Once a year since 1986, tens of thousands of fans from around the globe gather across 12 city blocks in the heart of downtown Atlanta to celebrate their love of sci-fi, comics, fantasy, gaming, and costuming at the world's largest fan-based multimedia convention, Dragon Con. The convention has grown exponentially over the years, with 70,000-plus attendees participating in more than 3,000 hours of scheduled events located across five official host hotels and two floors of the America’s Mart Convention Center in 2015.
Dragon Con has been officially embraced by the Atlanta Visitors’ Bureau, providing potential guests with details about the convention, contact information for the five official Dragon Con host hotels and information about nearby attractions within walking distance, or in one specific instance, located directly within one of the convention hotels. One of the newest host hotels to be added to the lineup of official Dragon Con event locations, The Westin Peachtree Plaza Atlanta, gave attendees the unique opportunity to see a 360-degree panoramic view of the city skyline from the observation deck on the 72nd floor. While always a spectacular sight to see, I must admit that viewing the Atlanta skyline on a clear night surrounded by guests dressed as comic book heroes, sci-fi characters, and mythical creatures makes it a magical moment that is indescribable.
Dragon Con has also been embraced by the local community, who have had a chance to join in on the celebration every year during the Dragon Con Parade. This past weekend, more than 85,000 spectators of all ages lined Peachtree Street to witness the .9-mile lineup of special guests, costumers and performers, officially making the Dragon Con Parade the largest in Atlanta. As Dragon Con continues to grow and receive increased support from the local community, the convention has found numerous ways to show their appreciation by giving back and helping those in need. Since 2005, Dragon Con has been supporting official charities each year, raising more than $115,000 for the Atlanta Community Food Bank in 2014, $100,000 for the Lymphoma Research Foundation in 2015 (as of Sept. 7, with this number still rising), and more than $500,000 overall various charities since 2005.
I have personally been attending Dragon Con for over 10 years, and have always appreciated that regardless of how large it grows, how much media attention it receives, or how many national recognitions it receives, the fact that it has never strayed from its mission to be a convention for fans by fans is truly what makes it special. A feeling of true inclusion permeates throughout the weekend, creating an environment where creativity and uniqueness is celebrated and welcome.
This is especially impactful to those who may not have a place where they feel that they can be themselves in a safe setting close to where they live, and according to Dragon Con Director of Media Relations Dan Carroll, “Dragon Con gives people who may not have a voice a home, and takes pride in welcoming all to join our family.”
I was curious if this inclusive environment was intentionally fostered by Dragon Con, and if it was actually the driving force behind the convention’s continued growth and cultural relevance within the "nerd" community. Dan was able to confirm that “one of the main goals of Dragon Con is to share the positive aspects of the (nerd) community with local and national media through a fan run convention.” This distinction is what makes Dragon Con unique, since other nationally recognizable comic and sci-fi conventions are run by convention organizations for media purposes.
Coke's Cecilia Holman with Dragon Con Media Relations Director Dan Carroll
By sharing the voice of the community directly from the members of the community, Dragon Con has truly become the consolidated voice of a sometimes misunderstood sub-culture of comic book collectors, sci-fi movie fanatics, fantasy book lovers, and costume makers across the globe. I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have had over the years to share the voice of Dragon Con with others, so the least that I could do to show my gratitude was to Share a Coke with Dragon Con!
Coca-Cola employee Cecilia Holman provides lifestyle and event coverage for the comic, gaming and anime communities. For up to date “nerd lifestyle” news, follow her on Twitter @KittiNinja.