Saying that 2020 was a rough year for pop culture conventions probably goes without question, with millions lost to local economies as well as hundreds of job losses due to the pandemic. It’s good then that some conventions are getting back to a semi-normal existence and if the example Atlanta’s Dragon Con, the largest pop culture convention in the South, set over Labor Day weekend is any indication, pop culture conventions are on the right path to providing a safe and entertaining experience.
This year, Dragon Con took several initiatives to make their convention as safe for all attending as possible. They began by selling a reduced number of badges to put a cap on how many people could attend to begin with. Face masks were required for all events and inside all host hotels, even if you were just walking to another panel. Seats at the panels were either spaced out to comply with social distancing guidelines or guests skipped seats to make the space for themselves. Celebrity panels included both casts of The CW’s Batwoman and Amazon Prime’s The Boys.
They also disinfected ballrooms in between events and panels. Finally, and probably the most important, is that they required all attendees to provide either proof of vaccination or the results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72-hours of the guests’ arrival.
Approximately 42,000 people attended the five-day celebration, which is a significantly less attendance rate than previous years. Dragon Con raises money for a charity as well as spearheads a blood drive each year, with 2021 being no exception. The convention raised more than $120,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta and had over 2,200 blood donors, which included a record 40% of whom were first time DragonCon donors.
In addition to the convention’s new safety protocols, host hotels and restaurants located in the vicinity also upped their games when it came to safety. Hotels ran at reduced capacity as well, with in-house restaurants and cafes following strict mask and social distancing guidelines, as well as routine cleanings of common areas of the hotel.
For fans who weren’t comfortable attending an in-person convention, Dragon Con created Dragon Con Goes Virtual, a live-streamed version of the convention, which attracted an additional 22,000 views. This online feature included live convention coverage as well as exclusive pre-recorded content and highlights from past conventions that fans could enjoy from the comfort of their own homes along with friends and family.
While we are all easing back into trying to enjoy events as we did pre-pandemic, Dragon Con shows that, given the right implementations, it is possible to not only have a safe, family-friendly pop culture convention, but one that fans can still enjoy without being inconvenienced too much.