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Sci-fi throngs boldly go ... to Atlanta

The parade is one of the highlights of the four-day DragonCon event, billed as the country's largest annual convention for fans of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics, art, games and computers.

Sci-fi throngs boldly go ... to Atlanta
Allen Hansard did not want to be one of 500 Supermen at this year's DragonCon parade.

Determined to stand out among hundreds of sorcerers, intergalactic soldiers, superheroes and other sci-fi characters, Hansard spent weeks on his Hawkman costume.

The gold helmet alone took him three months, and the gray wings cost $1,000 at a costume shop.


On Saturday, Hansard got his payoff: not another Hawkman in the lineup of more than 1,000 parade participants.

"I like to do characters that are kind of unique, kind of difficult," Hansard said.

The parade is one of the highlights of the four-day DragonCon event, billed as the country's largest annual convention for fans of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics, art, games and computers.

It features more than 600 hours of panels, workshops demonstrations and discussions with authors, editors, artists, game designers and media personalities.

DragonCon is named for its beginnings in the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players, a local science fiction and gaming group. The first convention was in 1987 and had about 1,400 attendees. By 1989, author Anne McCaffrey was lured as the convention's guest of honor, and by 1990, suspense writer Tom Clancy joined the fun.

In only eight years, convention attendance topped 10,000. By 1999, more than 20,000 were descending on the city. In 2005 and 2006, convention attendance reached 30,000.

While much of the convention is contained at two hotels, attendees can be seen making a scene downtown, taking their pride for Star Trek, Star Wars, Middle Earth, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer or their favorite superhero to the streets.

Some of the more popular parade regulars are nearly as famous as the sci-fi celebrities who make appearances at the conference. Matt Pfingsten posed as the famous Star Wars wookie, Chewbacca, with admirers before the parade began. The Nashville, Tenn., freelance film and video editor has marched in all six DragonCon parades.

"For me, it's a big party and a family and a lot of fun," Pfingsten said.

And DragonCon still attracts new faces to the party. Cindy Pickard, a retired grade school teacher from Scottsdale, Ariz., was a first-time attendee.

"I'm a sci-fi fan, but this is my very first convention ever," said Pickard, a big fan of the now-canceled show "Firefly" who dressed in a soldier's uniform from the show, complete with gun, backpack and helmet. "Last year, some people came to DragonCon and it sounded so cool I just thought that's what I have to do next year."

Charlie Carlson of Kokomo, Ind., had the same idea. He strapped on his 40-piece Star Wars stormtrooper costume to join dozens of his brethren as they marched down Peachtree Street.

"When I was younger, I saw the movie and just loved them. I always wanted to be one," Carlson said, looking around as the stormtroopers lined up, an impressive assemblage of shiny, white plastic.

"This is awesome," he said.

Hansard got his twin brother, Adam, in on the fun for the first time. After all, what would Hawkman be without The Atom? The two characters were in a comic book, and besides, Adam and Atom are homonyms.

Not that Adam Hansard needed much of an excuse.

"It's kind of surreal seeing yourself in a costume, as somebody who doesn't dress up in costumes," Adam Hansard said, standing in a blue and red Lycra suit handmade by his brother. "But it makes a lot of people happy, so why not? I don't know if I'm hooked, but I'll certainly come do it again. It's a lot of fun."

AP
Last Mod: 02 Eylül 2007, 16:44
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