Well it’s been just about a week since we got home from our first Dragon*Con and I think maybe, just maybe, my brain is starting to work again! So I thought I would take a few minutes to sit down and share our experience, journal style….
Thursday, August 30th, 3pm
Courtney arrives home from a day at school and we basically pick her up and throw her into the car, which is packed with all our costumes, props, and what we think will be sufficient snacks and water for our trip (hahaha! NOT!). We are very anxious to get going since we discovered after the fact that the con really unofficially starts Wednesday, and quite a few of our friends are already there! Via Facebook, we have discovered that our friends from up north, Jessica, Nick, Kevin and Dale, are already on the road and about 2 hours ahead of us. Over the course of the next 8+ hours we haul a** via the interstates and make a game of trying to catch up to them (an impossible task, but amusing just the same!). For once Courtney actually stays awake the whole trip! Seeing new sights, new cities, the thrill of the chase (we closed to within about 45 minutes of our targets, lol!) and the excitement of our first Dragon*Con kept her eyes open. Or maybe it was Jay and I singing at the top of our lungs?
We arrive in Atlanta, Georgia to the sight of the city, shrouded in fog and lit up like a beacon. It was beautiful! However, my windows were too splattered with bugs to take a picture….bummers. We quickly find our hotel (The Melia)…..and soon wish we hadn’t. We had made reservations, several months in advance, in what was supposed to be one of the “overflow” hotels; meaning they are con-friendly, provide a free shuttle bus back and forth to the con, and give a discounted rate to con goers. After groping our way through a very dark lobby, we checked in, only to find the two people working behind the desk (a) had never heard of Dragon*Con and had no idea what it was, and (b) had no information about a shuttle bus of any kind. Things were not looking good, and would soon look much worse. (We later figured out they kept the lights so dim to hide the dirt, disrepair, and faded carpet held together with colored duct tape. All this for only $170 a night! Bargain!)
Upon arriving at our room we discovered the air conditioner wasn’t on and the room was about 95 muggy degrees. We turned the ac on and soon discovered why it was probably off. Very quickly the room filled with the stink of burning rubber and mold. Further inspection showed us mold on the ceiling, a filthy bathroom (I will spare you the details), garbage already in the garbage can, and mold absolutely covering the air conditioning unit! Also, even though I had called three separate times over the previous two weeks to confirm….there was no cot in the room for Courtney and no refrigerator (though their website claims every room has one). A quick trip back to the front desk found us with keys to another room, 2 floors up. We began the process of moving two luggage carts full of stuff to room #2 but stopped midway as we encountered yet another filthy, mold-infested room. By now I am exhausted, wheezing (I have asthma and allergies) and totally annoyed. Jay heads back to the front desk again and thus begins the “Great Hunt for a Clean Room” at the Melia. After inspecting 3 more rooms, each filthier and with more mold than the previous one, we finally gave up, packed all our stuff and left. The Grand Hyatt in Buckhead was the first hotel we found with a room for all four nights so we jumped at it, even though it was more expensive. Checking in to the Hyatt was like stepping in to heaven. So clean! So cool! So brightly lit and filled with friendly, helpful staff! Worth every penny.
Friday August 31, Day One at Dragon*Con
Feeling much better after a good night’s sleep at the Hyatt, costume prep starts! Courtney has decided the first outfit she is going to wear is her Little Sister, from BioShock. Airbrushing is done to about 85% of her body, while she stands in the bathtub of the hotel room, and soon we are ready to leave.
Since they are not an overflow hotel there is no shuttle service to the con, but a courtesy car takes us down the street to the MARTA station, which supposedly will let us out underneath one of the host hotels. Well, that wasn’t quite the case, thanks to some major construction going on. Let me sum up the MARTA experience; the stations are HOT (no air conditioning at all); if you can find someone who works there and can answer any questions you might have consider, it a miracle; trains seem to take forever to arrive when you are sitting around melting in a costume, getting weird looks because NO ONE else in the area is going to Dragon*Con; and the trains do NOT run to all locations 24/7!
After walking what seemed like 10 miles, we got to the Sheraton and picked up our badges (a very quick procedure, thank goodness!), and headed to the Marriott. We had heard from several of our friends that this was the place to be. Shortly after arriving we did indeed find some familiar faces!
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting reacquainted with friends, meeting some Facebook friends face-to-face and walking around taking LOTS of pictures! The highlight of the early part of Friday had to be when we met Volpin (Harrison Krix) in person. Courtney spotted his Skyrim horns (lol) across the Marriott floor and took off after him. For those of you who don’t know, Volpin is a well known prop maker in the cosplay community; his work inspired Jay to make the Adam Syringe for Courtney’s Little Sister costume. When Courtney showed Harrison our version of the syringe, he liked it! He really liked it (lol)! He seemed to be a genuinely nice guy who didn’t mind taking the time to talk to a couple of his “fans”, even though he was in a hurry. She also got to meet Bill Doran (Punished Props) which was also a treat (and another super nice guy)!
A quick trip back to the hotel room, some more airbrushing, and Courtney was transformed from Little Sister to Silent Hill Nurse for the evening. We decided to drive the car back to the con, since train service was hit or miss in the evening and the nurses outfit was a bit more…..eye catching….than Little Sister.
Friday evening, back at the Marriott, we met up with friends again; old and new! We even got to meet Felicia Day and Courtney got her picture taken with her.
We also visited the Walk of Fame (where one of the stars asked for Courtney’s picture, lol), shook Lou Ferrigno’s hand and oggled some of the many stars in attendance.
After more walking/picture taking, we grabbed a bite to eat at The Metro Cafe Diner (yummy!) and headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be an early day!
Saturday September 1st – Parade Day!
Saturday our day started at the crack of dawn. Up early to get Hawke all suited up, quick breakfast (compliments of the Hyatt), and it’s off to the MARTA station again. More walking in the heat and humidity of Atlanta and we finally arrive where the shuttle bus is supposed to pick up participants to take them to the parade. After waiting almost 45 minutes a bus shows up (the wrong one) and is commandeered to take the waiting crowd to the park for parade set up. We send Courtney off on the bus and nab what we think is a good spot to take pictures and video for the parade. Well, by the time the parade gets to our spot dozens of people have joined us and managed to shove their way in front of us (thus most of our pictures and video have a certain blonde head, with her obnoxious spawn, in them). Next year we pick a better spot, and bring a milk crate to stand on! It was HOT, HOT, HOT and the marchers looked like they were melting in the heat.
After the parade there was a photoshoot with the whole Dragon Age group on the steps of the Hilton. David Gaider (head writer for Dragon Age) and Chris Priestly (Community Coordinator at BioWare) were the special guests of honor!
After the photoshoot with the Dragon Age group, it was another MARTA trip back to the hotel (did I mention MARTA stations have no ac?) and a change in to Courtney’s Mass Effect 2 casual dress for Ms. Shepard. Another car ride back and we were ready for the evenings festivities.
First thing on the agenda was a photoshoot with the HUGE Mass Effect group, including all the great folks at the N7-Elite Costume Group. I played mom to all the hot, dehydrated folks in their foam armor, Courtney got her picture taken with some Mass Effect celebs (Rana McAnear and Mark Meer) and Jay ran around climbing on furniture, trying to get as many photos as possible!
Afterwards, a small group of us went out to dinner at Alma Cocina. Good food, good friends…who could ask for more?
Sunday September 2nd
Another day of Hawke, with a quick photoshoot at the Hyatt’s. A zen garden in the upper level, with a waterfall in the lower level, provided a nice back drop for some shots!
Then it was back to the convention….by car this time! The heck with MARTA! We immediately met up with our Dragon Age buddies, and Courtney got to chat with Chris Priestly and David Gaider again! Both really like her Hawke cosplay, David even said he has never seen anyone go in to such detail (especially her red glowing hand) as Courtney had. Then he asked her for a hug! Ermahgerd! I thought she was going to die on the spot 🙂
More hanging out with friends and “idols”, much more picture taking…
Soon it was time for our impromptu photoshoot with our Dragon Age friends!
So much fun! I really couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people to share Dragon*Con with.
That evening, Courtney got her first experience observing what happens at a bar (The Pulse, in the Marriott) after hours at a convention. Lots of grown up supervision, and we were only on the outskirts of the bar area, but I think she thought it was all kind of amusing! We stayed until the place closed, then said our good-byes (to those left standing) and headed back to the hotel.
Monday September 3rd
After grabbing a few hours sleep it was time to load up the car and head back home to Indy. It was a much quieter drive home and we made excellent time, even though it rained on and off most of the trip.
Things we learned from Dragon*Con
The best part of the convention experience is the people you meet.
Your feet will never hurt so much as they will after four days at Dragon*Con…no matter how comfortable your shoes are! And if you are wearing uncomfortable shoes? I pity your soul, lol.
Pack snacks and water! Lots of snacks and lots of water! You think you have enough packed? YOU DON’T!!!
Stay in one of the five main convention hotels. If you can’t get in one of those, DON’T use the MARTA! Parking is pretty abundant and the prices aren’t bad at all; especially when you consider it is a holiday weekend, during a convention! Compared to NYC prices it’s a steal!
DON’T EVER STAY AT THE MELIA HOTEL IN ATLANTA!!!
Plan ahead, buy your tickets early, book a hotel as soon as they open up, and if you haven’t finished your costume a week before the con…..give it up and rest before the big event. A run down body is one more susceptible to con crud (urgh!!)
But most of all relax, have fun, try not to stress out, avoid drama because…
ERMAHGERD!!! ERT’S DRERGERN CERN!!!