Dragon*Con (When A Convention Starts To Get Too Big)
Posted on September 11, 2014
I remember when standing in line for thirty minutes for my badge was the worst thing about Dragon*Con (or DragonCon). And, really, that’s not much to complain about. I learned quickly, too, that if I wanted to catch a popular panel and didn’t want to stand outside that I should just hang around the door area and when everybody came in, I could hop on at the back and walk in. Sure, the seats were in the back, but they have video screens set up for us. It still all worked and I got to see everything I wanted to. That was ten years ago. These days? Well, the convention has grown and things have changed a bit.
The other convention that tends to get brought up quite a bit during the weekend is the San Diego Comicon. It’s HUGE. It’s my understanding that there are wall-to-wall people, it’s pricy as heck and attendees tend to be treated much like cattle. However, I’ve never been there myself, so I’m only repeating what I’ve heard. It’s also not fan-run like Dragon*Con is. I think that makes a difference. Now, San Diego manages to pull in some pretty big names, names I’m surprised haven’t ventured out to DragonCon yet, but we’re hopeful, especially because this convention is still growing. I think I heard attendance was up to 62,000 people this year, which is more than last year.
So with so many people, are there growing pains? Oh, heck yes. The con has had to come up with a more time-efficient way to get people their badges and it’s mostly worked. More host hotels have been added since I started. It used to just be the Hyatt and Marriott, then it included the Hilton and Sheridan. There are tons of overflow hotels now used, but let’s face it, they’re running out of room. Ballrooms that held the larger celebrity panels are too small for the crowds. Atlanta was pretty sweltering this convention and nobody, nobody likes to spend up to two hours standing outside to catch a glimpse of Patrick Stewart on stage. The overwhelming majority of the panels I wanted to see were like this, so I wound up skipping them.
Dragon*Con’s Walk of Fame (where the celebrities have tables for signings) has never exactly been conducive to accommodating large crowds and the way it was set up this year in terms of lining up was confusing at best. It just wasn’t working. That’s something I hope they continue to figure out, but it’s not gotten much better in ten years, so I don’t know. And the Dealer’s Rooms? Good God… Talk about a cattle drive with no room to maneuver. I hear, though, that they’re going to move them again next year.
On a positive note, the people who work at DragonCon are fans and volunteers and more often than not, they treat people with respect who treat them with respect. That’s a huge plus and something I’m relieved has never changed. They work their asses off. If there’s ever a “grrrrr” moment, it tends to come from the celebrities handlers (the non-DragonCon personnel). You’ve no idea how glad the con goers and con workers are that Julie Caitlin Brown has been absent for a couple of years now. The only word I can use to describe her unholiness is BITCH. She has no clue how to treat people and I haven’t missed her presence at all. Now, the other handlers? They’re protective and rightly so, but they tend to treat con goers like cattle and that’s not cool.
There’s a Detroit convention called the MotorCity Comicon and things there when it comes to celebrities are respectful and laid back. It’s a MUCH smaller convention, but everyone behaves. If I’m going to spend $125 for a picture with Patrick Stewart and then another $85 for him to sign it—and I’ve never understood why anybody should have to pay extra after paying for the picture—I might want to spend a quality minute or so saying ‘hello’ or even asking a short, concise question. The problem with that comes down to the “fan experience” versus “the amount of dollars that can be made pushing everyone through.”
Nobody likes being made to feel like cattle. Nobody likes being literally crammed into a room with malfunctioning air-conditioning. Nobody likes being told if you want to attend a panel, you’d better line up outside two hours before it starts. That’s when you know a convention is getting too big and needs to examine ways to alleviate the pressure build-up. Dragon*Con is there. I’d love to see this con overshadow San Diego one day, but it’s not going to happen the way it’s currently going.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed, though. Please just don’t bring back Julie Caitlin Brown.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
9 Responses to “Dragon*Con (When A Convention Starts To Get Too Big)”
Shae Connor says:
September 11, 2014 at 12:15 pm
Just for the record, it’s officially Dragon Con. 😀
I never even made it to the dealer rooms, but from what I’ve heard, it’s a good thing I didn’t. I would’ve sweated to the death. I hope the move next year helps with that issue. (Adding a sixth host hotel might help some, too.)
September 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm
Okay, I keep seeing it as Dragon*Con, but people search for it that way or as DragonCon. Now there’s a third way? Leave it to you, Shae. lol Leave it to you.
Shae Connor says:
September 11, 2014 at 8:58 pm
It was Dragon*Con, then changed to Dragon Con (after the legal stuff last year). No matter how else people write it, that’s the official name. After all the editing I did this year, trust me, I know! LOL
Patricia Logan says:
September 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm
The whole thing sounds incredibly claustrophobic and hideous and hot. Of course those would be my flashes but they are always with me. I don’t think if Jesus himself was at Dragon Con, I’d pay $125 for his photo, much less $85 for him to sign it. After all, if he wanted to, the Heavens could just open and a finger of fire could come down and sign it for him, right? And because he knows me so well, he knows I don’t pay retail so the $125 would be out of the question.
The whole thing sounds hideous except the part about hanging out and eating with friends that you wrote about in part 1. I’m glad you still enjoy going and I hope it continues for many years but it looks like it’s going to become more and more costly every year. It kind of bugs me that as the prices go through the roof, and people continue to spend ever increasing fees for lifetime memberships as the quality of the “experience” decreases. I think the organizers will eventually regret that.
Patricia Logan says:
September 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I appreciated you being able to make use of the word cattle four times in one blog.
September 11, 2014 at 7:34 pm
You know I love to do what I can to excite you.
September 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm
It’s really not all bad. It’s just a far cry from where it was when I started attending. They just can’t keep up with the crowds.
Kiernan Kelly says:
September 11, 2014 at 5:04 pm
The numbers at Dragon Con, in my opinion, are slightly underrated, although I have to admit it’s better than in years past, before they started checking badges and room keys to enter even the public areas of the hotels. Before, people used to pour in off the streets at night (no badge required) and party in the hotel lobbies and promenades. It’s was crazy – the fire department would repeatedly shut down the hotels due to over capacity, and you couldn’t get in to your own hotel, even if you had a room key.
Patty, everyone should experience Dragon Con at least once. I always enjoy myself, even if I don’t go to many panels. Just sitting on a few, and gawking at the costumes, plus hanging out with great people like Kris, Tis, and CR make it all worth while. 🙂
September 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm
You hit the nail on the head. I keep going because of hanging out with you folks, my little brother, his husband, and their friends. That’s what makes the con for me these days.