Dragon Con 2018 Location Scouting
I have something that is apparently becoming a tradition: a 'pilgrimage' of sorts to the location of Dragon Con, the largest nerd convention in the Southeastern US. I happened to be in Atlanta a few days ago, and I was there about this same time last year. And like last year, I decided to take the opportunity on my way out of town to stop Downtown, parking near the Peachtree Center and strolling around the various host hotels. This year, however, I took the time to document a few things about my visit so I could write a bit about it.
A cool, rainy day in Atlanta, almost exactly six months before the event. But walking along the skyway towards the 'big three' hotels, I could feel excitement building. Which is odd, I suppose. There wasn't anything waiting in the hotels...no costumes, no panels, no parties. But anyone who has walked into an empty stadium or theater and felt that buzz of anticipation can, I hope, relate to the feeling I had. It's the whole reason I've begun making this stop at the end of each winter. I'm willing to pay a few bucks for parking and spend a few minutes walking around empty lobbies because it makes me excited. And this is the time of the year, as I begin the process of working on costumes for the con season in the summer, that I need that excitement and inspiration.
The Marriott looms overhead. I wonder from afar which of those windows will be mine this year when I check in. My companion and I wonder aloud if the Marriott will ever start doing legacy bookings like the others do...and if they do how important it will be to have the room this year. But more than that I'm thoughtful when looking at the 10th floor balcony, visible just at the bottom of that picture.
Last year, some idiot or idiots threw a chair from the balcony onto a crowd below, injuring some attendees. I hope that the culprits were found and punished, but I also sincerely hope that it pushes the Marriott to close off the 10th floor to non-guests. As someone who stays in the Marriott each year, while it's nice to have the 10th as an 'overflow' of sorts, huge numbers of non-guests going there clog up the already overcrowded elevators and make it even harder for those of us who paid big bucks to get to our rooms. I really hope it's closed off this year...there are plenty of other places for folks to congregate and party; they don't need the 10th.
The lobbies of the Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton are all quiet. There is a lot of furniture that is extremely odd to see if you've only ever been there during Dragon Con. Walking around makes us reminisce about adventures in the past, pausing at a railing and saying "remember when we stood here and watched the parade of 200 Deadpools go by?" And we discussing new memories to come, hopeful of where we will be and what we will wear and who we will see. It's odd. It's quiet, but there remains that buzzing of anticipation.
The closest I can compare it to is the competitions that I took part in long ago in high school. Back then I was part of an Odyssey of the Mind team, a competition that involved writing and performing a brief play, building sets, costumes, and contraptions. The very definition of The FoundryCast's ethos of "Build craft create". But my favorite memories from that time involve the early mornings before the competition began, walking the venue and mapping everything out in my head. I guess that's why I enjoy walking these lobbies six months before go time.
The biggest surprise--and I suspect the biggest change to the flow of Dragon Con since they moved the vendors a few years ago--is the construction project at Peachtree Center. The Center is a little mall and foodcourt, connected to the Marriott and Hyatt, with the local MARTA station in the basement and its front entrance on Peachtree Street and the parade route. If you've attended before, or if you're a resident of Atlanta, you might recognize this area; it's a little outdoor courtyard, above the main foodcourt. Two large skylights were ringed with benches, and this area always gave a quiet little corner for us to go hide away and eat in years past.
It was out of the flow of traffic for the most part, and was a nice spot to relax away from the crowds. But now, the skylights will be replaced by a new entrance into the heart of the food court, and will be surrounded by tables and chairs. It seems like the flow of traffic will be shifted here going forward, and our quiet hideaway will be gone. I'm a bit sad about that, but if it alleviates some of the foot traffic issues that Dragon Con attendees are familiar with, and opens up more seating for folks grabbing a quick bite, I think it should be a positive change.
After poking around for a few minutes, taking pictures and video and breathing in the quiet, it was time to go. I doubt I'll be back again until the end of August, when I jockey with hundreds of others for a cart to pile my bags and costumes onto and a spot in line to check in. The quiet will be replaced with the glorious chaos that only Dragon Con can provide.
And I can't wait.