The city of Atlanta, Georgia has much to offer throughout the year, but many will say nothing quite compares to the magic of Dragon*Con come Labor Day Weekend in the Peach state’s capital. Dragon*Con, starting as a small convention in the Hilton with some 1,400 people, has become a beacon for Atlanta with attendance numbers over 60,000 spanning the Hyatt, Hilton, Westin, Sheraton, and the Marriott Marquis over 4 days. The amount of things to see and do at the con are limitless including but not limited to watching panels, going to workshops, cosplaying, visiting the walk of fame, visiting with new and old friends, and well as great places to kick back and unwind in the evening.
This year has marked my 10th straight year at the veteran convention and if there is one thing that I’ve learned through all of it, no two years are ever the same. For most previous years, I’ve visited friends, wore the best thing I concocted that year, visited the walk of fame at least once, and watched a panel or two. All in all, I kept most of my time to debuting costumes and attending photo shoots. Being on the crew for this lovely podcast, The Fairy Tail Podcast, for Dragon*Con helped me see some of those things I really had been missing! Though I kept some of the costumes and photo shoot tradition, I stepped outside of the cosplay world to get to experience other parts of the con. Though to note, all of it can be done in or out of costume, there is no doubt about that, just remember to stay well hydrated no matter the con or what you’re in. For comfort sake, I put on my lounge pants, my sleek black chucks, and my best Last of Us tee and hit the con floor.
The best thing about everything going on at the convention is that there is a place for everything. Hitting the floor in civvy clothes, one is like an assassin blending through the crowd unnoticed. Everything is seen without being noticed or stopped for photos or the like unless said assassin is a guest, but even some of them can slip through. To break the hotels down to a basic where’s-what, the Sheraton is more than likely everyone’s first stop for the con which houses badge pick up/registration, the Westin is the mall of Nerdom which houses all the dealers and shops of the figures, books, etc., the Hyatt is you art gallery, artists, and fan tables for things from all walks of life big and small, the Hilton is where all of the massive photo shoots are held as well as some of the bigger panels in grand ballrooms, lastly but certainly not least, the awe-inspiring Marriott Marquis is the gateway of the con. The Marriott Marquis is unique in that it has 3 large lobby levels, escalators on both ends, and sky bridges to the Hilton, Hyatt, and Peachtree mall. This makes it the prime location to hang out, grab a drink, or show off your costume or group on the third level. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s where you will find me 90% of the time!
Now that the venue has been covered, let’s get to the meat of this sandwich. As stated above, no two years have gone the same. There is always something different even with the same venues. Locations of certain things move, new panels are planned out by attending patrons, new guests attend, cosplayers assemble large groups to show off their skills at various places and times, and even guests will join in on the costume fun! There is something for everyone be it panel or person at Dragon Con. The aspiring artist can seek out industry professionals who draw, ink, or color for leading comic companies like Marvel or DC or even talk to pros who built their own comics up like The Devil’s Panties, or the aspiring actor can connect with their favorite actor one on one in the walk of fame or attend one of their panels for advice or guidance. Cosplayers have a bit of leg work to do, but when they find that cosplayer whose work just blows them away, they can simply talk to them about it. The majority of the time, cosplayers are glad to share their knowledge, most love to in fact!
Next we have the most important part, the people who make it all happen! Dragon*Con spans 5 hotels, entertains 60,000+ guests, manages 400+ guests, controls a small army of staffers, has over 3,000 hours of programing, and piles of endless fun. I can’t say much of the other directors but I do want to take a moment to appreciate the guy who coordinates till he drops then coordinates some more. Dan Carroll is the hero of Dragon*Con from my perspective. He’s always going and getting so much done it’s beyond amazing! Dragon*Con would surely take a hit without this talented guy in their arsenal. He is up before many con goes even go to bed and late to crash as well. This year he walked over 40 miles during that weekend and that was pretty “stationary” as compared to other cons. From all of us at the Fairy Tail Podcast we greatly appreciate the chance to work with such a talented guy even if only for a few days out of the year!
There is no other con like Dragon*Con and there’s no surprise that this marks my 10th year in attendance. Everything from start to finish was superb. There are hiccups and bumps at every con but this one was flawless! From location, to guests, to the spot on security, and the friendly hotel staff, this con has set the bar. I can’t wait to see the big 30 next year!
Stepping away from the facts and magic of the production, I was focused on a very specific group for Dragon*Con. Being a cosplayer as well as a gamer, many of my cosplays often reflect that love. I spent much of my time this year in cosplay as Liara from Mass Effect, Ellie from The Last of Us, and Tauriel from the Hobbit. Starting on day one, which was Thursday for me, I threw on my Ellie cosplay, worn down bag, peace tied rifle, and trusty brick then hopped on the tram to the convention. With ease we were checked into our hotel room at the Marriott Marquis and on our way to Dragon*Con fun times. Thursday was mostly a meet up with friends day, have some good lunch, take a few photos, and then get changed to elf it up at a room party as Tauriel from The Hobbit. The Lord of the Ring games and dwarf versus elf amusement kept everyone on their toes whether it was jesting with Thorin about his nephews, Kili’s poor life choices or Tauriel’s unethical love.
Friday started early for me, 5am to be exact! I geared up bright and early to help with tv spots for 11alive news and Fox 5 news. After that, it ended about 9am, I swapped costume to be Frozen Fever Anna for the massive Disney shoot for about three hours then wrapped up my cosplaying for the day. I spent the rest of the day out of cosplay checking out the walk of fame at the con and all it had to offer. There are always so many talented people that it’s hard to see them all. I made my way around to see who was where and set my plan of attack. There were many people on my list to speak with, but I got so wrapped up in the few awesome guys that I saw it was impossible to make it anywhere else
between it all. First on my list of people I visited, was Courtenay Taylor. She has quite the amount of work under her belt but the hook for me was her work as Jack from Mass Effect. We spent quite some time chatting up about the game and even the podcast. Next was William Salyers who also worked on Mass Effect as Mordin in the third installment. After a bit of talking, quickly William and I delved into the land of PC gaming from kicking butt to getting it kicked. He sticks to more offline than on, where as I’m all about the multiplayer! Both were beyond amazing and great to talk to! Next I made my way to C. Martin Croker (Meatwad from Aqua Team Hunger Force) and Carey Means (Frylock from Aqua Team Hunger Force) where we talked about the area, Adult Swim, and various things with the both of them being locals. Lastly, but certainly not least, was Dino Andrade with worked on the massive multiplayer game World of Warcraft and the Scarecrow from Batman Arkham Asylum. My rounds for Friday were short but the conversations were long! Skipping ahead to about 8pm that night, I went to pick up a hot glue gun from my friend that night and ran into a very lost person. Through conversation, directions, and eventually walking him to his destination, I helped a rather lost Charlie Schlatter (Kick Buttowski, Kevin Levin, Flash from Lego Batman 2, Raikov Metal Gear Solid) reach his destination.
Saturday was cosplay-centric with many shoots, the parade, and lots of cosplay repairs. Starting out at 7 am, I started applying my make-up and headpiece for Liara from Mass Effect. By 9:15 I was totally suited up and out the door to the parade start. I had just shy of a mile to walk but it was well worth it. The crowds and heat were less forgiving however. Will ten minutes to spare, I cooled down before the N7 Elite, a Mass Effect cosplay group with a 200+ strong Atlanta division, walked. One other member dressed as Commander Shepard was kind enough to give me one of her cooling packs to wedge in my own armor. The parade went off without a hitch and in no time we marched the whole route. Quickly following the parade I gave William Salyers and Courtenay Taylor updates on the N7 photo shoot (which they wanted to attend) and cooled down in the hour of down time. After returning to pick up the two talented voice actors, we made our way to the shoot, snagged some photos, and then walked them to their next photo. All in the meantime of walking though we had a fun time chatting about the game, shoot, or even all the fun things at Dragon Con. Saturday was photo shoot after photo shoot and meet up after meetup. All of the down time from meets and shoots were filled will Shepard Shuffling, bad turian jokes, and armor repairs. All in all, it was a tiring day but the best of days at the con.
Sunday is always the sad day at any con or at least it is for me. I had no alarms set to wake me up nor did I plan on gearing back up in cosplay. At 9:30 I joined a friend for smoothies at the Peachtree mall before I decided on doing anything else. After waking up and getting rolling, I made my rounds in the walk of fame chatting up the guests I had a chance
to befriend over the few days. After coaxing from the N7 Elite guys I hang out with, I geared back into Liara, assembled some of the guys, and bugged Kevin Jones to put his Urdot Wrex costume on. Though this run was fun it was short of only a few hours. I then cleaned up and packed my things to get ready to depart. I made one last walk through the walk of fame giving hugs and goodbyes to all of the great people I met and managed to catch Bill Farmer (Goofy, Pluto, Foghorn) before he departed to give him a hug and thank him for his work. All in all Dragon con was the best year yet!
Though Dragon*Con is massive and seems to last forever, it does however end. Next year will be bigger, better, and even more impressive just when you thought it couldn’t get any better! If you haven’t ever attended, you don’t know what you are missing!
Did you attend Dragon Con? Tell us about your time at the con! What were the pros and cons? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org! Stay posted for interviews from some super talented guests from the con by keeping up with us on facebook, twitter, or through the website.
Article written by Tina Mickel.
Photos taken by Travis Oates.