Dragon Con 2016 has come and gone, and boy what a show it was. This year saw over 77,000 people flood into downtown Atlanta and pack four hotels and one trade center all for a chance to take part in one of the largest celebrations of pop culture in the country.
This was also a special year for Dragon Con as 2016 marked the 30th anniversary of the seminal Atlanta event. That’s 30 years of growth, expansion and everything that comes with those two things.
An Expanding Convention
One of the issues Dragon Con has been dealing with for years now is managing the increasingly large crowds attracted to the event. As more and more people attend, space in the host hotels can almost seem like a premium. This year saw Dragon Con make a concerted effort to address that issue with the addition of building 2 of the Americas Mart, a large, multi-building trade center adjacent to the host hotels. The always-packed dealers room was shifted there, as was the convention’s comic book programming.
This was huge difference in navigating both aspects of the show. Once visitors made it into the building there was actual space to move around. The downside, at least for the comic programming, was that it felt more than a little removed from the rest of the convention. However, as Dragon Con continues to grow (and it certainly will), I’m sure more programming will shift to the Americas Mart to join comics making it feel a little less lonely.
Kicking Off Early
Dragon Con has always officially started on Friday morning, but for years attendees have unofficially kicked things off on Thursday. Out of town visitors staying in the host hotels typically arrive Thursday and attendees who live in Atlanta have always made a habit of heading downtown that night to pre-game the convention at the hotel bars.
So this year, Dragon Con made the decision to kick things off one day early with lots of official program offerings.
To be honest, I was a little worried at first that this move would somehow taint the spirit of the unofficial Thursday festivities, but honestly it just enhanced everything. It was fun having something to do between drinks with friend who you often only get to see just once a year and I heard from people who don’t drink say it felt good to have something to do other than just stand around people watching.
Cosplay, Cosplay, Cosplay
Cosplay has been a big part of Dragon Con for the bulk of the 30 years it’s been around and this year was absolutely no different. Dragon Con seems to be where the big dogs of the cosplay community show up. I personally know a few people from all over the world who spend a good chunk of the year meticulously crafting costumes.
But that’s not to say this is a just a professional cosplay show. No, people of every skill level take part; from costumes that look to be designed by a Hollywood SFX studio to ones lovingly put together from the thrift store, all skill levels are welcome and celebrated at Dragon Con.
As an aside, it would be interesting to see what percentage of the 77,000 Dragon Con attendees cosplay. It feels like the folks who don’t are definitely in the minority. Cosplay at Dragon Con is so huge that this year a local CW station actually aired the cosplay-heavy Dragon Con parade live on TV complete with commentators.
More Convention Firsts
This year saw the debut of the Dragon Con Awards recognizing creators working in science fiction, comics, gaming, fantasy and film. It also saw actor Alan Tudyk announce the release of Con Man: The Game, a mobile game based on Tudyk’s web series Con Man. The game will allow players to build and run their own fan convention.
And then there was the announcement from Mythbusters’ Tory Belleci and Kari Byron that garnered probably the most excitement from attendees. It was at Dragon Con 2016 that they let fans know that, along with Grant Imahara, they’d be starring in the upcoming Netflix original series White Rabbit Project. They say show will look at the science behind sci-fi staples such as jet packs and fast cars.
It was nice seeing things like that happen at a show I’ve been attending for 19 years. It gave Dragon Con a feeling of added importance, that it was a show that you could expect things to happen beyond seeing cool cosplay and celebrities.
Here’s hoping that trend continues because Dragon Con most certainly deserves it.