Exactly one week ago, in downtown Atlanta, the annual Dragon-Con took place. Thousands of fans from across the globe, including multiple international countries, came to Atlanta to celebrate and attend the event. It became a monumental moment of the Labor Day weekend with fans uniting together to both celebrate and cherish the arts. And courtesy of Dragon-Con Media Relations, I was allowed to cover the event as an official member of the press. And what I experienced over that Labor Day weekend was nothing short of spectacular. From the daunting scale of the event to the intriguing and heartfelt panels to the spectacular Dragon-Con 2018 parade, this year’s Dragon-Con was a marvelous experience that may not stand toe-to-toe with other conventions in terms of scale and popularity, but easily ranks as one of the most energetic and lively in the bunch.
From the moment I entered the Hyatt Regency, one of the four buildings that were taking part in the convention, I was immediately struck by the sheer scale and daunting aspects of the convention. When going in, I expected a moderately sized convention that only barely filled up one hotel. However, that expectation was completely blown out of the water, as I wandered aimlessly, exploring the floors with an endless glee. The same feeling could be felt throughout the rest of the buildings. However, while the architectural designs of the building may have created a fascinating illusion, there were certainly apparent issues in terms of travel between buildings and hotels. There were no clear signs that labelled directions as to where each building was. This created a disjoint and led to several frustrating instances of backtracking. In addition, while the actual idea is nothing short of brilliant, the SkyBridge that connected the hotels were often cramped due to the bridge’s physical capacities being squandered by the sheer number of attendees. It led to travel times north of twenty minutes between buildings even though the greatest distance between them was only a block.
But while the actual organization of the convention could see some improvements, the offerings and variety of events available to attendees completely overshadows the flaw. From panels involving some of the entertainment’s most prestigious figures such as Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Evangeline Lilly to a large-scaled costumed parade that stretched across countless blocks in downtown Atlanta, there was never a shortage of available events. While some events were certainly more popular than others, there was never a panel that I found either dull or uninteresting. They all provided meaningful insights on how the entertainment industry worked, leading to facts and messages that were memorable. As for the convention’s most iconic event, the Dragon-Con parade, it was just as memorable as it was since last year. Serious cosplayers filled the streets, displaying their clever and iconic costumes that created lasting impressions for every attendee. The streets could be seen for miles down, packed with excited fans who were cheering for their favorite costumes and cosplayers. Almost every attendee came out to support the parade, leading to a ricochet experience that was incredibly profound. Highlights from the parade can be found here.
In addition to the parade and available panels, another iconic aspect of the convention, or any convention for that matter, is the Vendor’s hall. Stationed for a total of four, daunting floors in the second building of AmericasMart, this section of the convention produced almost dream-like experiences for most attendees. There was a wide variety of exclusive, hand-made products, products that appealed and applied to genres outside of the comfortable science fiction and fantasy space that Dragon-Con is known for. This was easily the busiest aspect of the entire convention, with certain moments having lines that stretched around the entire corner twice. In terms of the vendors present, there were no big names that stuck out as monumental attractions, such as movie studios or official publishing companies. However, while the scale and popularity of Dragon-Con may result in a smaller, less concise vendor’s hall, it still created a warm, lively building that was echoing with laughs and smiles.
As an official member of the press, I was allowed to take part in media-exclusive events, such as interviews with some of the most prestigious guests. Fortunately, the volunteers who spear-headed the media relations room did a spectacular job. Within minutes, I had all the necessary physical assets for the convention and was ready to explore the hotels and buildings in full, uninterrupted hours. They were both polite and knowledgeable, with almost every one of the volunteers in the room knowing where each event was taking place. However, there were some volunteers, who when asked, had almost no idea on how to reach areas. In fact, they came across ruder than being innocently unaware of facts. I noted how multiple guests with genuine questions were quickly dismissed by the select group of volunteers, leaving the guests just as confused as they were to begin with. It’s another issue on part of the organization of Dragon-Con and I wish for future conventions the issues will be fully resolved.
As a whole, Dragon-Con 2018 was undeniably a unique experience. It may not have the best organization or be the most popular fan convention in the entire country, but it succeeds in so many different departments. From the iconic attributes of the convention to the brilliance of the attendees and their passion for the arts, it created a rich and lively time that became one of the most energetic conventions I have ever attended.
Score: 8.2 out of 10