Dragon Con celebrates its 31st year in 2017. My own history with the event goes back to 2002, but thanks to archive.org, you can travel back as far as 1997 (when the name was styled “Dragon*Con”).
In 1997, the event was held in June (now always Labor Day weekend) and was held in the Atlanta Market Convention Center and Hyatt Regency. Today it spans the Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis, Atlanta Hilton, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Westin Peachtree Plaza, and AmericasMart Buildings 1 and 2.
Some things never change, like the well-known Masquerade costume contest, gaming tournaments, and guests you can generally be certain you’ll see year after year.
What has changed are the fan tracks. Obviously there’s been growth– with more than 75,000 attendees now (compared to 18,000 in 1997), there’s a lot more to see than there was in a con that could be contained by one hotel. But in the changes over the years, you can also see the rise and fall of fandoms and interest areas.
Click the image to open it in a new tab and see it in its entirety. It’s large!
A few notes about the track timeline:
- Anne McCaffrey’s popular Pern track changed names in the track listings almost as frequently as Dragon Con attendees change costumes. They were all subtle variations on Pern, Weyrfest, or The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey.
- There have always been gaming and gaming tournaments, but for several years, gaming wasn’t listed as a track topic.
- In 2013, two tracks arose on similar topics with similar descriptions: “Digital Gaming (computers, consoles, and tournaments)” and “Video Gaming (console, PC, and mobile).” The next year, the Digital Gaming track became LAN Gaming.
- The Writers’ Workshop continued to exist past 2004, although it is no longer taught by A. C. Crispin, and today there are many other sorts of workshops. That is the only year it was listed as a track.
- On the earliest versions of the website, tracks were listed with brief parenthetical descriptions. My favorite was “Star Trek TrekTrak (Ensign Pilbury? He’s Bread, Jim)” The X-Track’s description was “X-Files: Trust no-one!” Today the long-running track also covers “shows that focus on the paranormal with a hint of government conspiracy and Big-Brother-ish oversight.”
- The American Sci-Fi track went through a few subtle name changes. “American SF and Fantasy on TV” (2005), “American SF and Fantasy” (2006), “American Sci-Fi Media” (2009), then “American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media” (2014).
- Similarly, “Sci-Fi and Fantasy Literature” was just “Sci-Fi Literature” in 2007.
- Newer con-goers may wonder about the “Autograph Sessions” track. Its description: “Some guests – usually screen stars – charge for autographs, but autographings staged in our Autograph Area are always free.” The first reference to the Walk of Fame you know today is in 2004, described as “our autographing area for stars of the big and small screen, and other luminaries.”
- It’s not a track, but the first parade was held in 2002. It’s now a televised event in the city of Atlanta.
Additions and corrections welcome! Especially if you’re able to help fill in the pre-1997 track history with evidence (e.g. old programs), I’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment here or find me on Twitter at @suehle.