Dragon Con, Atlanta’s internationally known pop culture, fantasy, sci-fi, and gaming convention, was welcomed back to Atlanta with beautiful weather and excited fans. The convention attracted more than 40,000 attendees for the five-day celebration and raised more than $120,000 for its official 2021 charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.
Despite limiting the number of people who could attend the convention, fans still made the journey from all 50 states and a handful of foreign countries, including Canada, Australia, and western European nations.
For fans who were not comfortable attending a live convention, Dragon Con offered Dragon Con Goes Virtual, a live-streamed version of the convention, which attracted more than 20,000 views. The $10 subscription (good through June 1, 2022) included live convention coverage, as well as exclusive pre-recorded content and highlights from past conventions that fans could enjoy from the comfort and safety of their own homes, with other fans.
In response to the ongoing COVID pandemic, Dragon Con implemented a series of protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID, including a requirement that all attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arriving at the convention in order to pick up their badges.
Other safety changes included requiring all fans to wear masks while inside a convention venue. Additionally, only badge-holding Dragon Con members were allowed to watch this year’s Dragon Con Parade from sidewalks along the parade route.
Some of this year’s top guests included cultural icon William Shatner, Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr., and Oscar nominee Edward James Olmos, along with a host of other celebrities from the worlds of television, movies, comics, literature, and gaming. These guests were on hand to greet fans, lead discussions, and sign autographs during this year’s convention. Click here for a link to all of this year’s guests.
In the Dragon Awards, the only fan’s choice award in fandom, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir was the winner in the Best Science Fiction Novel category, the first of 15 categories of fiction, comics, gaming, and filmed entertainment. The Expanse on Amazon won for best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV series. More than 7,000 ballots were cast! To see all of the winners click here.
Dragon Con was not just about pop culture but about how we are all connected. LifeSouth, which has organized the convention’s annual Robert A. Heinlein “Pay It Forward” blood drive since 2002, held another successful drive. This year, the drive had some 2,200 participants, including a record 40 percent of whom were first-time blood donors. The annual drive – consistently ranked as the largest convention-based blood drive – benefits LifeSouth, which serves more than 40 hospitals in the Atlanta area and 110 hospitals in the Southeast.
For me, Dragon Con is a happy return to the convention scene after a year’s absence. While there were a few hiccups with the badge pickup, the rest of the convention proceeded without any major issues. I chatted with a civilian (non-geek) who happened to be staying in the host hotel. He felt the excitement of being there and he could not wait to share pictures of the amazing costumes with his friends!
However, the panels are where Dragon Con really shines. Since Dragon Con is a fan-run convention, the panels are oriented to be more fan-focused. This allows for attendees to meet up with other devotees of their favorite series and do a deep dive that only true geeks can do. Fortunately, I was chosen to be a member of an Expanse panel discussing the 5th season. This by itself made the convention worthwhile for me!
From the gaming halls of AmericasMart to the host hotels to the annual parade, Dragon Con reminded fans of what they missed in this time of a global pandemic. It signaled the beginning of an exciting return to what we knew prior to COVID-19. Let’s hope that next year, we will be able to finally return to normal where all of the fans can enjoy Dragon Con in person.