention’s grand tradition is the parade. On Saturday, the parade had around 3,000 participants portraying characters for all spectators to enjoy. The parade provided a glimpse of the many costumes that people wear. Ranging from the Avengers, to Harry Potter, to the plethora of “Doctor Who” costumes and a legion of Storm Troopers, celebrating interest in sci-fi and fantasy was made possible in countless ways.

One of the most iconic things about DragonCon is the costumes. The majority of people in attendance wore costumes of their favorite characters, ranging from full scale Power Armor suits from “Fallout” to Disney princesses dancing through the hotels. While some attendees were showing off their first ever costumes, others spent months and hundreds of dollars on their outfits.

Some elderly participants were dressed up as Charlie Brown and pulled Snoopy’s dog house through the halls, while small children dashed around dressed up as their superheroes, having the time of their lives.

No matter their age, stature, or experience, thousands of fans enjoyed putting on their masks, donning their tights and armor, and twirling their capes as they became their favorite characters for a few days.

If an attendee did not want to dress up or just did not have the time to make a costume, DragonCon offered excitement outside of costumes. Panels, discussions, demonstrations and shows about a variety of “geeky” topics abounded throughout the convention.

A seminar revealed how puppets are used in movies and other shows. Attendees who were curious about how martial arts are involved in “The Matrix” had the opportunity to watch professionals perform and learn a little, too. A retired US Navy Captain taught audiences how to create a rail gun and about submarine warfare tactics. There was even a panel about competitive tea-biscuit dunking. With so many panels, no attendee could ever be bored.

DragonCon had their own little bazaar to make sure their fans bought any trinket, shirt or knick-knack they could possibly want. Little booths were scattered around the dealer’s room, ranging from big name companies like WeLoveFine and Chessex, down to a single person selling her fan art of her favorite series.

Replica props abounded. A fan could buy a replica of Sting from “The Hobbit” and his or her own custom lightsaber. Poster collectors could try to acquire an original Star Wars movie poster, even signed ones. The Artist Gallery offered many options for the art connoisseur.

Visitors could buy images of fantasy landscapes or deep space to frame or models and wood carvings to place on their coffee tables. More expensive options included commissioned art pieces from a favorite movie, a custom sculpture or a custom set of Storm Trooper armor.

Beyond the costumes and vendors at the event, attendees could participate in one of many video game tournaments.

Tournaments were held in three categories: PC games, console games and handheld games. In the PC gaming category, big titles such as “Heroes of the Storm,” “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” were all available with cash prizes for the winners.

For consoles, the ever popular “Super Smash Bros.” for the Wii U was the main event. Other titles such as “Mortal Kombat X” and “Street Fighter V” were offered for other fighting game enthusiasts.

For those not interested in either the PCs or the consoles, multiple Pokémon Go competitions and all-day lures were offered. A collectors competition took place every day except Monday, and a Pokémon Go gym tournament was held for those looking for more competition and  prizes.

DragonCon encapsulated the many varied shows, fandoms and interests of its 75,000 fans. Ranging from the new-born baby to the elderly attendee, and from the first time experience to the seasoned veteran, the diverse audience had many options for entertainment. With the celebration of 30 years of conventions, DragonCon continues to grow bigger and more impressive with every year.