Dragon Con. There is no other Con quite like it. Every year, thousands descend on Atlanta, GA, for a fun, activity-packed, nothing-like-you-have-ever-experienced-before, time-of-your-life opportunity. It is not for the weak of heart.
You have made the decision to go. Your cosplay costume is ready. Your pocket program is carefully marked with all of the panels you want to attend. You are ready.
Once the four days are over (or five, if you arrived on Thursday), do you plan to return or was once enough? Some say there is nothing new after the first time. Others say there is no way to experience it all and you have to come back. Still others want to reconnect with their family-away-from-family.
Most people return year after year. So what makes them come back?
This question was posted to the Facebook page to poll Con attendees who have been coming to Dragon Con for seven years or more. Here are their names (used with permission) and their responses.
Shannon Swearingen: “I come every year because Dragon Con is home. It is [a] giant family reunion. When I get there, it is full [of] My People. And I carry the knowledge that I am not alone all year long.”
Brandon Betteridge: “My wife and I are eternal members. This will be our 7th year there. We keep going back for a few reasons—first and foremost would be friends. We’ve made and continue to make great friends from across the U.S. that we generally only get to see once a year. Next would be the atmosphere—we have not come anywhere close to another con where we have been able to find a mix of the huge crowd and the chill/happy/party atmosphere. The fact that it’s in hotels means that there isn’t an effective open and closed date. I have had the best times hanging out with new friends after the all night dance party wrapped up at 5AM.”
Becki Franklin: “Honestly, because of where I am from, I am the really weird person that everyone knows. Beloved by children, mostly ignored by adults unless they are shaking their heads in bewilderment. At Dragon Con, for the last 10+ years, I got to be on the other end of the spectrum. I am the boring second cousin you have to play with every summer for two weeks…lol. It is my one chance to be the “normal” person.”
Rob Brayton: “Simply put, Dragon Con is home. It’s where I know I will be surrounded by like-minded nerds, geeks, and “weirdoes.” We go because it is the most embracing, friendly, accepting group of people that I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Like I said, it’s home.”
West Cost at Dragon Con: “So why have I been volunteering with Dragon Con TechOps since 2000? That’s easy—it’s the people I work with and meet every year. I have created more lifetime lasting bonds with friends than I can even count. Many of us consider each other “extended family.” We come together to celebrate the joyous occasions and offer a shoulder and a hug for the sad moments. Dragon Con is what brought us together. Our friendships are what keep us coming back to Dragon Con. Well that and it is one awesome Convention and it is OUR Convention.”
Christopher J. Walker: “I go to Dragon Con because it is home for me; no matter the guests that come, I always have a good time. I found Dragon Con because of Betsy Goodrich talking about it to me, about her experience with con, and while it took me a few years to go, I found out why she loved it so much. People at con are just way more friendly and accepting of other people, that is why I got my membership for life and why, no matter where I am, I will always go to Dragon Con.”
Dah Debil Isme: “I have been coming since 2003. I have been volunteering since 2008, as I had been vocal about problems with the con. Actually stepping up and doing something about issues makes it a bit more convincing if you complain. I now see both sides of the con, helping set up and being a customer. There are people I don’t see every year, until con. There are things I cannot do, except at con. I come back every year because it’s family time. My family is a bit weird.”
Grey Eminence: “I’ve been attending since 1998 (missing only once because of a car accident). Dragon Con has so much to offer and I still haven’t seen it all. But the best part is that I brought my then-girlfriend in 2003 and wasn’t even sure she’d like it. Instead, Jennifer Lynn Sayre said, “I’ve got my schedule planned for the day. See you at dinner,” and that’s how I knew I’d picked the right girl—and con.”
Alenna Smith: “I’ve gone every year since ‘05 except for one and that was due to health issues. To me Dragon Con is Christmas, Halloween, the best party you’ve ever been to, and a huge group of your best friends all in one. I go to smaller cons and have fun, but Dragon is really the highlight of my year. Depending on my energy level I can do panels, wander about and people watch, stay put in the food court and people watch, meet new people, hang with people I only see at Dragon, see celebs, or just chill.”
Terry Lunsford: “Dragon Con is my escape/vacation every year. There is a little of everything, for everybody. It’s the one place I can go and truly enjoy myself the entire time, and see or experience something new and different every year. I always tell people, leave your personal agendas at home and enjoy the ride!”
Nardo Polo: “I have been attending since 2007, and I came because a doctor recommended it (I KID YOU NOT!)
I’ve been a convention costumer since I was a teen, and for a while there, conventions either weren’t happening, or were too far away. I feared that the fandoms I was a part of were just small groups, or were dying out (GASP!)
D*C changed all of that. Every time I go, I am lost in a multiverse of costumes and fandoms. From the well known to the vague. A place where free-wheeling costuming is encouraged, celebrated and enjoyed.
Because of it, I have met, and continue to meet new people that share in my fandom. I’ve met groups to costume with. And I get to be a part of a legendary parade! It may seem the same, but it is never the same experience twice. Always a wild “ride.”
Tamar Kapner Williams: “I have been coming since 2003 and am an eternal member. I keep coming back because there are always new things to find and enjoy. At first it was all about The Buffy Track for me, now I love the YA track. Every year I never know what new thing I’m going to discover and love. D*C opens me up to new films, shows and books to explore for the coming year.”
Sibylla DeMonluc: “My husband and I go every year (this is the 8th for me, I think, he missed a year), originally because my bestie moved there around that time (we grew up two blocks from each other) and it’s the best excuse to see her and her husband. We had such a great time, we decided to continue going and make it our major vacation every year. Some years we are there for our wedding anniversary (Sept 7), so bonus! We’re gamers (tabletop, video, cards, etc.), have a collection of comics, costuming is a hobby of mine, I write, I read Fantasy (got hooked on a new series that an author thrust into my hand one year), I’m a hard core art collector, and we enjoy interacting with new geeks and seeing all their creations. We’ve met a good amount of celebrities, and while hubby tends to hit the gaming tracks and the gaming hall, I can be found in the Art Show (and meeting artists), at some writer panels, some show panels, always at costuming panels, and then round it all out with shopping and concerts. It’s the best con for us because of its diversity. PAXEast was good, but gaming only. I love the sheer number of things to see and do, and while it’s a crazy madhouse…it’s a good crazy madhouse. I wouldn’t pay that much for anything less.”
Cari Merola: “I met my husband at DCon in 2003. Returning is an anniversary in more ways than one.”
Kate Young: “This year will make nine years as an attendee. I started coming in 2006 when I was still in high school. Dragon Con was the first place that I felt like I truly belonged, surrounded by people with similar interests that would accept and embrace me as a part of their community rather than make fun of me and shun me out. I felt like I could talk to anyone! Meeting some of my favorite celebrities was the icing on the cake. Now, years later, it’s a place for me to come back and see friends that I don’t get to see but once a year. It’s a place to get away from the everyday grind of life.”
This is but a small sampling of responses. Year after year, thousands return home. For most first timers, it is the beginning of a journey and a life-long tradition.