More than 82,000 people are expected to pack downtown Atlanta over the Labor Day weekend as Dragon Con, the internationally known pop culture, sci fi, fantasy, and gaming convention, returns for its 31st year.
Dragon Con, making Labor Day Atlanta’s favorite holiday, is scheduled for the four-day weekend – Sept. 1 – Sept. 4 – with events and activities across AmericasMart Buildings #1 and #2 and five host hotels – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Marriott Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Westin Peachtree, and Sheraton Atlanta.
Dragon Con fans will travel from every state in the nation and several foreign countries to meet their favorite actors, artists, authors, creators, and to socialize with fellow gamers and cosplayers.
Guests – More than 400 guests, from the worlds of movies, television, comics, literature, and other universes, will lead panel discussions and meet with fans. Some of this year’s top guests include Stan Lee, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Ming-Na Wen, and iconic actor John Cusack, and a pair of fan favorite captains – Firefly’sNathan Fillion and Star Trek’s William Shatner.
Muppeteer Martin P. Robinson, best known for performing Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, and Slimey the Worm on Sesame Street since 1981, and Lisa Henson, chief executive of The Jim Henson Company, lead a strong cast of puppetry guests.
Star Trek fans will be able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation with several of the show’s main characters including Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, and Marina Sirtis.
“We are delighted to have so many guests from so many of today’s most popular or, in the case of classic science fiction, best-loved shows and movies to join us this year,” convention co-chair Rachel Reeves said.
Gaming – New this year, Dragon Con has added cash-prize eSports, sometimes called professional gaming, streamed over the Twitch platform, to its slate of game-specific programming. Dragon Con attendees will be able to see events live, watching professional players and teams compete for cash prizes while their gameplay is broadcast to viewers at home via Twitch.
Dragon Con’s gaming programming takes up a combined 140,000 square feet in Americas Mart Building One and adjacent Westin Peachtree Plaza, making it one of the largest gaming conventions in the nation. Panels, contests, and parties will be held at the Westin while free gaming, paid tournaments, and similar events will be held in AmericasMart. As always gaming will be open to all Dragon Con members 24×7 for the convention.
Parade – The always popular Dragon Con Parade steps off on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 10 a.m.
While the parade is expected to attract a large crowd – it is free and the whole city is invited – it will also be broadcast live on television by Atlanta’s CW69, with a rebroadcast during primetime.
The parade route remains the same as past years. Beginning at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Linden Avenue, the parade will head south on Peachtree, east (left) on Andrew Young International Boulevard and north (left) on Peachtree Center Avenue. It will end on Peachtree Center Avenue between John Portman Boulevard and Baker Street, in front of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
The route is convenient to three MARTA stations – North Avenue, Civic Center and Peachtree Center. Parking downtown is expected to be tight, and Dragon Con encourages parade spectators to consider taking MARTA.
Cosplay – Dragon Con is well known for the quality of its cosplay – or costume play – and that tradition will certainly continue. The nation’s top cosplayers will show off their best work during the show, participating in costume contests every night of the convention and promenading throughout the five host hotels and the streets of downtown Atlanta.
Cosplay competitions remain a mainstay of Dragon Con, including the queen of competitions, Dragon Con Masquerade, which is both the oldest continuously run competition in fandom as well as one of the largest in the world. Jason David Frank of Power Rangers fame will host. The Chôsen, which is part of Dragon Con Night at the Aquarium, will be emceed by Clare Kramer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville).
Official Charity – Special Olympics Georgia is Dragon Con’s official charity for 2017. Through auctions and other charity events, plus a dollar-for-dollar match up to $100,000 from Dragon Con, the convention will raise money to support this important community organization.
Since 2013, the convention has consistently raised more than $100,000 for each of its annual official charities, including a $50,000 match from the convention. This year, the convention announced that it will increase its dollar-for-dollar match to up to $100,000.
Pat Henry, president of Dragon Con, Inc., the parent company of the Dragon Con convention, said increasing the match amount was a challenge to Dragon Con fans to raise more money for Special Olympics Georgia than for any charity in the past.
Dragon Con also conducts the largest convention-based blood drive in the nation. In 2016, some 3,000 fans donated more than 6,000 units of blood and blood products in the annual Robert A. Heinlein “Pay It Forward” blood drive, benefiting LifeSouth, which serves more than 40 hospitals in the Atlanta area and 110 hospitals in the Southeast.