Dragon Con was my first experience with conventions. Growing up in suburban Atlanta, it was pretty easy to feel like an outsider if you liked anything that wasn’t football. So when Dragon Con became a part of my life it felt like a puzzle piece finally clicked. Most people’s first introduction to the con held every Labor Day in Downtown Atlanta is through the huge cosplay parade. With over 3,000 participants, the parade shuts down Peachtree Street on the Saturday morning of the convention. From Stormtroopers to Steampunk, spectators from around the city enjoy the parade as cosplayers are highlighted. Dragon Con really is the cosplayers convention, making in unique amongst other conventions.
Dragon Con is a unique and important convention for several reasons. Cosplay at Dragon Con is the norm: it isn’t unusual to see your favorite anime character enjoying a burrito in the food court. Dragon Con’s accepting attitude towards cosplay makes it easier for newbies to join in the fun or for people unfamiliar with cosplaying able to appreciate the artistry. It’s a major part of the convention and part of the reason Dragon Con has continued to grow.
Another important aspect is that it’s fan based—essentially, fans decide what panels will be presented and how. While many larger conventions occasionally sfeel like PR tours, Dragon Con’s fan-centric focus is obviously authentic. Fans run various “tracks” ranging from Trek Track (obviously focusing on Star Trek) to Table Top Gaming and the whole convention is almost entirely volunteer-run. What I typically tell people is that if you’re a fan of something science fiction, fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, film or anything in between, there’s a place for you at Dragon Con. After years of attending, I never fail to find something I’ve never seen before. The convention is inclusive and friendly, which I think makes it an important convention in the American circuit.
Dragon Con has been growing annually and will have an estimated 65,000 attendees in 2015. A significant reason for the exponential growth is the location of the convention. While San Diego and New York Comic-Cons draw much larger numbers, they’re both on opposite sides of the country. Dragon Con is able to serve as a large convention for much of the Southeast and Midwest United States. The convention itself takes place across several hotels in Downtown Atlanta, giving it more of a party atmosphere than I’ve seen at others. It’s easily accessible by public transportation and the ability for anyone in town to just people-watch during the convention makes it pretty enjoyable for the city as a whole.
I’ve been to many conventions over the past few years, but Dragon Con feels unique. It’s all about fans. Whether it’s cosplay or that really obscure web series, Dragon Con caters to what people love. I can’t wait for every Labor Day to arrive so I can greet my Dragon Con friends once again.
Featured Image: Courtesy Dragon Con Photography (c) 2014 Dragon Con, Inc