At this point, I think everyone knows three things about Dragon Con: It’s massive (allegedly 65,000 attendees this year, and I believe it), it’s in Atlanta, and it happens over Labor Day weekend. What that really means is that it’s super-crowded and hot as Hades. Things are already starting to warm up when the parade gets underway at 10 a.m., and by the time the Star Wars groups are featured (they always close the show), it’s boiling hot. This year the parade was almost 90 minutes (the longest ever), so it was approaching high noon when my favorite fandom made its showing.
I say all this because I want to give a huge shoutout of appreciation to all the fans who walked in the parade, but especially the Star Wars folks. The people around me — even the ones who weren’t Dragon Con attendees but wanted to watch the parade — were ALL waiting for the Star Wars costumers. We were all sweaty messes by the time we got a glimpse of some armor, so I know the parade participants had to have been far more uncomfortable in their costumes.
But once Pink Lord Vader showed up, we all forgot about the discomfort of standing so long in the sun packed tightly against strangers. Excitement swept over everyone, and later doubled when a tiny, glittery superhero ran into the street to give him a big hug. From there, it was wave after wave of visual delights.
Vader reappeared in his traditional Sith garb, riding in a slick trooper-themed ride to lead the rest of the marching fans down the parade route. Then there were Jedi, followed closely by a herd of Mandalorians. No matter what your favorite color is, I bet there was some member of the Mandalorian Mercs wearing it (there was so much variety and beautiful detailing!). I also spotted Luke and rancor-keeper Malakili mixed in with the mercenary crowd.
Next up came the Rebels, and that same pink superhero that hugged Vader earlier managed to get some quality time with Hera. I loved that the bright orange of the Rebel Legion pilots comes right before the mostly black-and-white armor of the Imperial troops.
All the usual armored suspects were on hand. Clone troopers, biker scouts, and stormtroopers were all mixed and mingled with the crowd, which by this point had gotten a little brazen about stepping out into the street to get up close and personal with their favorite characters. One biker scout was trying to crowd-fund a ride back to the Death Star after he lost his speeder to a thieving Ewok.
And then chillingly, I spotted him: none other than Kylo Ren. And he had a cadre of First Order stormtroopers with him. I also noticed a First Order TIE pilot in the crowd. (That pilot was giving kids high fives. I hope Kylo Ren didn’t see that.)
Before I could get too spooked by this new and still mysterious menace, I got clocked by two classic stormtroopers who told me to stop taking pictures and move along. The Dragon Con parade was officially over for 2015. Next year, we will likely see all kinds of Finn and Rey and Poe cosplayers in the streets of Atlanta, and I can’t wait!
Holly Frey co-hosts the Stuff You Missed in History Class 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.