For one weekend a year, faeries and Klingons descend on the downtown streets of Atlanta to mingle, make merry and create mayhem.
A glorious clutter of costumes filled the atrium of the Hyatt Regency Sunday afternoon where a beautiful young woman posing as the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress clashes light sabers with a dashing Anakin Skywalker while 20 feet away the Wonder Twins pose for pictures for a crowd of appreciative fans.
No, it's not Halloween - it's Dragon*Con!
In its 20 year history Dragon*Con has grown to become the second largest multi-genre convention in North America. This year's convention drew approximately 30,000 sci-fi/fantasy fans from all over the country and the globe who happily plunked down $85 dollars for a four-day pass plus the cost of hotel and airfare.
While San Diego's Comic-Con might attract more Hollywood celebrities and has more sneak peeks of upcoming films and television series, Dragon*Con has all of the other conventions beat when it comes to costumes.
The highlight of the convention every year is Masquerade, a costume contest which takes place on the last night of the convention. This year's contest drew over 50 contestants, the vast majority of whom designed and made their own costumes, spending months and even years on them, all for the sake of one minute of glory on stage before a gathered crowd of more than 2,000.
While many contestants also choreograph skits to go along with their costumes, these skits can sometimes run long and boring. When this happens, the rambunctious audience will begin to chant for members of Darth Vader's 501st Fighting Legion storm troopers to escort the shamed contestants off the stage. Fortunately the quality of skits this year was high so the storm troopers were only called on stage several times.
In addition to costume gazing, attendants of Dragon*Con this year were treated to some first class panels led by such sci-fi literary giants as Terry Brooks and Timothy Zahn. Other star-studded panels hosted actors from Battlestar Galatica, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Harry Potter movies.
Other Dragon*Con attractions included Saturday morning's Costume Parade, the Robot Battles, art shows, 24-hour-role playing games and an instructional course on how to tell if your house is haunted among many other things.
While other large conventions can sometimes feel more like a trade-show than anything else (Dragon*Con does have its own large dealer's room), Dragon*Con has a large social aspect to it. It is the meeting place for friends spread out across the country who normally only communicate through fan chat-rooms. The con is also one of the few times a year when fans feel comfortable enough to let loose and let their Geek/Freak flag fly high.
If you missed Dragon*Con this year, sign up early for next year's. Hotel accommodations in the three main hotels (Hyatt Regency, Marriott and Hilton). They will sell out fast. For more information visit: www.dragoncon.org.