It came, it saw, it kicked our ass.
Ahhh, Dragon Con. What a ride.
John and I got home around 2:30 this morning, just in time to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Of course, being veteran Floridians, that entails a lot of derisive snorts followed by grudgingly buying some bottled water, because hysterical weathermen have no power here.
(Before you chastise me, yes, yes, we'll be prepared. Promise.)
Now to the important stuff: DRAGON CON.
They predicted a record-breaking 82,000 attendees this year, and the final tally put it just over 80,000. From a literal "boots on the ground" perspective, I can tell you the crowd level felt the same as last year's 77,000, no worse, but I will say the "drunken carousing" level was turned up to eleven.
In my 7 years of reporting on Dragon Con I've seen a lot of drunk nerds, but this year was different. This year, every single night - including Thursday - I witnessed folks actively being sick right on the con floors and hallways. It was puke city, y'all. And maybe it was my own bad luck of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I definitely got the impression folks were drinking more this round. If so, then I'd chalk it up to current events and/or DCon newbies who just haven't learned to pace themselves.
That said, drunk nerds tend to be happy drunks, so other than crowds occasionally having to shuffle through vomit (gaaaaaak) and some of my photos being spoiled by cosplayers so sloshed they tipped sideways from the flash, it was mostly all good. I say "mostly" because Saturday night there were two cosplayers hospitalized after being hit by chairs thrown from the Marriott 10th floor balcony. They still haven't caught the jerks who threw the chairs, but I have to assume alcohol was involved - and can only hope they were NOT with the con. (Happily the cosplayers will make a full recovery - and one even credits her Loki headdress with saving her life!)
The chair-throwing incident is especially chilling considering John and I were there, on the Marriott floor with those cosplayers, just 30 minutes beforehand. We left early that night around 1AM, though usually we'd have stayed a couple hours longer. If you've been there you know it's hard to move in those crowds, much less dodge falling objects, so that's scary stuff.
And now that I've brought you down with all the BAD news, rest assured it's going to be all good from here on out: nothing but great geekery, silliness, and happy times with 80,000 of our closest friends.
(You know how many other cons have fans set up a camp table in the lobby and sit around drinking beer? NONE OF THEM. Just Dragon Con, baby.)
As always, John and I spent most of our time taking photos, but this year we also went to a few costuming panels (including one on how to incorporate puppetry into your cosplay), took our Jawa and BB-8 out for a spin, attended an Overwatch meetup, covered a fashion show, chatted with lots and LOTS of you readers - both at the official meet and throughout the weekend - and even stayed out 'til 4:30 in the morning to see the Steam Powered Giraffe concert. (AW YEEEEAH.) We also did some shopping, browsed the art, and gawked at all the celebs in the Walk of Fame.
[CUTE STORY: Sean Gunn caught me staring - because I *may* have made our group stand within spying distance of him for a little too long, because I love Sean and he's my favorite in Guardians 2 - and then when I grinned at him, all embarrassed, he gave me the biggest, sweetest smile ever in return and made my whole dang con. WHAT.]
Twevo making new friends.
The Jawa/BB-8 cosplay wasn't as hard to get around in at DCon as I feared, but it was unusually hot in the Marriott this year, making that the sweatiest cosplay run I've had yet, despite my interior fans. Sadly our new Walkie Talkie earbuds didn't work through the constant roar of the crowd, either, so I was operating deaf, nearly blind, and melting inside, ha. So if you caught a glimpse of me in my two hours on the floor, count yourself among the rare few!
You guys know I'm forever singing the praises of Dragon Con, because there's simply no other convention experience like it. Other cons shut down at night, where this one is just waking up around 8PM. There's a different vibe here: more relaxed, despite the crushing crowds, more willing to engage with the people around it. One reader said it best: "I always forget about the sheer joy of this place." That's what it is, joy. It's a high I only get here; the feeling of being surrounded by good will and acceptance and silliness, where everything, no matter how outrageous, is met with an enthusiastic grin and a high-five. Here you'll see the most obscure cosplays, the most blurring of the lines between costuming and performance art. Cosplayers are more likely to be in character, to re-enact movie scenes, to invite you to play along with them.
One of my favorite moments:
They were doing the dialogue, too:
"Get to the fireplace!"
(Later they left the chairs and continued through the crowds, still tied up back-to-back!)
At Dragon Con you'll also see the most pop culture memes, jokes, puns, and mashups:
Ermergersh, those "Deal With It" glasses. I can't even.
And her sign was two-sided!
Bahaha! That's her daughter Merrill with her, and I love these two to pieces. Their playfulness is infectious, talk about life goals. Plus - shameless brag here - they're Epbot fans, y'all. Check out the back of the "throne":
Epbot pins! I was so chuffed I had to give them more for their collection. :)
Also, to the reader who was asking about older cosplayers at the meetup: look at this post so far. I'm telling you, Dragon Con has some of the most diverse age ranges anywhere. If anything I think it skews a bit older, since rooms here are expensive and many of the most experienced cosplayers are at least in their 30s.
Dragon Con loves itself a good inside joke, and nowhere is that more obvious than The Cult of Carpet. In a nutshell, the Marriott used to have a colorful patterned carpet throughout, and folks started dressing in costumes to match it. The carpet was removed two years ago, but like a Fox show cancelled too soon, its demise has only spurred on the old carpet's fandom. The colorful blue, gold, and red pattern was everywhere this year: on t-shirts, ties, capes, buttons, and even mashed up with more elaborate costumes:
Nothing says you're old school Dragon Con like flying your carpet colors. And speaking of flying...
Meet the Marriott Flying Carpets, officially the best Quidditch team EVER.
Now's a good time to mention that John and I *did* bring our new flash rig to Dragon Con, and more than half of my cosplay photos were taken with the new technique:
Since I'll have a mixture of both photo methods, old and new, I'm hoping to give you guys the best of both worlds. You'll still get atmosphere and crowd shots, but also lots of lovely portrait-styles like these. (Hard to tell in the photo, but the Carpet Saint is holding a square of the actual carpet, which had a light-up halo around it. Ha!)
Lots of great merch at Dragon Con, but I'd steer clear of this deal.
Oh! And this year John helped me do something I've always wanted to film for you guys: a time-lapse walk-through of the Marriott. I'm so short that if I did this you'd just see the shoulder blades of the people in front of me most of the way, but John was able to hold up his phone and really capture what this environment feels like. If you're impatient, skip ahead to 1:27; that's the floor where most of my cosplay photos are taken. It really shows you what I'm working with, crowd-wise and lighting-wise. Also this was Friday night, so these crowds are slightly less than the two following nights:
This is also why I will always emphasize the crowd levels at Dragon Con; it's not for the faint of heart, and definitely not for anyone with crowd anxiety. I've learned how to slip through the crowds to get away if I have to, so my own agoraphobia is rarely an issue, but even non-anxiety-sufferers can panic when you literally can't move for long seconds at a time.
Now I have a hurricane to prep for and ALL the photo editing to do, peeps, but stay tuned for plenty of fun Dragon Con installments, starting with the best of Thursday night's Bunny Hutch! The theme is Playboy Bunny Fandom mashups, and ranges from sexy to absolutely hilarious, so buckle up, my friends. It's gonna be a hoot.