Jennifer has been attending Dragon Con for about twenty years, almost as long as it has been occurring. She fondly remembers the days of waiting in line for hours in order to get her event badge. "At the end of the wait, you had fifteen new friends," and she misses the opportunity to bond.
That's not to say there aren't other opportunities to bond. She describes coming to Dragon Con as going to a family reunion with family members you haven't met yet. She took off a couple of years around the time she got married, but now her husband and children are all regulars. It is a literal AND figurative family affair.
The atmosphere surrounding Dragon Con can be described as "nerd" or "geek" culture. Although today widely accepted as mainstream, nerds and geeks have traditionally felt the sting of loneliness and isolation. Even while referring to themselves as nerds and geeks holds a sense of pride, quite fitting in with the general population can serve as a bit of a challenge in every day life.
With the advent of the internet and gaming technology, people formerly accustomed to being relative loners in their habits began finding each other. Although not all Dragon Con attendees are gamers, a large portion of them are. The convention actually began as a place for gamers to congregate, and today, knowledge of the growing gaming community is common. Dragon Con is where that community gathers in person.
As communication technology continues to develop, former "loners" have found like-minded souls all over the world. Dragon Con is the place they can all get together in the physical realm once a year. For many, it is a homecoming, a place to be accepted as you are, without the air of being an outsider. It is a time of holding one's costumed head high, of boldly using words and phrases not easily recognized elsewhere, and of celebrating intellect and creativity.
Amy, another long-time attendee, recalls the first time she brought her nephew along with her. He looked about in wonder, and exclaimed, "I'm not weird here." It is a beautiful thing to experience, and that feeling and sense of absolute inclusion is why people come back to Dragon Con year after year.
Being somewhat of an outsider myself, I can certainly attest there is an air of pride in not fitting in. Exemption from the mainstream entitles one to scoff; "normal" people do foolish things, and intellectual superiority more than makes up for eating lunch alone, in the bathroom, during high school.
However, having a small period of time to simply go out and be without having to maintain one's guard against judgment and criticism is absolutely refreshing. At Dragon Con, especially in the first 48 hours before everyone starts getting tired, the excitement is palpable. During the last 48 hours, attendees have found or been reminded of a comfort that can exist within themselves, and they revel in it.
By the time Dragon Con has concluded, there has been enough confidence and acceptance and love and excitement culminated to bolster these non-mainstreamers through the mainstream until next time.