By Troy Akridge
Each Labor Day weekend, Atlanta, Georgia's downtown is filled with the sights and sounds of costumed fans of all genres roaming the streets from host hotel to host hotel in search of what excites them. Some come for the costuming. Others come to meet their favorite celebrities. Others are just there for football games and are just not prepared when they see Darth Vader walking down the street with a zombie. It's almost like a break between two worlds. Fantasy invades this reality for a weekend. You never know what you'll see walking down the street.
Dragon*Con plays host to an impressive array of varying fandoms. Just looking through a list of the daily events, a person would be hard pressed to not find a particular genre of entertainment that interests them. These events, panels, workshops and exhibitions are going on from sun up to sun down throughout the 4 days of the con. The large number of cosplayers in one place is entertaining in itself and brings a whole new level of fun to people watching on the street. Sometimes there's the urge to look in 2 directions at once because so many unusual things are ever present grabbing eyes and pulling them different ways.
Some events offered the congoer the chance to be a part of the action. An event one could take part in was "Beakman Live" where Paul Zaloom, star of the 90's Beakman's World television show, puts on the wig and green lab coat for a live demonstration of making science fun. Fans of Beakman's World, and even younger generations, were gathered in the ballroom. Zaloom acknowledged that his usual audience was "a little younger" and "didn't expect to blow anyone's mind with his science facts." He took members of the audience, young and old, to participate in his demonstrations which included science about bats, air pressure and gravity.
Saturday is the annual Dragon*Con parade. Costumed characters from books, movies and comic books line up and march down Peachtree Street as onlookers jockey for a good position to see. Some people even bring in custom vehicles to drive in the parade. The whole spectacle lasts a good amount of time and the participants make efforts to slap hands with excited children that are amazed to see their favorite characters brought to life in front of them.
Comic fandom also has its place at the con. Dragon*Con has it's own Artists Alley with artists from various media. If a person wanted to get a personal commission from your favorite attending artist, you have that opportunity. Mark Brooks, a Marvel exclusive artist who did a long run of impressive covers on X-Men Legacy, had a list of people wanting the opportunity for a commission. If one is more inclined to animation, Bob Camp, creative director and writer of The Ren and Stimpy Show, was available to hand draw a Ren and Stimpy sketch while you watched. Beyond that, a plethora of prints and original art was there to be purchased.
Down in the Walk of Fame, the designated area to meet celebrities, one could walk away with an autograph from Peter Weller of Robocop fame, several Battlestar Galactica cast members, or even a genuine wizard from the Harry Potter films. To some fans, these moments of meeting their favorite celebrities can become a highlight of their trip. One lady was observed meeting Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad's Gus Fring, and saying she felt like she was hyperventilating over the moment as he shook her hand.
One of the biggest treats on the Walk of Fame this year was the opportunity to meet Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. Fans who arrived early enough were able to get in line for a chance to meet him, get his autograph, and get a photo with him on Saturday or Sunday. During this autograph session, he offered up a jar for donations to "Save a Groot" for a "save the rainforest" charity. His autographs and photos were given for free but those who chose to donate got to hear him exclaim "WE ARE GROOT" to which the crowd would yell back the same.
Dragon*Con has a lot to offer for the congoer. To do everything one sets out to do at the beginning of a Dragon*Con trip can be an accomplishment in itself. If nothing else, Dragon*Con provides an excellent vacation from reality and a fun way to spend Labor Day Weekend.
Here are some more photos from the weekend: