Still Chasing The Magnificent Dragon (Con)

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This year marked my fifth visit to Dragon Con in Atlanta, and as a result, one would think I would have a difficult time finding something new and exciting to keep my attention. It wasn’t, as the photos I took of DCW (Dragon Con Wrestling) will attest. Rather, I struggled to find the best balance that allowed me to explore Dragon Con’s other varied offerings and still attend the celebrity panels I wanted to see. Having injured my left foot severely enough that I have to wear an air cast, and as the con sprawls across five different hotels and the Americasmart, I gained an entirely new appreciation for just how much walking an attendee does at Dragon Con. I therefore not only had to balance the panels that I wanted to see, but I also found myself trying to minimize the amount of walking that I needed to do.

As indicated by the removal of the asterisk, Dragon Con has been going through a number of changes, and when any con starts to make substantive shifts in leadership or design, there will be kinks, so I did expect that. Some of the changes were good, though not all. With that said, I’m going to break them out.

The Good

As early as last year, we heard rumors that the dealers’ rooms were moving out of the Marriott and being consolidated elsewhere, so I really should not have been as startled as I was when I stumbled into the Walk of Fame in the ballroom traditionally reserved for one of the two upper floor dealer’s rooms. The move to the Americasmart did give vendors more space, and this year, I saw a much wider variety of vendors than I have seen previously, while many of the same fantastic vendors returned.

Due to the move, the Walk of Fame was certainly easier to access and closer to the heart of the convention, meaning the Marriott and the Hyatt. For the first time in my experience at this convention, I actually managed to wander around the Hall of Fame and see the celebrities I wanted to see.

In case you wondered, Silas Weir Mitchell, Grimm’s Monroe, is really very tall. George Takei was charming, with a wickedly funny sense of humor, and Sylvester McCoy was energetically charming, despite his own food injury. He used a mechanized scooter to do laps during his Q&A in the Sheraton. John Barrowman and the rest of the cast present at the Arrow panel (Manu Bennett, Seth Gabel, Janina Gavankar, and Kelly Hu) were fantastically funny and may have won me over to watching the series.

New celebrities were in attendance, including Lucy Lawless and Adrian Paul of Xena and Highlander fame respectively, and I will admit to fan-girling over the returning Avery Brooks. Getting to see Billy Dee Williams was definitely a treat.

The Bad

Because the dealers’ room was so far away, a specific trip to walk the floors was required, and in the larger space, some vendors were almost impossible to find. I’d purchased a corset from Marvelous Mayhem last year, and we were forced to cross reference the booth number from the Dragon Con app with maps that were placed at intervals in the rooms. Many of the popular vendors were still choked with people, creating long lines that could (and did) back into the exterior hallways.

Speaking of lines, the pre-registration line on Thursday reached ponderous proportions, forcing Dragon Con staff to cap the line. This was a marked change from last year, but from what I can gather, the wait times were not at all what they were in prior years. In addition, the Con Staff still will not allow official lines to form until an hour before each panel, leading to some confusion and “line pre-camping” for the very popular panels.

Experiencing the lines as a person with an injury really did curtail my enjoyment of the Con, despite the efforts of Con’s Disability Services because getting from the Westin to the Sheraton was rendered so difficult by the crowds and my own slower walking speed that I simply didn’t do it. When covering a con, I try to hit all of the exhibits and vendors, but I barely covered half of the vendors and skipped the Hilton entirely this year. Accessibility is always important, and from what I could see, Con staff did their best to accommodate a wide variety of differently-abled persons. However, the nature of the convention set up does make doing so difficult.

Disappointingly, Aurelio Voltaire announced at his Sunday night concert that he would not be performing at next year’s Dragon Con for the first time in fifteen years.

The Awesome

Because I dislike ending on a negative note, I will say that Dragon Con remains one of my favorite conventions because the fans bring a spirit and joie de vivre that permeates the crowds. This year’s quirky cosplay exemplified that spirit with highlights ranging from the Photo Bomb Squad to a Sharknado cosplay that has to be seen to believed. In terms of beautiful cosplay, my favorite is definitely the Skeksis both for the craftsmanship and the fact that the cosplayer remained in character. Be sure to check out our photo section of all the great costumes running later this week.

As always, even standing in line was fantastic because I had the opportunity to strike up conversations about Con, fandoms, genres, and the collective experience of geekdom. That’s the spirit that keeps me coming back to Dragon Con, and why everyone should put this Con onto their list.

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