This summer was a year for workers rights. It was a big question what conventions would look like with both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) being on strike. As Day 1 of Dragon Con approached, the organizers of the events had to make assurances to both panelists and attendees that there would be no violation of the strike rules. The organizers were able to adapt, send out clear communications, and make this one of the best fan conventions of the summer.
This was my second year where I was able to spend my Labor Day Weekend surrounded by fans of movies, tv shows, pop culture, games, books, and all things pop culture. The five host hotels were filled with cosplayers, vendors, and panels. I stopped by the Marriott on Wednesday night for what I thought was a small meetup for those who arrived at the con early, and I had vastly underestimated the amount of people stepping up their game for the pre-con activities. The inflatable dinosaurs held their first stampede through a hotel. I managed to get a photo with three in the colors of the Marriott Carpet design. If you are not familiar with the Marriott Carpet Cult (or the other cults of Dragon Con) check out the crazy situations that the fans have rallied around over the years on the official site here.
Thursday officially kicked off Dragon Con and I admit that the rest of the five day weekend was a blur of fun activities. Each track is run by groups of volunteers and they take great care to come up with fun panels, talks, and meetups to keep you busy the entire weekend. The full list of tracks are available on the official site here but the ones that always draw me in are the Star Wars, Video Game, and Writers tracks. In addition to hearing cool stories from the panelists there are some great discussions for those looking to break into the industry. The Star Wars area is a great meeting spot to chill with droids, make a trade with a Jawa, and hear directly from authors of the latest Star Wars books.
Many panel organizers had set up Discord servers for each of the panels where attendees could provide their questions in advance. Several times in the panels, chuckles ran through the audience as moderators read people’s Discord names out loud. Always be careful what names you create for social media as you never know when it may be brought up in front of hundreds of people! This also allowed moderators to ensure that none of the questions would violate the panelists’ agreements to not discuss any projects impacted by the WGA or SAG-AFTRA strikes. This led to some great discussions that actors and writers don’t typically get to talk about and we got to hear great stories from our favorite actors like Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, and Andy Serkis.
One of my favorite moments was when Paul Bettany was asked if he would ever cosplay and we were treated to his philosophy where he would consider it working for free. When the moderator fug a little deeper, he admitted that his version of cosplay would be gathering up tools, looking at a car (not actually fixing it) and attempting to be a husband who is handy. Key word attempt because he was very clear that he is not in fact handy. The crowd also introduced Paul Bettany to “Hot Ones”. He was not aware of the interview series but would absolutely be down so please help us start a social media campaign to get him on the series!
Authors are a huge part of Dragon Con and in addition to getting a few books signed, thank you Jim Butcher, one of the highlights of the weekend was attending a panel by Penguin Publishing House. They gave us a sneak peak at some of the upcoming fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels. Advanced reading copies were even raffled off to audience members. I always have an eclectic taste in reading materials and I have now added to my reading list “My Roommate is a Vampire” by Jenna Levine, the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and “Three Kinds of Lucky” by Kim Harrison.
And of course the cosplayers. Dragon Con would not be the highlight that it is without the many people dedicated to making elaborate cosplay outfits and props. The entire weekend had many opportunities to show off the hours, days, and weeks of work that people put into their outfits. Panels are held where people can get advice on the different aspects of their craft. Meetups are organized to get pictures of all the Barbies and Kens, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Witcher, and all combinations you can think of. I happened to stumble upon a group on the steps of the Hilton hotel members of the dark and light side gathered for a gigantic photo.
Overall this year at Dragon Con was a blast. I had my overbooked schedule of panels, photo ops, parties with amazing DJs, and hanging out with friends. I am already planning my trip for next year and I hope that you will join us there!
FINAL GRADE: A+++