My First Dragon Con – “You’re Not Ready.”
By: Krista Ann Freego
“You’re not ready.” This was the recurring piece of advice from Sheila Allen, an Executive Producer with the web series Swerve, as we discussed Dragon Con. Sheila first imparted this knowledge during our first Skype call (my first Skype call ever) about a week and a half before Dragon Con. The most recent time Sheila gave me this advice was on my first day of Dragon Con, which was last Friday. Sitting here now, one week later to the day, I can confirm that Sheila was in fact correct.
There is no real way to prepare oneself for Dragon Con. Being the Type-A person I am, I had a list. I had correlated folders with information I needed for my scheduled interviews. Another folder for my flight information. Another folder for my hotel information. Yet another folder for all my Dragon Con Info – maps, locations of artists I wanted to visit, schedules of events I wanted to attend, etc. Yet still, I was not prepared.
I don’t know what I would have done on Friday, Sept. 1, my first day of Dragon Con (Dragon Con actually started the day before on Thursday, August 31), without Sheila. I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of Friday with her and two of the stars of Swerve Season 2 – Sharon Belle and Winny Clarke. I followed Sheila’s lead and she showed us how to get from registration to Building 2 of the America Mart. Once there she showed us the vendors and then to one of my all-time favorite places in all of Dragon Con, Artist Alley. Artist Alley was located on the third floor of America Mart Building 2 (in case you need to find it next year). I could have spent all day walking around Artist Alley and talking to all of the artists about how they got started and just breathing in their passion and energy. Artist Alley truly was my “happy place” at Dragon Con. Artist Alley, for those who may not know, is the floor where all of the artist vendors are placed. Each artist has a booth to sell their work. It is such a beautiful, happy and magical space. I highly recommend it to anyone who is going to Dragon Con. If I could have, I would have spent an entire day there getting to see all of the different types and mediums of art and getting to know all of the artists. An absolute MUST do for anyone at Dragon Con!
While Artist Alley was my “happy place,” nothing can compare to the amazing group of people I met while I was at Dragon Con. I met Earpers (fans of Wynonna Earp), Swervers (fans of Swerve) and Swearpers (what I call fans of both fandoms). No matter what fandom the individual belonged to each one opened their heart to me and showed me a kindness and familiarity that has been unmatched. For this kindness, this profound generosity, Sheila is right – I was not prepared. I had so many amazing conversations and experiences with these people (that moments ago were strangers) that I will always treasure and carry with me in my heart, mind and soul. Whenever I was lost, they pointed me in the right direction. Whenever I needed information, they were happy to help me find the answers. Whenever I needed company, they were always there with open arms to accept and welcome me.
In this article I could tell you the do’s and don’ts of Dragon Con. I could tell you to ditch the cute shoes and go for the most comfortable pair of sneakers you own. I could tell you how easy it is to forget to sleep or eat. I could tell you to bring hand sanitizer so you can hopefully avoid contracting “Con Crud” (when you get sick due to the mass amounts of people and germs), but none of that will prepare you for Dragon Con. The most amazing experiences you will encounter at Dragon Con will not come from getting an autograph or listening to a panel. They will come from getting lost and stumbling upon an amazing group of strangers who within hours feel like lifelong friends. It will come from the people you meet while you’re waiting in the autograph lines. It will come from the group of people you mastermind with on the best place to line up for or, in the alternative, hide to get the best vantage point to line up for the panels. It will be those few people who decide to embrace your craziness and continually ride up and down the escalator loop hole that you discovered in the panel line up restriction at the Westin. It will come from a simple conversation at a Mexican restaurant or at a park as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon. It will come from a brave group of Earpers who are determined to get across the street during the parade, even if they have to travel underground to do so. The most meaningful moments of Dragon Con will not be on a schedule, but rather will happen when you least expect them.
Don’t get me wrong, meeting a personal hero of mine Emily Andras (showrunner and writer for Wynonna Earp) and buying an autographed script from her was absolutely AH-MAZING! Meeting show stars Katherine Barrell, Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Melanie Scrofano was also very much so mind blowing. Each and every member of the Wynonna Earp cast was just as welcoming and supportive as the Earpers that support them!
Also, while at Dragon Con I held a contest called “Where at Dragon Con is Krista” – a/k/a “#WDCK.” Thank you to everyone who participated in this contest. It was so great to meet all of you and be found by you. Another thank you to LGBT Fans Deserve Better for their amazing merchandise that made for the perfect prizes. If you don’t know what LGBT Fans Deserve Better is, please see my previous article on them at http://starrymag.com/lgbt-fans-deserve-better-pop-up-store-launch/.
To everyone I met at Dragon Con, THANK YOU! Thank you for sharing your experience with me. Thank you for sharing your story with me. Thank you for sharing your time with me. Just THANK YOU! I was not prepared for your wonderfulness. I was not prepared for your kindness and your awesomeness and all of you truly were the best part of Dragon Con for me!
I also wanted to take a moment to do a special shout out to Jason Armstrong, Kisha Tapangan, Sheila Allen, Sharon Belle and Winny Clarke from Swerve. It was a joy to work with all of you to and promote Swerve at Dragon Con and for Starry Constellation Magazine. It was an honor to be an honorary member of your Swerve family for a short period of time.
So, the long and the short of it is that “you’re not ready.” It is true and it is beautiful. You are not ready because Dragon Con is what you make of it. If you enter Dragon Con with an open heart, an open mind and with open arms then there is no limit to the joy and wonder you can be a part of and experience.
(Pictured above: Carol Huett, Megan Smith and Krista Freego)
Top 10 Things I Learned at Dragon Con:
- Wear comfortable shoes at ALL times.
- Pack deodorant and snacks with you for EVERY day.
- Bring cash. LOTS of cash.
- Bring a portable phone charger.
- Visit Artist Alley (block off at least a few hours for this).
- If you get stuck on the opposite side of the street that you need to be and there is a Parade above ground, go underground. The MARTA station is key.
- HufflePuff love is alive and well at Dragon Con – wear that badger with pride!
- Always have the courage to continually ride the escalator at the Westin (no matter how many crazy looks you might get).
- Always take the opportunity to meet new people. Talk to the people around you even if you don’t know them. Who knows your next friend could be standing right next to you.
- Be YOURSELF!
A very wise woman by the name of Winny Clarke told me that “inspiration is all around us.” I truly believe this. If you want to have a memorable experience at Dragon Con, all you have to do is be able to recognize the inspiration that is all around us and take it into your heart and share it with others.