I Survived the 2018 Dragon Con Parade

Cardboard Star Wars Boxplayers

This is a post about hygiene, playing cruel tricks on your friends, and the Dragon Con parade. Let’s begin with that last one.

This year marked the 13th year that our “cardboard stormtroopers” marched in the Dragon Con parade in one form or another. I had to skip last year’s march due to a nasty cold I contracted at Play On Con 2017, but this year I was back in the mix – albeit well out of shape and without a solid plan once the parade was over –  I have learned through experience that my body is in charge of things from that point forward.

Hydration Packs

The smartest move I’ve made for the past several years is to wear a hydration pack.  It’s a small backpack with a plastic liner with a hose coming out of the bottom. The hose is essentially a 2 foot long straw. At the end of the hose is a special silicon mouthpiece that, when you bite down on it, allows you to suck in water.

Everybody at Dragon Con should use one of these things!

CamelBak Hydration Pack

Athletes use them for hiking, biking, climbing… basically all of the really cool action verbs.

I use mine for parading.

It’s really awesome to be able to take a sip of water during the parade. I suppose if I were 20 years younger I’d be tempted to fill the reservoir with rum instead, but now that I’m of a certain age water is definitely the better choice.

Parade Assembly

As we have done for the past 4 years or so our group gathered in the lower level of the official assembly zone along with the rest of the awesome Star Wars parade participants. Even if I am too bashful to go around and talk to many of them, they’re all really awesome people. Actually, nearly every person out there for the parade is a lot of fun.

Lawrence had arrived first and had already had to stop someone from throwing their water bottle into his C-3P0 costume, a stack of old yellow boxes leaning against a column.

“To be fair, it does look like trash,” he acknowledged.

A central theme for this year emerged as we stood around getting our suits taped up.  All of us already needed to pee.  However the line to the portable toilets looked pretty long so we started telling ourselves that our bodies would “reabsorb our pee” once we began marching and sweating. We had no idea if Pee Reabsorption is (scientifically speaking) a real thing (it isn’t), but we agreed that it had seemed to have worked out for us in years past.

Marching to the Music

It was good to see Stryder (aka the HipHop Trooper) show up, as we have marched with (or near) him for several years now. If you don’t know who he is, he’s dressed as a red stormtrooper and carries a big boombox playing some cool music, and music always makes the march more fun.

Hip Hop Trooper Official Website

People love to see Stryder and his posse, and he certainly livened up many of our previous marches.  Check out his website hiphoptrooper.com

I assumed that we’d be marching alongside his group again this year, but Cardboard Vader was feeling peppy and convinced us to follow him up behind a marching band and nobody in our unit goes against Cardboard Vader, mostly because nobody in our unit wants to hear him whining afterward.

The Parade

Boxplaying as a cardboard stormtrooper for 13 years has taught me that it is often difficult to see, hear, or for that matter care about anything that is happening outside of your box. But I think we were all pretty excited to see that the 501st had built a sandcrawler and it was swarming with jawas – the result of a friendly rivalry with a German jawa cosplay group.

Holy CRAP but that thing was glorious – so very funny.

As our line moved out into Peachtree Street we slipped into our cardboard Star Wars characters.  Alfeo is ‘Board Vader, Shawn is Admiral Ackboxxx, Lawrence is Goldenrod, Dwivian is Boxxa Fett(uccini), and I’m just a plain old everyday cardboard stormtrooper. Our newest cardboard costumers failed to come through in the 11th hour this year, but next year they’ll make it.

If you caught us during the first half of the parade you probably got to see us laying down some funky steps. But being a year out of practice my funky steps only lasted until just past the television cameras, stationed in the first 400 yards of the mile long parade route.

As we tramped south along the now-familiar parade route, I was seriously happy to see so many kids lining the street.

2018 Dragon Con Parade Route

So many families come downtown to see this parade and when they see our crappy homemade box costumes you can tell when some of them get it –  they could build costumes just as good (or better) than ours!  Unlock that creativity and don’t worry about perfection in the beginning, just have fun!!

Being in the Dragon Con parade is like being an astronaut recently returned from the moon. All that’s missing is the ticker tape!

By the time we hit the bridge the temperature was climbing through the low 80s and the humidity was easing into the 70 percentile range. Those first few blocks had been easy because it was all downhill. But as we crossed the Peachtree Street bridge from Midtown to Downtown (over the snarling Downtown Connector), we hit an inflection point and the road began to climb upward once more.

People were screaming at Shawn, resplendent in his Admiral Ackboxxx costume.

One guy hollered “It’s a trap!!!” – to which I tried to yell back “NO IT ISN’T!!! It’s a TARP!!!” because Ackboxxx does in fact carry a blue tarp in his hands. They might understand the pun better if Shawn flapped the tarp around like a flag – even better: he should paint the word “TARP” in white letters on both sides. Some people need you to lead them to the joke. LOL

As we began climbing the hill toward the Hyatt Regency I felt a strong and sudden urge to wet my whistle meaning that Pee Reabsorption must have been working?!

I reached up and began fishing around under my helmet (it’s a box, people) to find the end of the drinking hose.  To people along the route and to viewers at home it probably looked like a guy wearing a pile of garbage, trying to choke himself with one hand. This was very nearly the truth.

In those desperate moments between searching for the end of the hose and finding the end of the hose a bit of idle speculation floated through my mind, which went along these lines: “Will they drag me off to the side, or will the parade just flow around my body?”

My fears of being run over by the sandcrawler faded as we crested the hill – the simple act of having cool water in my mouth changed everything. The rest of the parade was a walk in the park.

Actually, it was a lumber inside of a steamy box. But we lived.

After the Parade

After the parade we traditionally have a cool-down session to discuss what happened during the parade and suggestions for future best practices for future parades. Back in 2014 we marveled at Steve and Andy having actually survived their march in a cardboard AT-AT, because that thing was insane.

2014 Cardboard Star Wars AT-AT post Dragon con parade cool down

This year we simply wondered how many more years we could march before one of us died on the route, then we went our separate ways agreeing to attempt a reassembly for a late lunch.

Thanks to Shawn I was able to grab a shower and change into fresh clothes. Since I had prepared for the chance that I wouldn’t be able to get a shower I had packed one of my secret weapons, a 200+ year old lime-scented French eau de cologne called Lime Sec, warranted to Queen Victoria and (apparently only legendarily) associated with Napoleon.

Lime Sec eau de cologne

Once he realized the provenance and potential of Lime Sec, Shawn jumped onto Amazon and ordered two bottles to keep on his prop truck. Every one of you Dragon Con attendees reading this should order a bottle – it’s that good.

Meanwhile, since Alfeo had taken an Uber to the con he didn’t have a change of clothes.  Instead, he went and bought a bottle of rum for a party some of his friends from the Atlanta United supporter group “The Footie Mob” would be having later in the day.  I was pleased when I saw that he’d taken my suggestion to try Kraken.

A Place to Chill

After lunch Shawn (Admiral Ackboxxx), Alfeo (Cardboard Vader), and me (last of the original cardboard troopers) bought some iced coffee and went looking for a place to sit down and chill the heck out.

I knew the perfect spot.

Trader Vic’s had a break-out bar with pre-mixed drinks set up in the lower level of the Hilton. It was well out of the way of the Saturday crush, the space had great air-conditioning, it was dark, the bar was playing Hawaiian music, and there was just enough foot traffic to provide us with decent people watching.

The Tiki Table

I count the time spent at that tiki table as one of my most favorite con experiences, ranking up there with the time I met Jon Pertwee in the 1980s when he was attired in his full Doctor Who kit, and the time that I was a guest of DixieTrek and rode the turbolift from the green room down to the opening ceremony with Jimmy Doohan. Getting older changes your list of “must do” activities at a convention, and relaxing was top of my list.

As much as I was enjoying this chill out space, Alfeo was not.

He scoffed at my praise of the cool, dark room with the Hawaiian music and insisted that we were missing out on the massive Saturday crush happening over in the Marriott.  About two minutes later Shawn caught my attention and nodded toward Alfeo, who had passed out sitting up – his head tipped sideways onto his cardboard shoulder pads, his bottle of rum in a black plastic bag in front of him on the table. We talked quietly as he dozed for a while.

Don’t take my word for it, look at my video instead! LOL

Meeting People

Other people came through that one or more of us knew, so this spot had worked out really great – we made Dragon Con come to us!  My friend Don found us, then our friend Amanda. Friends of Alfeo passed through. We a young lady from San Francisco who was attending the con for the first time, to speak at Dragon Con’s Electronic Frontiers Forum.

We even met a new saxophone man who, instead of playing Careless Whisper, played Baker Street by Jerry Rafferty!

Time to Go

After more than 3 hours of lounging there in the basement and meeting all kinds of cool people Alfeo finally struggled to his feet, grabbed his bottle of rum, and declared that it was time for him to head off to his Footie Mob party.

He wrinkled his nose and looked down at his costume before muttering “You know, I kinda feel like I might smell bad.”

“You do,” I confirmed cheerily, “because you never took a shower.”

I suddenly remembered that bottle of Lime Sec in my duffle bag, several hotels to the west.  That stuff would have been perfect for a situation like this – you know, those times when you know that you smell bad but aren’t in a position to take an actual shower. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any with me, so I motioned toward the friendly lady at the bar.

Alfeo followed my gaze.

“Ask her for a lime,” I told him helpfully, “you can use it to clean up with!”

That was a big fat stinking lie – the kind of lie you tell to people who don’t know any better – the same sort of lie you tell to your kids when you want to trick them into going out snipe hunting. It’s cruel, but they will remember the experience forever (after you eventually get around to explaining to them that it was all just a mean trick).

Alfeo looked at me like I was full of crap, so I added “Dude, just wait until Shawn gets back and you can ask him about using limes – he’ll tell you!”

I was of course counting on Shawn to remember our discussion about Lime Sec and hope that he would make the mental leap from Lime Sec to lime juice when he arrived back from the restroom (or smoking lounge, or wherever it was that he had gone off to).  If we did this right we could milk the gag for several minutes at Alfeo’s expense. This is what friends do for each other.

Alfeo turned around and spoke to the lady behind the bar, who fished him a nice lime out of the white container near the cash register. He palmed it and to my surprise he turned and left!!

A minute or so later Shawn cruised back into the room, looked at me and said:

“Hey I just saw Alfeo. He gave me a big thumbs-up and said ‘I got a lime!!’ – and just kept walking!!”


To my knowledge Alfeo did not use the lime.  He knew that I was yanking his chain all along and just played it for comedy, scoring a lime to mix with his Kraken at his party.  That’s what I’ve been told, anyway.





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