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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dragon*Con’s new policy: Buy a ticket or you’re not allowed inside

Bad news for folks who planned to drop by Dragon*Con this weekend to snap photos with stormtroopers. The rumors of a new crackdown on gawkers and uninvited guests at the annual sci-fi fest — which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary — seem to be true.

Dan Carrol, Dragon*Con's media director, says access to the event hotels will be limited to guests and paid attendees, or "members." "The hotels will be checking for Dragon*Con badges or hotel key cards," says Dan Carrol, the event's media director. Kenny Wright, convention coordinator at the Hyatt Regency, confirms: “Normally you could go through the hotel, but not the actual event,” he said. “But for this year, you can’t go on hotel property throughout the whole event,” daytime included.

But some event organizers said access would only be limited during "evening" hours. According to Brenda Tackett of the Dragon*Con gaming division, people without an official badge, pass, or hotel key will not be allowed inside the event hotels past “evening hours.” A media relations email echoes this view: "The hotels will be enforcing badge policy in the evenings. No one will be allowed into hotels without a hotel key or a Dragon*Con badge. Thank you for your cooperation."

Whatever the policy, these restrictions — which Carrol says help "provide our attendees the greatest possible comfort and safety" — obviously won’t apply to those who pay the entrance fee for a daily or weekend pass (which can be purchased online or at the event), or for regular hotel guests who have their keys at the ready.

The badge policy is a sharp contrast from previous years, when the lobbies and other common areas of the host hotels were freely accessible to anyone throughout the whole event, opening the hotels to a new market of Dragon*Con “lite” attendees who only stayed long enough for a friendly sample of the crowd’s bizarre, wonderful, and weird antics. And sometimes the late-night, hotel-room party debauchery.

Of course, it was a few bad apples that ruined the fun for the rest of us. During last year’s con, social media was ablaze with reports of sexual harassment and fighting — allegedly because of an unsavory mix of college football fans staying at the same hotels for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. (CNN, however, reported good times were had by all.) Some paid attendees have also been annoyed by the large number of people who flood the hotels and soak up the atmosphere without helping pay the bill.

"The good news is that we are just too big to have the hotels filling up with bystanders who are not paid members," says Carrol.

But have no fear: The legendary Dragon*Con parade will still march down Peachtree St. at 10 a.m. on September 3. It’s a grand Atlanta tradition, so be there or be square!

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