Review Submitted by: Ginny Henry
Dragon Con: The Southeastern answer to SDCC. As always, the convention completely takes over downtown Atlanta for Labor Day weekend, boasting a record attendance of over 77,000 attendees and spanning five host hotels, two of the AmericasMart buildings, the Peachtree Center, and the Atlanta Aquarium. This year, Atlanta was even more booked than usual for Labor Day weekend—over half a million people were expected for to be in town for various events besides Dragon Con, including an AC/DC concert, Gay Pride, and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
There are two reasons Dragon Con staffers repeatedly cited as to why the 30th Anniversary Celebration would be the best Dragon Con yet. First, the 15th Anniversary Dragon Con Parade was broadcast live on The CW Atlanta as its first year being televised. The parade features over 3,000 congoers marching in various cosplays and is arguably the highlight of Dragon Con.
Secondly, Dragon Con is notorious for the unbearable heat, as it takes place in the middle of “Hotlanta” (during one of the hottest parts of the year). This year, that changed with Hurricane Hermine delivering record Labor Day lows to the area for the weekend. Friday and Saturday saw temperatures hovering no higher than 84 degrees, much to the delight of many costumed attendees.
Another first for Dragon Con was the inclusion of Thursday programming, which turns the convention into a five-day affair. Because many guests arrive in Atlanta Thursday afternoon and evening, this year featured a “Nerdy New Year’s Ball” (a party to celebrate the countdown to the official beginning of the convention). Thursday night also featured the Bunny Hutch Party, which celebrated the popular practice of turning a cosplay into a playboy bunny. This came in the form of a Labyrinth-themed masquerade ball, live wrestling matches, and other smaller panels and events.
Many notable guests attended the convention, including actors from television shows like iZombie, Gotham, Firefly, Flash, Once Upon a Time, The 100, and many more. Distinguished names included the ever-popular William Shatner (Star Trek), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), and James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
Also on the guest list were Tory Belleci and Kari Byron of Mythbusters, who used the convention to announce their involvement in the upcoming White Rabbit Project, which will also star Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara. The show will premiere on Netflix in December.
Besides having quite the long list of beloved celebrities and artists, Dragon Con’s massive attendance makes it easy to make new friends. Congoers organize meetups months in advance through Reddit, Facebook, and other social media. This year, the popularity of Overwatch meant it was inevitable to witness groups of strangers following a “Payload” (usually a cooler full of beer) to a meetup.
Dragon Con at night is quite the experience. With so many parties to go to—some con-sponsored, some that just spring up in hallways, bars, lobbies, patios, hotel rooms, or just around Bluetooth speakers—it’s no wonder that Dragon Con has gotten a reputation for the convention that never sleeps. Fan favorite parties from years prior had a repeat performance, including the Zombie Prom, Yule Ball, Heroes and Villains Ball, and the Last Party on Alderaan. There was even a con-sponsored rave that didn’t start until 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
But there’s plenty more to do at Dragon Con after dark besides party. Talloolah Love’s Burlesque show is always a big hit, as well as the 18+ late night puppet slam. Things get weird in the Erotic Fan Fiction Show, and in Adult Origami, which is exactly what it sounds like. Thursday night there was an all-night binge-a-thon of Stranger Things, running from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., because everyone wants to start off their con weekend by staying up literally all night. Our prayers went out to the brave souls who actually attempted this panel.
Despite already having a massive amount of material for gamers in previous years, Dragon Con moved farther into AmericasMart this year to expand the gaming track even more. Venders were moved to Building Two to make room for tabletop, retro arcade, and LAN gaming rooms in Building One. With such a huge space to play, it was easily a gamer’s heaven.
Overall, the 30th Anniversary for Dragon Con was a huge success, delivering on all of the best parts of Dragon Con and helping to create a wonderful weekend.