When you hear about the nerdiest cities in the United States, you might not think Atlanta, Georgia would be at the top of the list. One might think San Diego or Austin. I'd even assume Salt Lake City was in the running. But according to a list of pretty objective criteria including number of comic book stores, video game shops, gaming shops per capita, Atlanta comes out on top.
But it's not just the geeky amenities the city boasts year round, I think one of the biggest reasons the city takes the cake is Dragon*Con.
Dragon*Con is like the Mardi Gras of geek conventions, a fan party that can be eye opening to some. It was so energetic and different to me, I wrote a book about it after my first time there.
It's a one of a kind experience and I recommend it for everyone. While I've been there I've been able to meet everyone from Wil Wheaton and Mike Mignola to John Rhys-Davies and half the cast of The Walking Dead. Con-goers even set the world's record for most people doing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at once.
To help give you a taste of it, I talked to Dragon*Con spokesperson Dan Carroll, a genial fellow, former Jeopardy contestant, who seems to constantly smile.
Bryan Young: Dragon*Con has a reputation of being a party-con, why is that?
Dan Carroll: Probably because Dragon*Con does indeed keep the party going for twenty-four hours a day for four days. Because Dragon*Con is a hotel convention with programming going overnight, it is an event where the night time partying can continue. The other side of that coin is that we are convention for fans and by fans, so that our guests come to Dragon*Con to enjoy the night life with fans. I have had to elbow my way through the Marriott Marquis Lobby at 2:45 in the morning. On the other hand, this nightime activity doesn't stop Dragon*Con from growing family friendly programming during the day, including our new Kaleidoscope track in its 3rd year.
Bryan Young: Can people still get tickets for 2013?
Dan Carroll: No and yes. Dragon*Con is a membership event, and memberships and passes are available on our website until 8/16 and prices are: $115 to 7/15/201 and $130 to 8/16/2013. The memberships are also $130 for all for days at the door. Onsite passes are available for one day or multiple days for as low as $30.00 a day for Monday.
Bryan Young: What is the most amazing thing you've seen at Dragon*Con?
Dan Carroll: It may not be the most spectacular thing, but one year Mythbuster Adam Savage was a guest at Dragon*Con and Jamie Hyneman had come as a guest. I was leaving a hotel and wading through a large crowd when I came face to face with Jamie Hyneman and without saying anything went all fanboy. Fiftteen feet later, I came across a Jamie Hyneman cosplayer. Or maybe this was the real Jamie Hyneman and the first one was a cosplayer? Maybe they were both cosplayers? Maybe they were BOTH the real Jamie using special effects. However it worked, that even showed me the quality of cosplayers and to this day I do not know which mythbuster was the real one.
Bryan Young: Why is geek culture taking over the mainstream? What does that bode for Dragon*Con?
Dan Carroll: There are varying opinions about why geek culture is so prominent in the mainstream, and it really is a mish-mash of events coming together. For me I think the increased quality of genre film and television, combined with the general gaming culture that came to its own in the 1990s makes science fiction and fantasy more available and more palatable than it was thirty or forty years ago. For Dragon*Con, this is very visible in our attendance growth. In 2000, we had an attendance of 10,000, in 2012 we had 52,000. Our audience is growth is younger adults who grew up watching the cartoons featuring Batman, X-Men, and the Justice League. We also have a large growth in family attendance with parents who were in high school watching Jurassic Park. As word of Dragon*Con's inclusive nature spreads, we look for continuing ways to expand our space to accommodate our growing membership, while still providing an amazing experience.
I couldn't agree more.
I'll be there this year, hosting panels (including a fan Q and A with Star Wars actors Billy Dee Williams, Daniel Logan, and Matthew Wood), carrying on like a lunatic, enjoying the work of the cosplayers, and drinking.
No Dragon*Con would be complete without lots and lots of drinking.
I hope to see you there. Look for me. I'll be the guy in khakis with a drink in my hand.