The annual Dragon Con parade is one of the biggest “can’t miss” events during the Atlanta based convention. The early morning Dragon Con parade acts as a mobile showcase of just a fraction of what the convention has to offer, and it’s never the same experience twice. Not only were Dragon Con attendees lining the streets to snap pictures of the marchers, the parade has also become an attraction for the entire local community. Faces young and old watched with astonishment as their favorite Game of Thrones characters strode side by side with a fleet of Daleks, followed by Goku on a motorized Flying Nimbus. An event of this scale is an intense undertaking, and it’s hard to understand the scope of it until you’re there marching yourself.
My participation in the Dragon Con parade started in 2016 with the Ghostbusters group. The reboot movie had just come out and to say I was deeply enthralled in it would be an understatement. I had my custom suit, and I’d made my own proton pack from scratch, but would this new generation of ‘Buster be welcome with the old school group? Thankfully, the Dragon Con spirit of inclusiveness runs through all the fandoms, and I was right at home in the throng of ‘Busters of all shapes, series and know how. We took to the street in our jump-suited mob, waving to the crowd, giving out high-fives and assuring the general public that we were indeed afraid of no ghosts.
2018 was different. This year marks the 30th anniversary of my favorite TV show, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (or MST3K for short) and I decided to see if anyone was organizing a group to commemorate the event in the parade. Thankfully there was a group forming under the watchful eye of Cory. I had my Kinga Forrester costume ready to go from the previous year, I was all set. I’d marched before with the Ghostbusters group, no big deal right?
As the days got closer to the convention and more and more MST3K guests were added to the schedule, this was suddenly becoming a much bigger deal than most of us were aware of. The finalized plan became for three ‘Bonehead’ flag bearers to walk in front of a car with Joel Hodgson (creator of MST3K) the parade’s Grand Marshall in it with the rest of us trailing behind with a banner. You know, all of us flanking the creator of the thing we’re all obsessed with. No pressure!
After making my way from the Dragon Con parade shuttle, I met up with my fellow costumed MSTies as we made last minute adjustments to our costumes. The amount of creativity on display in not only our group but all around us was staggering. In one corner of the staging area a live band warmed up their instruments, in another, a man on stilts with a flowered costume practiced his jumping routine. Some had done the parade before, but any of the newcomers’ nervousness was put at ease by the more experienced paraders.
The good people from MST3K and Alternaversal Productions soon came over to wrangle us and get us into position. The Dragon Con parade is a finely tuned machine; it starts on time whether you’re ready or not. Each group gets into position and waits until their group is called up to head out onto the parade route.
From the moment we made it out onto the pavement and in front of the crowd, magic was in the air. Alternaversal camera crews darted around us capturing footage of our group. Shouts from adoring fans could be heard from the sidelines as Joel greeted them with Crow and Tom Servo as his sides in the rolling car. The MST3K flags fluttered in the hot Atlanta wind in front of the congregation as we made our way down Peachtree Street and back to the Marriott Marquis.
As I strutted my villain walk down the boulevard I thought back to my days spent in front of the TV at one in the morning at my Grandmother’s house, repeats of MST3K illuminating my face around my blankets. Never would I have imagined a moment like this, walking in a parade in costume alongside the person responsible for developing my personal sense of humor.
As we all gathered round for one last group photo at the end, all of us were brothers and sisters in sweat. We were strangers a few hours ago but by end we were friends that had shared a wholly unique experience. That’s what Dragon Con is. It didn’t matter how great your costume was, it didn’t matter if everyone knew who you were, it didn’t matter if this was your first Dragon Con or your 17th. What mattered is for one steamy Atlanta Saturday morning we let our freak flags fly loud and proud.
Tips for Participating in the Dragon Con Parade:
- Hydrate. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The local Boy Scouts will come around with free water. Take them, you will need it. No one wants you passing out in front of the Hyatt.
- Planning on wearing a heavy, layered costume to the parade? Do you enjoy living? One of our MSTies who was dressed as Bigfoot had a cooling pack/vest under his suit. It’s a great idea for any armored/furred costumes. Remember, Winter is Coming, but not in Atlanta in late August.
- Stay in character when out on the parade route. If you’re a hero, give high-fives to kids, raise your sword! If you’re a villain, skulk and shun the good guys while giving time to the crowds. If you can, don’t just walk down the street, act the part you’re playing. Seeing the kids’ faces light up makes all the sweating worth it.
- The Dragon Con Parade Shuttle buses will be your best way to make it to the staging area on time. If you miss those, Lyft and Uber will be your friend.
- Need to find a group to march with? Facebook and Twitter are great places to see if anything is being formed. If you don’t see what you want, consider making your own group!
- Organize well in advance with your group on distribution of parade bracelets and who’s wearing what. Getting bracelets to everyone in your group will be tricky because of the many headed beast that is Dragon Con but planning a time and place to distribute them to your members works.
- Can’t make it to the parade in person? The Dragon Con parade is broadcast on Dragon Con TV and Atlanta’s local CW channel. The replays of the Dragon Con Parade will be on Dragon Con TV and various places on YouTube.
Shout outs to MST3K Parade Group, Cory, Sharyl, Matt and everyone on the Alternaversal crew for putting everything together. Special thanks to Bethany for providing make-up for the ‘bonehead’ guards.