Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dragon*Con: An Out-of-This-World Convention

Dragon*Con Superheroes
For four days, over Labor Day Weekend, downtown Atlanta became home to thousands of television, movie and video game characters, superheroes and creatures found only in the fantasy world, as well as dozens of musicians and Hollywood and television celebrities. The occasion? Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is the world’s largest annual science fiction/fantasy convention, drawing approximately 50,000 people this year.

As I heard it many moons ago, Atlanta received its "international city" status primarily through its convention business. Dragon*Con contributes to that economic force, but it's by no means your typical convention. Neither is it the sci-fi/fantasy convention of yesteryear.

Vampiress, Queen of the Damned
Queen of the Damned
Dragon*Con attracts people from all walks of life who are interested in science fiction, comic books, cinema and the fantasy realm. It also draws artists, writers and big-name celebrities. Hundreds of the attendees donned costumes depicting their favorite characters. Few of the costumes were off-the-rack…a lot of creativity went into portraying an incredibly wide range of characters and were highly impressive.

However, the convention is not all about the costumes and rubbing elbows with celebrities. The organizers also ensure that ample opportunity is provided to give back to the community by holding one of the largest blood drives in the city. Was it odd that "vampires" were advertising the annual blood drive? Not at Dragon*Con. Undoubtedly they increased the record-setting number of pints collected, without availing themselves to the tempting conventioneers contributions.

Star Trek World Record Attempt
Star Trek World Record Attempt
Increasing the fun-factor, the convention organizers coordinated three world record attempts:
  • most superhero costumes in a single place;
  • most Star Trek costumes in a single place; and
  • largest steam punk photograph.

I participated in the Guinness Book of World Records attempt for Star Trek costumes, having donned a Starfleet Vulcan uniform (and the pointy ears). The final count was 571, beating the record of 543 currently held by conventioneers in Las Vegas. The tallied and recorded data is being sent to Guinness for verification.

Dragon*Con Parade
Dragon*Con Parade
There were events outside the convention specially organized for Dragon*Con conventioneers, including:
The Dragon*Con Parade is a favorite for kids of all ages. The procession takes place on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta and includes costumes representing the full gamut of genres at Dragon*Con, floats and celebrities. The most notable celebrities participating in the Parade this year were Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century) and Kevin Sorbo (Amdrameda/Hercules).

Travis with Marina Sirtis
Me with Marina Sirtis
At this year’s Dragon*Con, Summer Glau (Serenity/The Sarah Connor Chronicles) was the most popular attending celebrity, noted by the never-ending line of Glau enthusiasts wanting an autograph and a moment to chat with her about their love of her work.

The Walk of Fame was one of my favorite convention destinations. It's where attendees can see dozens of celebrities and get their autographs (often for a nominal fee). A few of the big names were Ben Browder (Farscape/Stargate), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), LeVar Burton (Roots/Star Trek: The Next Generation), Edward James Olmas (Battlestar Galactica), Morena Baccarin (Firefly/V), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Daniel Cudmore (X-Men/Twilight), and the superstar of comic book creation, Mr. Stan Lee.

There were 39 specific tracks that conventioneers could follow, some of which included Animation, Anime/Manga, British Sci-Fi Media, Costuming, Gaming Programing, Live Performances, Robotics, Science, Star Wars and Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Personally, I'm a Star Trek fan, so I followed, very excitedly, many of the programs on the Star Trek track, of which Garrett Wang (Star Trek: Voyager) was the track Chairperson and speaker or moderator at numerous Trek events and programs. To portray such a seemingly innocent character on Voyager (Ensign Harry Kim), Wang is in real life quite the hilarious guy, and he does an excellent impression of George Takei.

Jedi Knight
Jedi Knight
One of my favorite Dragon*Con events was the first annual "Miss Star Trek Universe" pageant. With Master of Ceremonies Garrett Wang, and Star Trek celebrities on the judges panel, the program was off to a great start. There were 12 contestants representing the Borg, Klingons, Orions, the Trill, Betazoids, Bajorans and of course Terrans, all from the realm of Star Trek. The winner of the pageant, crowned by last year's reigning winner of the Klingon contest, had travelled to participate all the way from Mexico.

Kids are sci-fi/fantasy fans too and many were in attendance, more so for events earlier in the day and especially the Dragon*Con Parade. Most of the evening events, especially at the host hotels, are tailored more for adults although the convention works with an outside vendor to provide childcare services at the convention.

Will I attend next year’s Dragon*Con for their 25th Anniversary? The real question is, "What costume(s) will I be wearing?"

Visiting Dragon*Con

Date toured: Friday-Monday, September 3-6, 2010; Next year, September 2-5, 2011
Hours: Continuous. Scheduled events begin at 10 a.m. and continue until after 3 a.m.
Location: Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta Hilton & Towers, Atlanta Sheraton, and Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta
Parking: multiple downtown public parking garages and hotel garages, rates vary
MARTA: any station near the host hotels


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