Every Labor Day weekend, Peachtree Street fills with the sound of clanging swords, the stomping of men in white Stormtrooper armor, and the twirling of lightsabers in the air. It’s not your typical day in downtown Atlanta. Once a year, the unusual becomes an everyday occurrence. Briefcases are replaced with bags stuffed with comic books, and neckties switch places with flamboyant, red-and-orange wizard scarves. Every year, thousand of fans invade Atlanta to attend Dragon*Con—with over 30,000 in 2007—upholding Dragon*Con’s reputation as one of the largest science fiction and fantasy conventions in the United States.
While most events at Dragon*Con can only be attended by purchasing a convention membership, the parade marches in public on the streets of downtown; everyone is welcome. Featuring groups ranging from Netherworld, a professional haunted house, to the local chapter of the Doctor Who fan club, young and old masquerade as such classic characters as Strawberry Shortcake
or such recent hero incarnations as the updated Batman. Present and past meet when fans of Gene Wilder‘s 1971 Willy Wonka come together with fans of Johnny Depp‘s rendition in 200. And the spectacle includes not only parade participants but also the crowds lining the streets. At one Dragon*Con, I remember seeing a little girl in a white Princess Leia costume—complete with hair buns—waving to a marching group of women dressed as Princess Leia.
As row after row of Stormtroopers march side-by-side down the street, creating waves of white and black, once again the strange will become the norm for the streets of Atlanta in 2008 until the only remnant will be the lone mailbox dressed up as R2-D2 on Peachtree Street.