ATLANTA -- In high school, science-fiction and fantasy fans rarely rubbed elbows with jocks and football fans, but the two groups shared close quarters and comradery Labor Day weekend as Downtown Atlanta hosted Dragon*Con and the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game simultaneously for the third year in a row.
"It's kind of like the ultimate pop culture weekend," said Katie Wall, a digital marketing consultant and University of North Carolina fan. Her Tar Heels lost 30-24 to Louisiana State University in Saturday's Kickoff Game. "Where else can you find a place full of sci-fi and fantasy fans next to beer-guzzling football fans, all decked out in their school colors? It's like everyone's in costume for the weekend."
"I think at the end of the day it's just a lot of people getting excited about what they love and coming together to celebrate it with other people who love the same thing," she added.
Kris Harter, a chemist and Dragon*Con attendee, says it's not always easy for the two groups to get along, but there was enough room for everyone.
"I think they are as amicable as possible with each other," Harter said. She says that three years on, Dragon*Con attendees are more accepting of the football fans and join in during the buildup toward the game. "They're more willing to say 'Roll Tide!' or 'Go War Eagles!' or 'Geaux Tigers!'," she said.
As early as Thursday night, people dressed in Steampunk garb were checking into hotels next to people dressed in purple and gold or Carolina blue. And the organizers of the two events are digging the vibe.
"The truth is, most of Dragon*Con attendees have a college football preference. It's not the old style stereotype of someone who's reading comic books and avoiding sports or not caring about sports. It's someone who's reading comic books while they're watching sports. I've had a running e-mail chain for weeks with the chairman of DragonCon about ACC versus SEC," said Dragon*Con spokesman Dan Carroll.
Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO Gary Stokan sent an open invitation to Dragon*Con attendees for exactly that reason, welcoming them to weekend Kickoff Game events.
Sometimes called "Comic Con's little brother," but fiercely defended by attendees as the country's most fan-oriented convention, Dragon*Con had more than 30,000 preregistered guests as of Thursday night, Carroll said. Celebrities on the Con circuit anticipated an attendance closer to 70,000 people this year, based on over-packed hotel rooms and local visitors.
"It's not intimate. It's not a small convention," Harter said.
This year the convention spanned four of downtown Atlanta's largest hotels, taking up every room not already booked by the nearly 20,000 LSU and UNC fans who came for the Kickoff Game.