Dragon*Con 2010 reviewed ~ an odd year

So I am finally recovered enough from my venture to Dragon*Con to write-up a review. And by recovered I mean physically and mentally, as this 5 day fun fest always drains me.

For those not in the know, Dragon*Con is a giant multi-media convention held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, GA. It is basically many smaller conventions under one roof, even if that roof is now throughout 5 downtown hotels.

It has been refered to as Nerdi Gras and I think that fits as well as any other short name, especially this year. As with Mardi Gras, you have a parade, a bunch of people dressing up in various costumes (many in groups or krewes if you prefer) and lots of drinking.

This year was my 8th year at the show, ever since I moved out to the east coast I have been making the trek from the DC area. Over the years I have met a ton of great people and it’s almost like a family reunion each year to see them again.

The convention guest lineup was good this year, not great like last year but quite good. I was very happy to see a good spotlight on some of the new shows like True Blood, Eureka and Warehouse 13. The guests from these shows were very kind to the fans and some even got out and partied a bit with us in the evening.

Maybe I am a bit jaded from doing con’s over the years, but the other tracks, like the Star Trek lineup just seemed like the usual guests from previous years. The few standouts, like Summer Glau (River from Firefly) had huge lines for signatures. Many of the other guests, including most of the Battlestar Galactica track had almost no lines at all.

The panels were well-organized this year and security kept the crowds flowing well throughout the hotels. I liked the 30 minute breaks between panels, while it wasn’t a lot of time it did allow the rooms to empty in time for the next panel to start.

And of course on the final day of the show I purchased my pass for the 2011 convention. It is, after all, MY Dragon*Con!


Now…for the rest of the story…

This years convention felt off. At first I thought it was me, going through some issues in my life, but I quickly identified that it was more than just my lack of spirit.

Lets start with the most obvious thing, the pre-registration line. Me and Kevin stood in that hot box of a room for 2.5 hours to get our badges. Several of our friends have decided that they will no longer pre-reg but instead pay the extra money at the door, whose line took an average of 10 minutes.

Now I do have good news on this front for 2011. As it turns out, the director of on site pre-reg has heard our pleas and responded. They had attempted a new system this year that did not work (obviously). Next year they are going to a bar code system and individual printer/scanner kiosks. So no more alphabet lines to worry about!!

Next up we had a couple of guests issues, including getting a little testy and walking out of their panels. Claudia Christian left the Babylon 5 panel after Jason Carter kept bringing up her Playboy layout. And Denise Crosby walked out of the Star Trek Next Gen panel after Jonathan Frakes started teasing her too much. Denise also didn’t show for her photo-op on Sunday. And Marc Singer was a no-show (or over 30min late) for his Friday panel.

We had injuries during the weekend. Late Friday night someone fell off the Pulse Bar lounge area of the Marriott (hurt but not serious). On Saturday after the parade, someone on the 14th flood dropped a metal pitcher onto the Pulse lounge area smashing a glass table and the shrapnel injured someone.

I think due to this the Marriott went on a security shut down mode throughout the weekend. We were stopped several times late at night going between the hotels being asked for our badges or room keys. Also, the Marriott basically swept everyone out of the bar level after it closed at 2am. Kinda gave the impression that once they stopped making money, they didn’t want us around anymore.

Then the weird stuff, people were spray painting/tagging stairwells and elevators (Marriott). A window over the front entrance area of the Hilton was busted out. On Saturday morning a homeless man stole someones Boba Fett helmet (costume) and robbed the Wachovia bank next to the Starbucks. He was later caught. Oh, and one of the elevators in the Hilton caught fire early Monday morning.

But all of those issues were small and many I did not address first hand. This is where I had my real problem for the weekend.

This year (little bit last year also) just like Mardi Gras, we had douche bags showing up who really aren’t part of the big show philosophy trying to ruin it for everyone.

Who are these DB’s? Well a lot of them were football fans who were in town for the pre-season kickoff game. But the rest were locals who came out to watch the freaks that had taken over their town.

I witnessed a couple of things, mostly people being jerks, touching/grabbing at some of the costumed people or making rude comments (think Revenge of the Nerds). But I heard from several of the costumed females around the show that they were groped, pawed at or even shoved into a corner by non-badge wearing males. Most instances were brought to the hotel security attention, but really these guys just disappear into the crowds to find someone else.

So my plea to the con is this. The hotels need to step up security, no one should be allowed into the hotels (essentially at night) without a con badge or a room key. As for the fans that attend the show, just remember to yell HEY RUBE. It’s an old carnival alert that there is someone from the ‘outside’ trying to cause trouble. There are more than enough fans around that will take care of the issue quickly.

I hope this doesn’t dissuade anyone from coming to 2011. I really do love my little/big con in September. It is certainly going through some growing pains right now but that should pass. It’s an experience that is hard to describe, so if you are so inclined, come join us!

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