By Sunday, the third day of the convention, sleep deprivation and adrenaline-fueled excitement had combined and resulted in making the memories of the day a jumbled mess. Even after consulting my friends, the true order of events for this day is unclear for everyone. All of us remember the specific occurrences but the way in which some of it unfolded is a foggy haze. That’s one of the things that delayed this entry in the series. The other reason for the delay is I became the victim of one of the various cruds that are making the rounds this winter. I avoided coming down with Con Crud after Dragon*Con, but I have been reliving the event through writing this series, so I’ll term my illness as delayed Con Crud.
In the excitement of pre-planning for Dragon*Con, several of us who were scheduled to attend designed a T-shirt for our particular group of “Squirrels”. We decided Sunday was a good day to assault the con with our matching madness. It was SquirrelAGeddon. Our T-shirts stated so.
The panels most of us wished to attend were slated for the afternoon and evening. So our first target that morning was a return trip to the Walk of Fame. For me, that meant another trip to Craig Parker’s booth. Both my birthday and wedding anniversary fall soon after the dates of Dragon*Con. The convention and “souvenirs” are part of my presents each year. Yes, I did use most of my present budget on Mr. Parker, and told him it was my present. “Coming to Dragon*Con and meeting you is part of my birthday and anniversary gifts, and my husband is paying for it all!” He found that statement quite amusing, and it broke the ice. He read my T-shirt and asked about the Squirrels. That led into a conversation about, among other things, sugar gliders. Someone had brought their sugar glider pets to the convention, and it was the first time he’d ever seen or heard of them. When I asked him if it was weird that two of my favorite characters were actually the same person, he replied, “No, it just means you have good taste.” It was a fun encounter. Our senses of humor are similar so it was around 10 minutes of constant laughter. Laughter happens to be one of my favorite activities, and it seemed to be true for him, too.
It ended, of course, with the obligatory picture. After it was taken, he told me to check it and make sure it was what I wanted, then winked at me. I was taken aback that he was obviously offering me another picture with him. I’m a girl who likes a good deal, so yes, I completely took advantage of that offer. I turned to go, and he said, “Wait, don’t I get a last hug?” Again, how could I refuse? As the hug ended, he leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. I was both astonished and elated. I’m sure my kneecaps melted. Never expected an ending like that! Absolutely, I drove all my friends crazy for the rest of the day, inserting a mention of the kiss into all conversations, and threatening like a teenager from yesteryear, “I’ll never wash my cheek again.”
We regrouped for a quick lunch, which we ate sitting around the top edge of a staircase at the Hilton. After lunch, we headed off to attend the Stargate Superpanel together. Sunday’s crowd was close to the same numbers as Saturday’s had been. Getting from the Hilton to the Hyatt was an effort. When we reached the waiting area outside the ballroom, staffers were not allowing the line to form. Attendees were shuffled from one side of the area to the other as we were told conflicting information. Finally, one of the Dragon security staff reached his limit, and demanded the area be cleared and for everyone not to return for 15 minutes. No one was causing any disturbances; the staff person just got angry and none of the con attendees had been the cause of his anger. In fact, the attendees were well-behaved and polite during this time. When the staff allowed people to return, it turned out a line had been forming outside for all that time. It had become so long those of us who had been shuffled about inside were concerned we wouldn’t be seated in the panel at all.
Above all other geeky things we love, Squirrels are Stargate fans. It’s the glue that originally brought us together. I know the Dragon staff was somewhat overwhelmed by the crowd numbers, but a simple statement that the line was forming outside the building wouldn’t have taxed them too much. They knew what was happening while all of us waiting inside had no clue about the situation. We had been the victims of someone on a power trip with their authority, and now a real chance loomed that we wouldn’t get to see any of the panel. However, other Dragon staff in positions of authority worked hard to open up more space and add more chairs to seat as many fans as possible in the panel. They even delayed the start of the panel so fans toward the end of the line wouldn’t miss anything. We all made it in.
Sometimes, a guest in a panel will “go off their leash”, to the delight of fans and the dismay of the panel host and security people. In the Stargate Superpanel, it was the big star of the day, Richard Dean Anderson. The panel featured some of the favorite actors from the show: Torri Higginson (Weir, SGA), Joe Flanigan (Sheppard, SGA), Jason Momoa (Ronan Dex, SGA) and Cliff Simon (Ba’al, SG1 and Continuum). Robert Picardo entered, attired in a shirt that stated, Trust Me, I’m the Doctor. Besides playing the character of Woolsey on SG1 and SGA, he’s best known as the holo-doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. It marked his only appearance as a part of the Stargate franchise at the convention.
Richard Dean Anderson had been assigned the seat next to the panel host. As the featured guest of the panel, he was also introduced last. When he entered, he insisted on sitting at the far end next to Robert Picardo. The panel host tried to get him to move to his assigned seat, but he refused. Sometimes, RDA reacts to situations a good bit like his iconic Stargate character, Jack O’Neill, would — flippant and sarcastic. The panel host related questions submitted by the audience. When it came his turn to answer a group question, he asked for the questions to be repeated. He claimed to have trouble hearing the questions. Robert Picardo had to whisper several of the questions to him. One of the funny highlights came when Joe Flanigan insisted on asking RDA a question submitted by him: “How awesome is it to work with Joe Flanigan?”
However, I was a bad Squirrel, and slipped out early to attend the last Lord of the Rings panel. It was probably the last time I would see Craig the entire convention. None of those guests were scheduled to be at the convention on Monday. By the time I found the end of the panel line, it had dipped into one of the Marriott’s parking garages. That was a first for me — lining up inside a parking garage. Once again, I would be placed far back in the ballroom, but I was confident I would get into the panel. I did, but ended up squished against a Thor in full leather-shingled armor. His costume, while well-crafted, really needed a seat of its own. Except for the leather armor poking me in various uncomfortable places, it was a great panel. But a lot of the questions — and, therefore, answers — from the guests were a rehash of ones from previous panels. That’s one of the drawbacks of attending more than one panel in the same fandom — a lot of the questions asked are the same or similar from panel to panel.
Meanwhile back at the Stargate panel, Richard Dean Anderson had gone offstage and out into the audience to see if he could hear better. He walked around for a while and stood on a platform in the midst of the audience. Eventually, right before the end of the panel, he returned to the stage. It was a complete disruption to the panel, but the fans loved it.
The evening brought one of the highlights of the day for everyone, the first full guest panel for Warehouse 13. The Warehouse cast is one of the most fan-friendly of any show. They enjoy interacting with fans almost as much as the fans do. In fact, most of them are self-confessed fans of particular fandoms, so they understand what it’s like on each side of the table. The Warehouse 13 panels are always entertaining and hilarious. About 10 minutes into the panel, Eddie McClintock explained about the Twitter T-shirt picture contest. Remember, Angie sent one of her wearing just the T-shirt and Eddie had previously informed her she was the winner. He outed Angie in front of everyone and revealed the panel had helped him decide the winner. He told the story about the picture with details of what she had done. Angie’s picture was the unanimous choice. Eddie presented her with the grand prize, a Season 3 DVD set which they had all signed. She knew the DVD would be signed by Eddie, but it was a real treat and surprise that he got all of the cast present to sign it. I’m sure the panel got posted on YouTube, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes a con story Eddie tells at other conventions. Angie has always said her life should be a reality series.
The Warehouse 13 panel was a late panel, ending around 7 p.m. Sunday was going to be a late night, anyways. All the big parties were scheduled, and the cosplayers were out in force attired in their best and most creative costumes for the Costume Masquerade, one of the famous events at Dragon*Con. Our group headed back to our hotel to freshen up and decide what to do about dinner. When we reached the decision point, no one wanted to trek back to the food court, but no one could agree on any of the surrounding restaurants either. Someone mentioned that our hotel had a grill-type restaurant. After looking at the menu and prices, everyone agreed eating at the hotel was a good idea, and it was. The food was good, restaurant-quality, and one of the best meals we had all weekend. Kristy and I shared a Chicken Nachos platter and couldn’t finish it all! An impromptu Squirrel party in the hotel lobby, one of the best times we shared together all weekend, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
It was late by the time we set out in our matching shirts to cruise the Dragon*Con night life. Giddy with having a good time together more than anything else, we garnered a good bit of attention from others because of how silly we acted. Our first destination was the Sheraton to check out the Star Trek party. It’s usually one of the most popular and best-attended events at the convention, but it was quite subdued. We overheard several people say the bar was having its last call. Next, we headed to the “Yule Ball”, a Harry Potter-themed event. The best thing was a well-done replica of the TARDIS outside the ballroom. Forget the Angels, the Squirrels now have the TARDIS and the picture as proof! When we tried to enter, we were informed that the Ball was about to close, more than an hour prior to the stated closing time. We thought it a bit weird, but unusual things happen at conventions, especially late at night.
In our travels between venues, Angie found her self-named “fairy god-mother” who gifted her with an unusually shaped balloon object. Dubbed “Richard”, it became the group’s companion for the rest of the evening, and proved to be — let’s say, eye-catching — to others. The night of entertainment we sought didn’t go quite according to plan, though. Apparently, Atlanta has an ordinance that alcoholic beverages cannot be sold after 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night. Even though it was not the kind of fun we were seeking, it effectively shut down all the social events like the various Balls earlier than the original schedules.
Since Monday was the last day of the convention, and panels started early in the morning, we decided to call it a night and returned to the hotel. As daybreak on Monday approached, we prepared for one more day filled with fun antics. Also bittersweet, as we had to bid good-bye Monday to several of our friends for another year.