Last week was a whirlwind of activity as we attended our second Dragoncon. For those not in the know, Dragoncon is an enormous science fiction/fantasy convention held annually in Atlanta. It’s similar to the more famous Comic-Con but rather than a corporate-sponsored event it’s a 100% volunteer-driven convention. Estimates for 2014 attendance are in the 60,000 range, and the convention spanned five adjacent hotels. Needless to say, it was crowded!
You can read more about our visit to last year’s (2013) Dragoncon at Kathie’s blog. We also took far more photos last year, so these older blog posts are worth checking out to get caught up:
Last year we were in constant awe, kind of like kids going to Disney World for their first time, and we were so blown away by the amazing costumes everyone wore that we spent a lot of time just taking photos of guests at the convention. This year we took relatively few photos (sorry!) but focused more on enjoying ourselves and the many activities and panels. We also convinced three of our friends to attend this year!
There are hundreds of events scheduled for each day, across almost 40 different “tracks” covering different genres and fan bases. For example, there’s the Trek Track for Star Trek fans, which includes big events like Sir Patrick Stewart and other Trek actors answering fan questions, and small panels like a Star Trek trivia contest. There’s a Space Track which discusses astronomy and space exploration, a Fantasy Literature Track featuring discussions with famous authors and advice on writing your own fiction, and a Costuming Track where you can learn all about costume creation, from sewing to metalworking to puppetry.
Last year we spent much of our time going to the big events with famous actors and writers. These events usually are in giant ballrooms holding upwards of 6,000 guests, and require getting in line around 90 minutes before the event. We found that some of the smaller events (with 100 people in a room) were just as interesting and didn’t require any waiting, so this year we decided to find a better balance between big and small events.
Two of our favorite smaller tracks are the Electronic Frontier Forums and the Skeptics Track. The EFF (not the same EFF as the Electronic Frontier Foundation) track discusses high-tech and privacy topics like how to keep your WiFi communications secure, or an in-depth look at what we know about the current NSA domestic spying cases. The Skeptics Track covers topics like how easily our brains can be deceived, and how to think critically. We of course also made it to a few of the big events this year, including panels with actors from Star Trek, Stargate, Farscape, and Battlestar Galactica.
The “main event” each year is the Dragoncon Parade which takes place Saturday morning at 10am. We staked out our place on the curb at 8am, since the parade draws tens of thousands of viewers as many Atlantans come out in addition to the Dragoncon attendees. It’s really amazing watching so many fans marching together in the costumes they spent hundreds or thousands of hours creating from scratch.
We all had a great time, and thanks to Mark we were able to participate with some “light” costuming thanks to his collection of Star Trek shirts. Thanks, Mark! We’re thinking that the next time we attend (probably 2016) we’ll actually work on some real costumes well in advance so we can get even more into the spirit of things!
Last year we rented a hotel room a couple blocks from the convention. It was extremely convenient, but also fairly pricey. The hotels open up for reservations right after the previous convention ends (i.e. a year in advance), and they usually sell out in hours. This year we parked Rover for under $25 per day with full electric/water/sewer hook-ups at Jones RV Park about 20 miles outside of downtown Atlanta, boarded the dogs at a local Atlantan’s house for for five days via DogVacay.com, and drove into the convention early each morning. Kathie did some research and found us a great parking lot four blocks from the convention that was just $10 per day. All in all, it was a great solution that let us stay in our home each night, save a lot of money, and only have a 20 minute drive each morning and evening to get to the convention.