Winning at Dragon Con
Shawn Taylor | Contributor
Every year over the Labor Day weekend, thousands of pop culture enthusiasts descend upon downtown Atlanta, Georgia to celebrate every form of fandom imaginable in the massive pop culture celebration known as Dragon Con. Fans of TV, movies, comics, fantasy, gaming, science fiction - pretty much any media that one can imagine being a fan of – come from around the world to spend the holiday weekend taking inspiration from meeting their favorite creators as well as other fans. The event features celebrity panel talks, artist appearances, autograph sessions, a huge downtown parade, and - obviously, since RoShamBo is covering it - competitions!
Dragon Con offers a variety of competitive events for attendees to watch and participate in, all determined by the interests of the crowds. If enough people request it, Dragon Con tries to make a space for it, and if an event continues to be popular, they make even more space. So many fans attended the wrestling event every year that the opening day of Dragon Con now features a full size wrestling match - the 2018 event was even hosted by legendary pro wrestler, the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair!
Of course, no science fiction event would be complete without a reasonable number of Spock ears, Jedi Light-sabers, and wizard cloaks on display, and Dragon Con participants have taken the art of cosplay to an almost unbelievable extreme. It’s not unusual for attendees to pack several costumes for the weekend, with carefully planned schedules of what to wear each day, often coordinating with other costumers in the same theme – and that’s just for photo ops!
Several official costume contests are organized over the course of the weekend, and spectators also have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite costume seen just walking around the event. Guest judges for the competitions have backgrounds in areas such as professional theater and film costuming, as well as costume history, and entrants are judged in Journeyman, Novice, and Master categories, depending on individual levels of experience. There is also a separate kids’ category, insuring that everyone feels welcome to participate, regardless of age or previous costuming experience.
The Sunday night Masquerade costume contest is especially popular because it allows the option for contestants to include a short skit as part of their display– we were lucky enough to enjoy a literal song and dance from Batman villains Harley Quinn and the Penguin (Journeyman category winners Kelsey McCarter and Dave Collier), and a musical interlude from the Sanderson Sisters, witches of Hocus Pocus (Master category winners Erin Smith, Jenn Sapp, and Brit Roberds). Judges also create special award categories for unusual acts of creativity, such as this year’s ‘Most Subtle’ award given to The Monolith (from 2001 A Space Odyssey), portrayed by Travis Tate.
The top honor of Best In Show at the 2018 Masquerade event was reserved for none other than the Angel of Death – an almost ten foot high (including wings) recreation of the skeletal figure from Guillermo Del Toro’s second Hellboy film, crafted by Tennessee cosplayer Michel McKinney.
Whether you’re asking wrestlers, cosplayers, celebrity guests, or just good old-fashioned fans, they all explain their love of Dragon Con in terms of community. Whether participating or just appreciating, there is a lot of enthusiasm and support spread among the attendees. Along with the organized events, there are plenty of fan-orchestrated photo sessions, impromptu dance parties, poetry slams and sing-alongs.
One final, unusual tradition that has taken hold is the unofficial Waving Goodbye. Because the lobby of one downtown event hotel features glass elevators, a group of friends once started waving from the costumed crowd to see if they could get people riding in the elevator to notice, and wave back. Now the friends meet every year on the final night of the event to start a chain reaction of costumed wavers. Almost everyone who stops to ask what they’re waving at seems inspired to participate for at least a while. As soon as a Wolverine walks away, a group of Ninja Turtles is likely to join in. With enough enthusiasm, who knows – it could become an official event.