Dragon Con celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year in style, breaking records, introducing a few new “firsts”, and successfully matching donations in their annual charity drive.
Atlanta was crammed with over 77,000 attendees from around the world, including Japan, New Zealand, and Fiji, which meant that more space was needed. Luckily, AmericasMart was able to open up 215,000 extra square feet to hold vendors, games, exhibitions, and the like (the gaming area was also populated with vintage arcade games). Additional programming was also scheduled for Thursday to accommodate extra attendees and special guests.
Dragon Con matched donated funds for the charity Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, which provides the homeless population with the means to help establish their independence through work employment programs. $98,000 was raised, raising the total of Dragon Con charity donations to over $440,000 in the last five years.
The annual Robert A. Heinlein “Pay It Forward” Blood Drive was also quite successful, with over 6,000 units donated (Dragon Con is considered the largest convention blood drive), which will be sent to various hospitals in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast.
For the first time ever, Dragon Con introduced a pass that allowed fans to watch the recorded programming from this year as well as past years, whether they attended Dragon Con or not. While it remains to be seen how popular this option was, from what I heard, it was highly sought after, especially since the pass lasts an entire year. (Think of it like a Netflix or Hulu subscription)
Another first was the Dragon Awards, recognizing creators in the sci-fi and fantasy arenas. The official website for the Dragon Awards has this to say about the recipients of the award: “In the spirit of the Dragon and with infinite admiration, we created The Dragon Award as a token of their individuality and greatness. We are pleased to present all of our award winners with the essence of the Dragon, its fire, suspended perpetually as a permanent reminder of their contributions.”
This year, award winners include Terry Pratchett (Best YA/Middle Grade Novel, “The Shepherd’s Crown”), Neil Gaiman (Best Graphic Novel, “The Sandman – Overture”), and Bethesda Softworks (Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy PC/Console & Mobile Games).
Dragon Con also hosted a ConMan game app announcement from Alan Tudyk, who attended several panels and introduced the second season of his smash hit webseries ConMan. The game app (free) allows you to run your own convention with the help of the ConMan characters. (It’s a great game to play while you’re waiting in line for a panel!)
This also marked the first year for an official Welcome To Night Vale panel, complete with a visit from Cecil Baldwin (who plays narrator Cecil Gershwin Palmer) and Hal Lublin (who plays Cecil’s detested brother-in-law Steve Carlsberg), who were honestly a joy to listen to as they recounted various tidbits from Night Vale, did impressions, and spoke about their own excitement on being at DragonCon.
Dragon Con has come a long way since 1986. It has kept growing, expanding beyond previous borders, reaching new heights and working with other Atlanta-area conventions to make sure they are all the best they can be for their fans.
It’s a privilege to attend Dragon Con, to be able to geek out with like-minded individuals and give back to show our gratitude for being able to have this amazing experience over the span of several days.
I don’t know how DragonCon will possibly top the 30th anniversary celebration, but they always manage to go even bigger and better than the year before, so I’m eager to see what they have up their sleeves for next year.
Happy 30th Anniversary, Dragon Con. We love you!Image Credits: Dragon Con