The Dragon has been sung back into its lair: DragonCon is over for another year. For five remarkable days, geekdom had a chance to gather again and celebrate together – and TORn staffers deej, Madeye Gamgee and greendragon were able to be with them. Read on, for greendragon’s thoughts on the event.

I’m sure the first question on many people’s minds will be, ‘How was the safety of the event?’ My overall impression was very good. At check in, everyone (be they attending fans, professionals, exhibitors, or guests) was required to show either proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test, before receiving their pass. Masks were required at all venues – and from what I saw, this was carefully enforced. It must be said, I was not at the Con late at night; and some folks reported that ‘DragonCon after dark’, when perhaps drinks had been consumed, saw masks being discarded. But in the High Fantasy Track room, and at An Evening at Bree, I didn’t see anyone unmasked. Masks were even – gasp! – up over noses, as well as covering mouths. Many cosplayers had found fun and creative ways to coordinate their masks with their outfits – and of course masks are an integral part of many costumes anyway.

Numbers were restricted this year – fewer than half the usual attendees were allowed; and it has to be said, it was wonderful to be able to cross the skybridge between hotels, or get in an elevator, without waiting for half an hour. 35,000 is still plenty of people, so the con did not feel empty – and there were still long lines for An Evening at Bree, and full panels at many of the tracks. (Numbers in track rooms were also reduced, to allow more space; and no standing was allowed.) Rooms were carefully cleaned – each track room had an hour of deep cleaning during each day, as well as a deep clean overnight, and between panels mics were given new covers and surfaces sanitized. As Madeye Gamgee put it, ‘…all the pandemic mitigation standards were followed and seemed to work.’

On the downside, the parade seemed strange without the watchers along the street; that is perhaps something which didn’t work so well with reduced crowds. I know lots of folks missed the fan tables – and that’s a good opportunity for me to remind you that there is new TORn merchandise (shirts, socks, bags, masks, waterbottles, etc.) available online!

TORn's design, featuring quotations from Tolkien: 'Shadows are fleeing ... and merry our meeting. Be of good hope!' We see an image of a smoking pipe, and TORn's logo below. The bottom of the design features another quotation - 'Hope is Kindled' - and the date, 2021. The design is show on a pale grey t-shirt.

Do take a look at the various designs available at TORn’s online Spring store – and thanks for supporting the website!

As mentioned above, lines were long and the room (with the limited capacity allowed) full for Friday night’s An Evening at Bree. The Brobdingnagian Bards got us off to a great start, with toe tapping music playing from the very start, as guests arrived. We had wondered if we should try to limit dancing this year – but you just can’t keep the denizens of Middle-earth off their feet, and soon masked folks were swirling and skipping. Others enjoyed sitting in groups at tables, enjoying a drink from the Prancing Pony bar at the back of the room. After the Bards’ rousing set, the costume contest took place. It was a delight to see the usual extraordinary creativity and talent we’ve come to expect from this contest – big thanks to judges Constance and Laura, who had the unenviable task of selecting winners. Best in show was Lacey Santos’ amazing Smaug, Queen under the Mountain – complete with incredible embroidery, and Arkenstone in hand.

An amazing Smaug cosplay - a long, burgundy gown, with train edged with hand embroidered runes in gold. The dress includes scaled 'armour' epaulettes  in gold and burgundy, a flowing cloak, and  horned crown. The cosplayer has an illuminated Arkenstone in her hand, and long 'claw' fingernails.
Lacey Santos8217 Best in Show winning costume photograph by Geek Behind the Lens Photography
The sash of the Smaug cosplay dress has Tolkien's own sketch of Smaug embroidered onto it. We also see rhinestones and beads hanging from the shoulders of the dress.
Embroidery detail (photograph by Lacey Santos)
Best in Show winner in her Smaug gown is shown with her plaque award from DragonCon. On either side of her are costume contest judges Laura (L) and Constance (R). All are wearing masks over nose and mouth.
Best in show with judges Laura and Constance (photograph by Geek Behind the Lens Photography)

Musician Beth Patterson was new to Bree this year, but we hope she’ll be back – her two sets were wonderful, and kept everyone in high spirits. We ended the night with some recorded music, allowing us to bring fan favourites Emerald Rose back to Bree. TORn is always very glad to host An Evening at Bree for DragonCon’s High Fantasy Track; as Madeye Gamgee said, ‘It felt like a joyful reunion of old friends and fellowships.’ We look forward to next year; meanwhile, you can check out DragonCon TV’s coverage of this year’s event in the video below.

For those of you who couldn’t attend this year – or who did attend, and want to keep the geeky fun going – there are all kinds of panels, geeky fun, and special guests, to be found at dragoncontv.com. You’ll need to pay $10 for access; and that will enable you to watch TORn’s panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. You can find that under Fan Tracks (Saturday), at the 4’59 mark.

All in all, I think a good time was had by all, and I applaud the DragonCon organisers and many volunteers for all their hard work. Going back to that question of safety: I personally stayed away from big crowds, and was on the floor of the con much less than I would usually be, only going to specific events and otherwise staying out of the melee. When I was there, however – at Bree and for panels, as well as catching up with friends – I did not feel unsafe. Of course, when 35,000 people gather in one place, it seems inevitable that some, after the event, will test positive for Covid; but, to quote Madeye Gamgee again, ‘Assuming there aren’t any major super-spreader outbreaks connected to the weekend, DragonCon may have proven that a return to some form of a live convention is possible.’ And that is an encouraging thought.