Dragon Con is the biggest convention in the southeast, drawing over 80,000 attendees this year and hosting celebrities such as Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle, Serenity), Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), and the one and only Stan Lee, among many others. It is a four-day convention and held every Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta across the Sheraton, Hyatt, Mariott Marquis, Westin, and Hilton hotels, as well as the America Mart. I haven’t attended this convention in two years, but when I heard that Nathan Fillion and Matt Smith were coming I had to be there.
Georgia weather can be very quirky in the fall. Sometimes it’s gorgeous; other times it’s hot and horrible. This year, however, provided perfect convention weather. Despite being in a leather jacket for my cosplay, I never broke a sweat. This is important since a good portion of the time at Dragon Con is spent outdoors either going between buildings, watching the parade, or waiting in line–and I’ve done all of these in full elf armor while perspiration poured down my neck. It’s certainly worth it to look epic and/or get a celebrity’s autograph, but not comfortable by any means.
Transportation to the convention was very easy. I think that’s one main reason for Dragon Con’s popularity. Parking right next to the con can cost up to $30, but the public transit system called the MARTA can easily transport attendees from the northern outskirts of Atlanta, the east and west midtown, and the airport on the south side for a mere $2.50 per ride with free MARTA parking. The MARTA takes attendees right to the downtown area where the hotels and America Mart are a short walk away. Right next to the MARTA stop is a food court with a very wide selection, so cuisine is easily accessible anytime you need to grab a meal–if you want to brave the lines that is.
I got my pass in less than twenty minutes, which was great since I’ve waited three hours in the past. Friday was “See Nathan Fillion Day” for me since it was the only day he could make it to the convention.
The Walk of Fame, where celebrities reside, took up several ballrooms with plenty of space to walk between. When I first arrived, the Walk of Fame wasn’t open so I headed to the Comic and Pop Artists Alley in the America Mart. I got to see some familiar artists and even commissioned a unique piece, but I was a little surprised by how small the section was–only half a floor. I remember it being bigger, making this year’s offerings a little disappointing since the artists section at conventions is my favorite part. On the other hand, the Vendor Hall took up three-and-a-half floors of the America Mart. There was a massive selection of goodies, including moving and purring tribbles, advanced cosplay makeup from Arda Wigs USA, handmade leather clothing, scented oils from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and (of course) a Japanese candy stand full of Asian goodies, including rare flavors of ramune and pocky.
On Friday, I donned my Katniss Everdeen cosplay and received a lot of three-fingered salutes and pictures, which felt great. The only downer was when security stopped me on account of my bow. I’d taken this bow to Dragon Con before with no problem, but apparently, security has tightened in the two years since I’ve been to Dragon Con, because this security guy was kinda coarse with me. He walked up to me and said, “I’m security. Is that a real bow? Let me see it.” I complied. He looked at it and said to me, “You know you’re not supposed to have this strung. It’s in the rules. You can use a piece of yarn instead. Unstring it.” Then he handed it back to me.
I apologized, then proceeded to unstring my recurve bow, which was now a useless prop because only actual bowstring can bend it into the shape it’s supposed to be, so the rest of the day I carried around a funny-looking plastic stick. I was even stopped later to peace-tie my training arrows that couldn’t stab anything if I tried, which cost me a spot in line. I’d already tied them tightly with leather, but that apparently wasn’t good enough for the staff.
After killing time perusing, I headed to the Walk of Fame in the Marriot Marquis–apparently a bit late. A very long line of people had already formed to even get into the Walk of Fame, so it took me over an hour just to reach the line to see Nathan Fillion. The staff seemed very stressed with the volume of people coming to see this infamous cult classic celebrity. They were uptight and didn’t seem happy with having to finagle the lines to suit the number of anxious fans. I was scolded a time or two along with a number of other people for not standing in the right place by accident. When you’re in line for around two hours, you tend to lose track of what position you’ve shifted into to ease your aching feet.
But all of this chaos was well worth it when I got to meet Nathan Fillion. He shook everyone’s hand who came up to him, including mine. He even told me “I volunteer as tribute” when he saw me wearing my Katniss costume and gave me the three-fingered salute, which absolutely made my day. He was very kind and I’m so happy I got to meet him and get his autograph.
Later on, I decided to attend Nathan Fillion’s panel about the brainchild he created with Alan Tudyk, Con Man. I hadn’t seen the show, but I wanted to attend one panel with Nathan Fillion. The line was ridiculously long. It wrapped three-quarters of the way around the outside of the building. It was the longest line I’ve ever been in for a convention, but I stuck it out. Thankfully the weather didn’t roast me, I made it into the panel, and was rewarded with many laughs from Nathan Fillion, along with some insight into this indie show now being aired on SyFy.
Sunday was photo op day and I had two booked for William Shatner and Matt Smith. This was only my second time doing photo ops, my first being in May at MegaCon Orlando, so I was anxious and a bit nervous about how this convention would do things since MegaCon went so smoothly and Dragon Con tends to be… less smooth. The first appointment wasn’t for a few hours so I had time to kill and hit the Vendor’s Hall again. I debuted my Ymir cosplay from Attack on Titan, which to my disappointment received absolutely zero attention. Dragon Con is definitely more live-action and domestic animation-friendly than Eastern-entertainment oriented.
Another thing I observed while killing time walking around is that Dragon Con, unfortunately, has some less-than-appealing attributes. Firstly, smoking isn’t prohibited or restricted around buildings, so anyone can whip out a cigarette at any time, and tobacco-using individuals tend to congregate in certain places, which in my humble opinion, is a health hazard for non-smoking passerbys going into buildings. Secondly, drinking is very much sanctioned. The hotel bars offer a wide variety of alcoholic beverages, including beer and mixed drinks, so conferees can imbibe whenever they wish.
Thirdly: the infamous “Christian” crier. This guy is well-known for coming to Dragon Con every year to stand on a street corner with a megaphone and recite condemning Scripture to “the sinners who attend Dragon Con.” I felt ashamed that he was calling himself a Christian. All he was gathering was sarcastic mumbles. People even started standing next to him, booing and heckling him. What disturbed me the most was someone intentionally cosplaying as Satan holding a sign reading, “I’ll be your senpei.” This display made me extremely uncomfortable and I avoided going past that corner as much as I could. On the opposite side of the scale, GameChurch also attended the convention this year, but their booth sadly didn’t seem to garner much attention from the attendees–perhaps because of the negative reception and display going on at the street corner.
Not to toot my own horn, but this is why I feel Geeks Under Grace’s mission is so important. Geeks who are exposed to some guy claiming to be a Christian who is putting them down on a street corner are certainly not going to come to Christ. I’m not approving of their responses at all, but his harsh words attracted those responses like a magnet, and I don’t feel that he was representing Jesus at all. This display not only disturbed me, but also furthered my conviction about the importance of GUG’s existence.
Okay, time to step off my soapbox and get back to the fun stuff…
The William Shatner photo op was an easy in-and-out. My dad and I lined up, and within a half-hour or so we were shuffled into the building. Our group was taken to the line, and then directly to the photo op booth. We had our ticket scanned, stepped behind the black curtain, tucked our stuff in the cubby–but brought along our tribbles–then took our places next to old Shatner himself and got our pic. As you can see in the picture, my long-standing, Star Trek-fan dad was ecstatic.
The Matt Smith photo op wasn’t for a few hours, so I got an autograph from Karen Gillan. She, along with Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, and Arthur Darvill, were all in attendance, so they actually had their own signing section on the International Level of the Marriot-Marquis. I had to pre-purchase a ticket for the autograph, which is something I never had to do before, and if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to get the autograph. This line took quite a while to get through. I even had time for a friend to come up and have a full conversation with me. But again, the wait was totally worth it. Karen sounds exactly like she does in the show in real life, and I’m so happy to have my favorite companion’s autograph.
I saved the best for last: the Matt Smith photo op. The time had come. While barely containing my excitement, I got to the line. During an unusually long wait, I talked to some fellow Whovians, who were just as excited as I was to see him.
Then the moment finally came. He was right there in the booth, looking as great as ever. I walked up to Matt Smith and asked him, “Can I hug the Eleventh Doctor?” He said, “Yes!” And wrapped his arms around me while we got this photo. I think this was one of the happiest convention moments of my life. One of the Whovians who was in line with me was so happy she cried and I gave her a hug. Matt Smith was so fantastic! The entire convention was worth it to see him!
I have to say: MegaCon has spoiled me. I really like having a convention all in one building as opposed to across several buildings, and I prefer the cleanliness and more family-friendly environment of MegaCon. Dragon Con was totally worth it for the celebrities, but I doubt it’s going to be one I’ll attend for more than one or two days again.
Have you ever been to a geek convention? Have you ever been to Dragon Con? Have you ever done a celebrity photo op? Tell us your experiences in the comments!
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