Dragon Con 2013: Parade Time!

Ask anyone who went to Dragon Con this year, and they will tell you: The crowds were insane. Last year, Atlanta police estimated that 80,000 people turned up to watch the parade (show attendance was around 52,000), and this year, it certainly felt like an even bigger spectator turnout. While that makes for a tighter situation on the sidewalks (and makes jostling for a good view more complicated), it also adds to the excitement and energy — something everyone can use after a late night of socializing.

I never quite get over the dedication of the fans who walk in the parade. Getting up early during a con to put on a costume — often heavy with multiple layers — and walk through Atlanta’s humid streets just to share your love of your fandom? That’s commitment.

As always, the Star Wars group wrapped up the parade in style. We’re at an interesting time in Star Wars fandom. The announcement of more movies on the horizon has rekindled enthusiasm for the franchise, but since we don’t know much about the upcoming films yet, costuming fans who want to do something new are turning to really creative interpretations of existing characters. So as faction after faction came through the course, we were treated to quite a few surprises.

In addition to the Sith cheerleaders, who were out in full force, we got to see a group of Star Wars characters constructed entirely out of cardboard boxes. Chewie, for some reason, was oddly endearing in his plain box version with only a painted-on bandolier. As simple as it was, the character was instantly identifiable. That’s one iconic bandolier! Other customized characters included a Christmas-themed group led by Santa Jar Jar. They were collecting money for a charity drive, and I have to confess a little accessory envy over the Tusken Raider’s candy cane gaffi stick. There was also a contingent of Muppet troopers; I spied Gonzo and Fozzie, led by Kermit, of course. And one poor trooper was being attacked by Ewoks as he made his way along the course — try as he might, he just couldn’t shake them. (They were, in fact, attached to his armor.)

We also had some returning favorites, including the ever-growing group of Mandalorians who continue to wow in their mix of screen-accurate and custom armor. The long red robes of the Emperor’s Royal Guards always command attention. (I overheard several spectators wondering aloud about how hot those guys must have been in their heavy velvet finery and helmets.) And as always, Jedi and Rebel Legion pilots made us all feel safe. Several of the Jedi showed off their light saber moves by sparring along the route.

My favorite moment from the parade is actually one captured by my husband, who was standing about a block up the street from me. In front of him was a family which included a teeny tiny Princess Leia perched on her father’s shoulders. As the Imperial troops strode past, she raised her little light saber in one hand, and saluted with the other. I’m pretty sure there’s never been a cuter traitor to the Rebel Alliance.

Holly Frey co-hosts the PopStuff podcast at HowStuffWorks.com. She’s an avid costumer, and Star Wars has been an integral part of her life since opening day in 1977.