DragonCon 2016 (Convention Report)

hocuspocusAh, DragonCon. It is a mythical place of joy and wonder. It could be eight months away and friends on social media are still talking about working on costumes, booking hotels, getting panels together, etc. It is like a week long Halloween celebration of all fandoms and all walks of life. This is why DragonCon is probably the most fun convention you will ever attend.

It had been a while since I attended my last D*con (2012 to be exact). But I was a regular ever since 2005. Conventions are tricky that way. We’d love to attend them all, but life rears its ugly head from time to time. This year a friend of mine was going back for his second year. I had never been to the show with him and felt it was about that time to take the trip up from Orlando to make my triumphant return.

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Hotel Experience:
Every D*con I ever attended, I would stay in a host hotel. These were perfect for a couple reasons. Dropping merchandise off, filling up a drink or two (or three), but this is an absolute MUST for costumers!  Making the trek in a Imperial Guard outfit down two blocks might not sound that bad….at first. But when you factor in being on your feet all day and evening and include the walk back to your hotel, you will instantly rethink your decision.

By the time myself and my friend decided to go, all the host hotels were booked (for DragonCon, it is MUST that you book your room in advance to stay at the major three). We ended up staying at a decently priced hotel right outside Atlanta. The hotel was nice, but a bit far for the ultimate D*Con experience. Uber prices weren’t that bad. But when you factored in all the Uber’s from the weekend and time it took driving, we probably could have stayed at a host hotel and been able to attend three Venture Brothers panels over.

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Costumes:
This is where DragonCon shines the most! I’ve heard this show get nick named a lot of things over the years. But only one really sticks with me when describing it to friends. NERDYGRAS!
Costumers from all over the world attend this show each year and try not to outdo one another, but just join in on the fun. Sometimes it’s the bigger, the better. If you head to a show like San Diego ComicCon, you will see some wonderful costumes. But nothing in comparison to these beauties.

We’re talking multiple Star Wars groups with up to fifteen members or more, giant sized Lego Ghostbusters, Overwatch cosplay’s done right. The list goes on and on. Downtown Atlanta even shuts down early for one morning and holds an annual DragonCon parade! This year it was even aired on The CW in Atlanta. Not only do we get to see great groups (some together for great causes) but insane decked out vehicles. BttF Delorean’s, Ecto-1’s, Mad Max monsters and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

marajadeThis year I attended DragonCon Night at the Georgia Aquarium. I had always heard about it in the past but was always late to the game. This is where specific cosplay really shined. The theme’s were critical for this event and there was not a disappointment in the venue. From Abe Sapien to Little Sisters, you can get some of the coolest photos at this event! There was also a costume contest hosted by non other than actor Judge Reinhold. After the contest attendees could check out the exhibits at low light (some fishes need sleep), grab a drink at the bars and just enjoy the atmosphere. Definitely a cool experience if you are trying to change up your regular con routine.

Gaming:
A lot of the time when you are at the show, it is nice to just sit and relax. Why not play a game or twelve? Tabletop gaming as been a huge draw for attendees for years. Games like Settlers of Catan, Betrayal at House on the Hill are easy to access. You may even find a Dungeons & Dragons game looking for more players, This year I noticed a lot of RPG’s were hosting buy ins. Not a bad way to spend an evening meeting some really great people.

In the past, I was always sad about the lack of video game presence at DragonCon. This year I was smacked across the face with not just video games. But an entire arcade of hard to find Japanese titles. From Dance Dance Revolution to Initial D, this place was going off! Fighting games were blowing up with fans screaming and jumping up and down. Pokken Tournament went to new heights. There was even an Overwatch Tournament with cash prizes. I was floored by how much gaming was there this year and cannot wait to see it grow.

Note: My favorite game on the show floor was an original Twilight Zone pinball machine. I stopped dead in my tracks and drooled for a bit. Don’t judge!

Panels:
In all my years of attending shows, DragonCon seems to really know its audience. For instance back in 2004 fans of the series ‘Firefly’ got together and really pushed to get the series back on the air after FOX prematurely dropped the show after less than one season.  Most of the “Can’t Stop the Signal” crew banned together right in the middle of the Marriott lobby. Whedon showed the support of fans to studios and was able to get closure to the series with the film ‘Serenity’ in 2005. This is just a small fraction of how dedicated DragonCon attendees are. In 2010 Battlestar Galactica fans reined supreme, and so on and so on.

One thing the show does right is let fans of the these creations run their own tracks. For those who do not know, tracks are day long panels that run from 10am to midnight. You can find everything from your typical discussions, fan Q&A’s, sing along’s and pretty much just about anything that will pull a crowd. Speaking of fan Q&A’s, DC host some of the largest in the east coast. My favorite in perticular is the Venture Brothers  panel hosted by creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. These two come back year after year and put on some of the best Q&A’s I’ve ever been to. There is not a dry eye in the room from laughter.

johnnyArt Show:
Seeing friends in costumes with a drink in hand or buying that AT-AT I’ve always been looking for in the dealers room is all well and good. But my number one draw to come back to DragonCon year after year is the amount of talent that attends every year. The art show (located in the lower level of The Hyatt is one of the most breathtaking shows you will ever attend. This year I saw some of the coolest pieces I’ve ever seen at the show. It seriously gets better with each year. One great aspect of the show is that it also runs as an four day long auction. If you walk by and see a piece you like, you can write down you bid and come back at the end of the show and see if you achieved greatness. My first Dragon*Con, I came home with a large airbrush piece of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein for under $80. You cannot beat that for original art!

It seems like this year there were a lot of sculptures, miniatures, jewelry and just very bizarre 3D pieces. A lot of this stuff was out of this world. I would love to show you all, but DragonCon has a strict “No flash photography” policy on the art show floor, which respects the artists work. Though I did go a bit crazy gabbing some of my favorites business cards to link to you all here. This should work just as well.

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Patricia Wehunt
Dan Dossantos
Charles Urbach
Tom Taggart
Michael Manomivibul
Butch Honeck
Alina Nalivayko
Paul Bielaczyc
T-Rex Studios
Alex Pardee

strangerthingsParties:
These of course are plentiful at the show during the evening. Since most of the hotels are booked solid by attendees, a lot of fans come out and purchase blocks of rooms to have a bit of fun in. If you are a new comer and don’t know too many attendees and still want to have a good time, that is also covered by the show! Long running parties like The Last Party on Alderaan and Middle-Earth Dance Party are sure to have you on your feet in theme in no time! There are also burlesque shows, Rock Horror Picture Show shadow cast performances. You name it, it probably has a party. Not to mention the massive raves that go on the main hall in The Marriott. Even venues around the convention throw DragonCon parties like Hard Rock’s Cosplay Deviant party. There is no reason to go to sleep at 8pm on a Friday night!

This is just a small portion of what you can experience at next years show. Honestly, one cannot simply do everything DragonCon has to offer. You really make it your own, and that is what is beautiful about this show. I hate to harp on San Diego Comic Con again, but I feel like everyone basically has the same experience there. That just sounds boring to me. Wouldn’t you like to go to where the people are? Then make sure to look into booking your room soon! I’m always looking forward to seeing how this show evolves. Staff do a great job at keeping things in order and most importantly, keeping you the con goer satisfied.


“Until next year!”

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