By 2004, Dragon Con had become a fixture on the convention landscape, the one don’t-miss party on the nerd social calendar. Veteran fans returned each year, bringing a growing circle of friends with them. With the mainstreaming of geek culture, new fans joined the throng. And each year the convention was better than the year before.
As the convention grew, new hotels were added to convention, creating more space for the expanding program. The Atlanta Hilton returned as a host hotel in 2005. The Atlanta Sheraton Hotel joined two years later, in 2007, and 2010 saw the addition of the Westin Peachtree Plaza, bringing the convention to its current configuration of five host hotels. The AmericasMart was added in 2013 to hold the dealer hall.
While the convention has remained steady in its five-hotel footprint, the need for guest rooms has spread well beyond downtown. In 2014, some 62,000 fans filled the five host hotels and parts or all of some 24 Atlanta area hotels spread around the city, from Midtown to the airport.
Programming increased and new fan tracks catered to the changing interests of the fans. More than a dozen new tracks have been added in the last decade, reaching new areas of gaming, film, robotics, and puppetry, to name a few. As the Harry Potter and Twilight series took off, the Young Adult Literature track was added, welcoming a new generation of Dragon Con fans. Dragon Con was becoming a show that parents could share with their children.
And the roster of guests kept pace, with authors, artists, creators and celebrities all in the mix. Some of the better-known guests in the 2000s have included George Takei, Mickey Rooney, Summer Glau, Lewis Gossett Jr., Erik Estrada, Sean Astin, Monkee Mickey Dolenz, Hayden Panettiere, Patrick Stewart, Malcolm McDowell, Terry Gilliam, Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, John Barrowman, Lee Majors, Ed Asner and comic greats Stan Lee and Neal Adams.
One of the hallmarks of Dragon Con has always been the ability of fans to get close to their favorite actors and authors. There are, of course, the panels and Walk of Fame appearances. But it’s also not uncommon to run into a guest in a hallway, or at the bars.
In 2008, Edward James Olmos and several of his cast mates crashed the Battlestar Galactica Colonial Fleet party, mingling with fans and creating an only-at-Dragon-Con moment. The next year, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy both made their first appearances. Shatner, a last-minute addition to the guest roster, created a Twitter sensation when he crashed Nimoy’s “In Search Of …” panel.
In 2010, Public Television aired the documentary “Four Days at Dragon Con”, just days before the convention kicked off. For the first time, people who had never even heard of Dragon Con took a one-hour “journey into the savage heart of the nerddom dream,” according to a Hunter S. Thompson look-a-like who appeared at the start of the film.
In 2011, Dragon Con celebrated 25 years of fun. A number of guests had featured prominently in Dragon Con’s past, including artist Michael Whelan, director Ralph Bakshi, game designers Richard Garfield and Richard Garriott, and Jefferson Starship. New guests included actors Christopher Lloyd, Ernest Borgnine, Carrie Fisher, Martin Landau, and Sylvester McCoy, as well as artist Boris Vallejo. The streets of downtown Atlanta welcoming Dragon Con with banners on every light post and the Atlanta City Council recognized the convention with an official proclamation.