There are few more laborious and chaotic ways to spend your Labor Day weekend than to head down to Atlanta for one of the largest multi-genre conventions in the country. That’s right, Dragon*Con.
The convention going into its 24th year featured 35 tracks of content, over 3,500 hours of programming and more guests than you can shake a bat’leth at.
This year marks my third excursion down to the beast that is Dragon*Con, and it was my busiest yet. I volunteered my first year and worked the MTAC/GMX booth for my second. This year, I decided to do both (It’s crazy to work for two cons, but it’s something else entirely to do it at the same time).
Trying my hand at the D*C Information Services department (specifically at the Hyatt hotel information booth) was a no-brainer. It’s familiar work, that whole customer service experience. But it’s time consuming, and it just keeps going. The tens of thousands at the con equal to a lot of questions, especially in such a high-traffic area. Unhelpful were the misprinted and generally awkwardly-designed pocket program guides, the constant flux of event lines and the unique design of the Hyatt itself. Still, I like to think we helped a good number of attendees, which leads to my first observation:
Dragon*Con attendees are pretty nice.
Many people were just incredible grateful at the help we were providing at the information booth, even going so far as to tip us or buy us drinks (screwdriver for me, for the vitamin C of course). I haven’t really noticed this kind of gratitude at other conventions I attend, haven’t really seen attendees thank staff up front because there wouldn’t be a show without them.
Perhaps this is an age/maturity gap, as Dragon*Con is typically an older crowd than the anime cons I typically go to. Or maybe it’s a numbers thing, with so many people there that a few are bound to be so gracious towards con staff. Whatever the reason, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience to be on that receiving end, making all the missed events for the 25 volunteer hours worth it.
Even with that, I managed to visit two panels. The Gargoyles panel featured Jonathon Frakes (voice of Xanatos) and Marina Sirtis (voice of Demona), and while I enjoyed the show (and the panel as well), it was really my back up for missing all of the Star Trek events. Later was “Dub Your Own Hentai,” hosted by the awesome animation track director Jess Merriman and her fellow MomoCon compatriots. Few things are as hilarious as turning a hentai into a musical with tunes from Disney movies by someone who can actually sing (album deal, someone make it happen).
The crowds were still impossible to get through at times, and the hotels eventually stopped allowing anyone not with a badge or hotel key inside. I’m glad I wasn’t on the receiving end of the fire marshal’s more-than-likely heated feedback. Adding a fifth hotel with the Westin didn’t seem to help shift the attendee burden from the four main con hotels. It doesn’t help that Atlanta also has college football home games scheduled on the same weekend, leading to a mass of non-attendees in the hotels and otherwise visiting to people watch.
Thankfully, I never had to deal with the constantly awful long lines in registration (hope those bar codes help next year).
All in all though, it was another fun year with friends. All the added work though did put a hamper on actually enjoying D*C as a con, something I’ll have to better manage going forward.
Speaking of friends, I’d like to give shoutouts to a bunch of the awesome people I hung out with this year:
Dragon*Con and all its staff, especially Jake Tarbox & staff of the D*C Anime and Manga Track, Jess Merriman & staff of the D*C Animation Track and Sara McCorkendale & staff of D*C Information Services.
Anyone I forgot
Here’s to next year, and don’t forget to taste the rainbow.