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HISTORY
 

A Brief History of Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con was launched in 1987 as an outgrowth/evolvement of a local SF and gaming group, the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players (DAGR), founded by Ed Kramer. The name "Dragon" for both the club and the convention was derived from Ed's Dragon Computer (a European version of Radio Shack's venerable Color Computer), which hosted a local Bulletin Board System ("The Dragon") that initially served as a central hub for both organizations. Through months of initial planning, club members John Bunnell, David Cody, Robert Dennis, Mike Helba, Pat Henry and Ed Kramer formed the original Dragon*Con Board of Directors; most remain an integral part of the convention to this day. In fact, nearly fifty "ten-year" staff and guests were honored at Dragon*Con '96 and nearly that many have since been honored at the fifteen-year mark! 

Our inaugural Dragon*Con flyers debuted at the 1986 Atlanta Worldcon, ConFederation. However, by the following year Dragon*Con had been selected to be the host of the 1990 Origins convention—the US National Gaming Convention—and so had penned a seven-year contract with the Atlanta Hilton (for 1990 through 1996)—all prior to the start of our first event! 

Dragon*Con '87 featured Guest of Honor Michael Moorcock (his first US convention appearance in twelve years), Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey, the late Robert Adams, Richard "Lord British" Garriott (creator of Ultima), Gary Gygax (co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons) and Toastmaster Brad Strickland. Just over 1,400 fans joined in on the fun—a remarkable number for a first-year convention. Miramar recording artist Jon Serrie delivered his keyboard arrangements from within a real NASA flightsuit (with helmet) during the Masquerade/Costume Contest. Michael Moorcock and longtime friend Eric Bloom, Blue Oyster Cult's vocalist/guitarist, even jammed onstage, performing the Moorcock-written BOC tunes "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" and "Black Blade" — thus launching live concerts as an annual Dragon*Con tradition. Starfire Swords donated a broadsword to be presented to Michael Moorcock by the convention. Thomas E. Fuller and the Atlanta Radio Theatre, who've become another annual tradition, performed H.P. Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu live at the con and on the air. 

Dragon*Con's 1987 and 1988 conventions were held at the Piedmont Plaza Hotel (now the Renaissance), at the corner of Spring and Linden. However, with Anne McCaffrey as Guest of Honor in 1989, Dragon*Con relocated to the Omni Hotel and Convention Center to accommodate the 3,200 fans who attended. As host of Origins '90, Dragon*Con moved to the Atlanta Hilton and Towers and more than doubled in size with Guest of Honor Tom Clancy, providing the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) with one of its largest and most successful conventions ever. 

Dragon*Con '90 also marked the inclusion of an entirely new facet of the convention, the Atlanta Comics Expo, which was held simultaneously with Dragon*Con at a nearby hotel. The Expo proved so successful even in its first year that we retained the monicker and incorporated it into Dragon*Con itself, a marriage "made in heaven" - especially with so much more-recent "crossover" of comics into SF and fantasy (as well as gaming). 

Later in 1990, we hosted Michael Moorcock and Harlan Ellison at Georgia Fantasy Con, a smaller mostly-literary event which set the groundwork for the 1992 World Fantasy Convention (held in Pine Mountain, Georgia at the Callaway Gardens resort). 

Also in 1992, Dragon*Con and Atlanta's Dark River Writers assisted in the presentation of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer's Association (SFWA) annual Nebula Awards Banquet Weekend (held at the Sheraton Colony Square Hotel). 

At the 1992 Worldcon in Orlando, Florida (Magicon), Dragon*Con won its bid to host the 1995 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). Later that year, Dragon*Con also received the bid to host the International Starfleet Conference as part of its 1995 convention. The combined event set a Dragon*Con attendance record with 14,312 fans participating. The program book, edited by staff writer, editor and webmaster Paul W. Cashman, won the Georgia Printers Association's Award of General Excellence for that year. 

Also in 1995, Dragon*Con staff assisted in the presentation of the highly successful 1995 World Horror Convention, held at the Sheraton Colony Square Hotel. We again hosted this professionals' convention in 1999 at the Sheraton Century Center. 

The 1994 Worldcon in Winnipeg, Canada marked a surprise bid for Dragon*Con to host the 1998 Worldcon (after discovering that we'd have to shift dates for 1998 to Labor Day weekend anyway). There was much relief when Baltimore received the 1998 Worldcon bid instead, since they'd lost the Worldcon's traditional Labor Day weekend dates and no conflict would result after all. 

In 1996, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell presented the convention with a certificate of acclamation for hosting its tenth Dragon*Con in the city. By the time Dragon*Con departed the Atlanta Hilton as its host hotel in 1996, we had already annexed the Westin Peachtree Plaza for game tournaments, the Atlanta Civic Center for our Masquerade Costume Contest, and nearly a dozen overflow hotels for fans to use. The Atlanta Business Chronicle listed Dragon*Con as the city's 12th largest annual convention of any kind based on our 1996 attendance and room block. 

Dragon*Con 1997 marked our shift in hotels to the Hyatt Regency, whose staff have been extremely supportive. We also made use of the Inforum, a convention facility two blocks to the west which has since been closed for convention use. 

A new chapter began in 1998 for Dragon*Con, as we retained our convention headquarters at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, but shifted our large-scale operations (Exhibit Hall, Dealers Room, etc.) to a modern convention facility called the AmericasMart (consisting of the Atlanta Apparel Mart, Gift Mart, and Merchandise Mart), ranked as the fourth largest producer of conventions in the United States. We retained these facilities for 1999, when our attendance spiraled toward 20,000; we also dropped the "Atlanta Comics Expo" moniker while retaining our comics programming and guests. We used the same facilities in 2000 and finally topped the 20,000 mark, Atlanta's largest volunteer-run event and significantly larger than any SF-oriented convention on Earth. Some comics shows, like San Diego Comic-Con, remain the kings of that genre. 

For 2001 we shifted our location slightly, keeping the Hyatt as our headquarters hotel while making use of the celebrated Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel, one of the Southeast's true architectural masterpieces. In a sense we'll have come full-circle; back when our first flyers debuted in 1986 at the Atlanta Worldcon, Confederation, acclaimed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury had said of the then-new Marriott, "This hotel is science fiction!" Fifteen years later, it's still one of the most unique structures in the Southeast. 

Alas, our growth came at a cost, as we had to shift our dates to Labor Day Weekend to make use of both hotels (it's the slowest weekend of the year in the hotel business). We sincerely regret the conflict with Worldcon's dates, but it's something over which we have no control.

In 2002, in recognition of the tenth year of one of Dragon*Con's most successful fan tracks, Mayor Shirley Franklin proclaimed September 2, 2002 (the last day of that year's convention) as 'TrekTrak Day' in the City of Atlanta.

2003-2004 saw little in the way of changes to the overall convention space, but several new tracks were added to the line up, including Gothic/Horror, Costuming, Independent Film, and a Young Adult Literature track.

In 2005, we expanded to meet growing need for convention space into three hotels by adding the Atlanta Hilton as a co-host hotel. 2005 also saw the return of the Masquerade to the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Labor Day 2006 (September 1-4, 2006) marked our 20th year anniversary! It's hard to believe it, but in 2007, Dragon*Con surpassed our blow-out 20th Anniversary year, and reached an all new high of 30,000+ members!

Dragon*Con staff have also assisted in the presentation of other conventions and events. The following table shows these events, as well as Dragon*Con's history by venue and attendance.  

Dragon*Con Through the Years

 

Convention

Year

Venue

Attendance

Dragon*Con

1987

Piedmont Plaza Hotel

1,400

Dragon*Con

1988

Piedmont Plaza Hotel

1,700

Dragon*Con

1989

Omni Hotel & Convention Center

3,200

ORIGINS/ Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1990

Atlanta Hilton & Towers/Atlanta Radisson Hotel

6,900

Georgia Fantasy Con

1990

Atlanta Radisson Hotel

1,100

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1991

Atlanta Hilton & Towers

5,200

SFWA Nebula Awards Banquet

1992

Sheraton Colony Square

300

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1992

Atlanta Hilton & Towers

6,100

World Fantasy Convention

1992

Callaway Gardens (Pine Mountain, GA)

650

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1993

Atlanta Hilton & Towers

8,000

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1994

Atlanta Hilton & Tower/ Westin Peachtree Plaza/ Atlanta Civic Center

11,000

World Horror Convention

1995

Sheraton Colony Square

850

North American Science Fiction Convention (NSAFiC)/ Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo/ International Starfleet Conference

1995

Atlanta Hilton & Towers/ Westin Peachtree Plaza/ Ramada Downtown/ Atlanta Civic Center

14,000

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1996

Atlanta Hilton & Towers/ Westin Peachtree Plaza/ Atlanta Civic Center

13,400

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1997

Inforum Convention Center/ Westin Peachtree Plaza/ Atlanta Civic Center

18,000

Dragon*Con/ Atlanta Comics Expo

1998

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ AmericasMart

18,000

Dragon*Con

1999

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Atlanta Merchandise Mart/ Atlanta Apparel Mart

19,000

Dragon*Con

2000

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Atlanta Merchandise Mart/ Atlanta Apparel Mart

20,000

Dragon*Con

2001

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis

20,000+

Dragon*Con

2002

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis

20,000+

Dragon*Con

2003

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis

20,000+

Dragon*Con

2004

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis

20,000+

Dragon*Con

2005

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis/
Atlanta Hilton

20,000+

Dragon*Con

2006

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis/
Atlanta Hilton

25,000+

Dragon*Con

2007

Hyatt Regency Atlanta/ Marriott Marquis/
Atlanta Hilton

30,000+

 

Note regarding these attendance figures: many professional conventions and trade shows list their attendance as "bodies per day," so a person with a 4-day membership is counted four times toward the final total. Science fiction conventions traditionally count each membership as one attendee, so whether a person attends one day or all four days, he/she is counted once toward the total. The figures above reflect the latter method; when the "bodies/day" method is used, Dragon*Con 2001's total is approximately 43,000. Either way you count 'em, it's still a boatload of people. 

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