Obsessed? OK… maybe just a little. Maybe. But you have to bear with me. It has been since 2004 since I last attended this GLORY of all things Science Fiction and Fantasy. So yea, Dragon*Con 2016 was a very special thing for me!
My redemption comes… and it comes in the form of a giant hotel and a yellow dragon.
If you don’t know the tale of woe of my life, I’ll fill you in on the basic details: I’m obsessed with Predator. I’ve been Predator costuming since I was 13 years old, and in 2002 I “discovered” the greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy convention in America. I attended in ’02 and again in ’03 when I met another Predator there that ultimately I married. I barely managed to attend Dragon*Con ’04 against his objections, and it was the last time I was ever “allowed” to go. Every thing about our 12 years of abusive controlling time together was about taking away my joys – and it started with Dragon*Con.
So, now that I’m free – the first thing I decided the day I left him late last year was that over Labor Day 2016, I was going back home.
Dragon*Con is held every Labor Day, and this year was the 30th one. (Next year, 2017, is the 30th anniversary of both Dragon*Con AND Predator!! – That’s going to be a BIG DEAL). Dragon*Con is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention, not to be confused with a Comic Con – they are different (but only slightly).
The last time I attended this glorious “mardi gras of all things geeky and nerdy” in 2004, Dragon*Con’s attendance was around 25,000. It was contained in 2 hotels (The Atlanta Marriott Marquis and the Hyatt Regency) and an interconnected mall. Even then it was amongst one of the largest conventions in America.
In 2016 – the attendance was listed as just over 77,000 badges sold. It was contained in a 4 block “City” that included the Marriott and the Hyatt, the Hilton, the Sheraton, the Westin, the Mall at Peachtree Center, and the Amerismart Buildings 1 and 2. And every local club, and even the Georgia Aquarium a few blocks away. Dragon*Con has become a city within the City of Atlanta. I think next year it should get its own zipcode. The Dragon*Con parade, which was just a small thing in 2004, has now become the 2nd largest parade in all of Atlanta! Only their Thanksgiving parade is bigger. And the “muggles” come out to watch, too (you normal folks who don’t dress up!)
So, after a beautiful drive through Tennessee and a trouble -free drive through northern Atlanta, I looked up through my open sunroof and look what I saw for the first time in 12 years…….
And Dragon*Con Fever had definitely – DEFINITELY – hit Atlanta in a BIG way. There were signs and banners all over the city for Dragon*Con, and I even heard that the airport had a massive banner in it, too – Welcome to Dragon*Con!
Everything said Welcome To Dragon*Con, and Dragon*Con this and that all over the place – from restaurants to bus stops to all the hotels. To say that D*C has grown since the last time I attended would be quite the understatement. It was incredible. Magical. It was everything it always was and should be and will be.
Officially, Dragon*Con actually started on Friday Sept 1. But unofficially, it began as early as Tuesday Aug 30. Next year, I might check in sooner, and stay a day later. Because while it also comes to a close on Monday, Labor Day, there are still events taking place that day, and check out can be a little crazy when the masses all decide to leave at the same time.
Let me just say – I took a couple hundred photos and several dozen videos. No, I can’t possibly share them all here. I am working on a video from the whole trip, and once that is done, I will share it.
I can tell you one thing – The Marriott Marquis is like no other hotel. It is jaw-dropping to walk into it and look up (or down if you go to the top — and I did). It is a remarkable hotel, and the perfect environment for Dragon*Con without a doubt.
By Thursday evening, there had to be a solid 5,000 people in the Marriott, I really don’t know. With Dragon*Con being so spread out over a few blocks, that staggering 77,000 in attendance never really seemed so bad. I don’t think there were more than 5,000 people in any one hotel at any one given time. I do know the fire marshal had to intervene a few times to cut down on the numbers! Ha!
At night, though – D*C becomes a party con. Thousands of people pack into the Marriott (and the Hyatt) for after-hour parties in the lobby, the ballrooms, and the pool areas. Besides the parties at local clubs and bars, the host hotels actually become raves – lights and dancing and thumping loud music and shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder passage through the hallways if you’re lucky.
For that reason, I couldn’t wear my Predator at late night for fear of something getting broken. So, Thursday night was a non-Predator night. Instead, I creeped people out with my Samara Morgan (The Ring).
This is a costume I first did around 2005 when The Ring first came out. It wasn’t that I was crazy about the movie, honestly, I’m not a huge fan of horror films. But The Ring, at the time, did at least show off some new tricks, and the first thing I thought was that I had “the hair” to pull of a good Samara.
So, the costume was born, and I have to admit- it is so so so fun to creep around the hallways and freak people out. In the Predator, I have to try to scare people. In the Samara, all I have to do is show up and people are freaked out. I lost track of how many people I made scream just by walking around. I’d come around a corner and people would literally stop what they were doing and run the other way. It was awesome.
And, this is a great example of costuming on a budget. All totaled, between body paint and fabric, I’m pretty sure this costume cost less than $40. So while, it’s true that my Predator costume cost nearly $1,000 and depending on what you are doing, you will definitely pay big money for a good, accurate costume, the Samara costume just proves you can have a screen-accurate (ish) costume on a starvation budget.
Samara got me through Thursday night of freaking people out and by the time I finally slithered my way back to the hotel room, showered off all the body paint and collapsed in bed, I had been up 23 consecutive hours. I was actually trying to make it a full day, but I failed. Goal for next year, perhaps? Hahaha!
On Friday during the day, I still wasn’t ready to don the Predator! I knew I would be in it for long stretches over several days, so I was actually pacing myself and as such, I brought a couple of alternate costumes.
Friday morning I donned up my Legend Dark Dancer dress. Now, I did the dress as seen in the movie when it first appears on the dancing mannequin. I did that because I was too uncomfortable with the idea of 77,000 people seeing me walk around half naked with that huge drop V in the front of the dress. Call me crazy. I may have lost 60 pounds this year (so far), but I was just not up to letting modesty go. (Maybe next year….) Besides, I think being faceless adds a creepy factor to costumes.
I got a lot of compliments on the dress, and it went over pretty well. Hey, it was another comfortable one to wear, so there’s that.
I did try to put on my Stahma Tarr (Defiance) costume, but that one requires yellow eyes, and I have a lot of trouble getting contact lenses in, so I did not end up wearing it. I really am terrible at contacts, and need more practice. Next year, I am going to do at least 2, possibly 3 costumes that all require different colored eyes. So….
Anyway, so Friday night was a costume contest and I had entered it in my Predator. God I love this suit. Did I mention how much I love this suit? I am SO PROUD of my beautiful Predator, and I put it on around 3 on Friday and didn’t get out of it until after 11!
^^ On stage at Dragon*Con, Sept. 1, 2016.
The suit was amazing rave success. I did not place in the contest, but I do love just being up on stage and hearing the crowd roar. A couple things surprised me about people’s reactions to the suit at Dragon*Con.
Thanks to a tip on a simple way to do sound effects, I installed sound. I have had this for the last few cons I’ve attended, and I have had a lot of compliments over it. I really didn’t think the sound was “that big” of a deal. I know many people have sound in their Predators, so I really didn’t think anyone would “care”. The number of people who commented with raving compliments about the sound at Dragon*Con was just staggering to me. I was shocked. So, I guess not “everybody” has sounds, or it just completes the costume. I lost track of how many thousands of times I heard compliments about the sound over the whole weekend.
One other thing that surprised me was that I had several dozen people take video of me. And I’ve so far only found 1 video that actually has me in it (ha!).
Friday night, I found an Alien and a couple Colonial Marines to hunt down. They never saw me coming…..
Saturday, I doubled up on the Dark Dancer and the Predator again and for something a little different, I brought out a gag-prop with me that I figured I would carry with me for an hour or so.
Here’s the final thing that really shocked me about Dragon*Con. I mean…. I was really surprised.
I figured for sure no one would know what it even was supposed to be, and not really care about it. Boy was I wrong. Way wrong.
I had built a couple of baby Predator dolls over the summer, and brought them with me to Dragon*Con. I took one with me out onto the con floor, and immediately, the comments were overwhelming. Staggering. If thousands raved about the sounds, tens of thousands raved about the baby (and sound!). It was non stop for eight hours.
My arm was basically numb after carrying the doll with me for so long. It doesn’t weigh much, but with the armor on, it really did put a major kink in my arm! ha! Nothing a few ibuprofen couldn’t fix, I suppose.
Above, Saturday, with some of my Star Wars Friends.
Below, Saturday afternoon.
Saturday night, group Predator shoot with my friends.
In the video below, I actually made the cut along with a Stormtrooper friend of mine.
Sunday was repeat of Saturday – 8 more hours of Predator and I donned the Samara once again for some more freaking people out.
Monday morning was the dawn of a sad day…. Dragon*Con was ending. I saw William Shatner that morning and then checked out.
Although I was incredibly sad to leave the beautiful city of Dragon*Con behind, my road trip adventure was not over.
Stick around for Part III : Branson, Missouri, and more.