Dragon*Con is a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Atlanta, GA that takes place over the Labor Day holiday weekend every year. Attendees go to panels, meet stars, cosplay, and do much, much more. I’ve been going with a close friend almost every year since 2007. We’ve only ever gone for one day, either Friday or Saturday. 2013 was the first year I went where I had any food restrictions, and they’ve changed over the years since then. My foods-to-avoid list hasn’t changed as much as my sensitivity to the foods I’m currently avoiding. What I had to do in the past for meals was quite different from what I have to do now since I have to be so much more careful how I handle things. This would be my first year going where I really had to be careful how I handled my food.
Dragon*Con is held over a span of multiple hotels and meeting spaces. The only places really available for meals are a food court right near MARTA (Atlanta’s rapid transit system) but pretty far from most of the convention activities, food trailers throughout the convention area, and a buffet-style line in one of the hotels where hamburgers, chips, drinks, etc. are served. There are several counters throughout the hotels and meeting spaces
where vendors sell snack items, simple food items like pizza, and beverages. There are very limited options for those who are on restricted diets, unless you’re willing to ask around, which I’m not. I decided to pack a small insulated cooler that I could slip into a backpack with my meals for the day. I had to be strategic about what I decided to pack due to the cooler’s size. I also had to pack things that would be easy for me to eat and handle since I may not be able to locate a bathroom to wash up before eating. I decided to pack a Boost shake and NoGii Paleo Bar for breakfast. I included a can of Beanee Weenees, a container of yogurt, and a fruit cup for lunch. Supper was a small turkey salad and a Pay Day bar. I included my disposable utensils as well. I also bought a few snack bars around 100 calories or so each to carry with me to snack on when needed, Detour Bars. They’re not the best-tasting, but they have protein, fiber, and nutrition to help keep you full until you’re able to eat a meal.
My friend and I left home around 5:00 Friday morning. Before leaving, I took my vitamins and ate a Glutino Breakfast Bar to keep me until we got to our destination, where we would eat breakfast. We drove until we got to the MARTA station. We then took the train to the stop which is right at the food court in the area of the convention. We got off the train and went to the food court to eat breakfast. We were conveniently close to a bathroom, so I went there to wash my hands before handling my breakfast items. After eating breakfast, we went to go stand in line to pay our registration fee and get our badges. The registration process was a breeze for us. We were out of the line and ready to start planning what to do next rather quickly. The first panel didn’t start until 10:00, so we had plenty of time to think about the other things we would do that day and relax for a bit. After that 10:00 panel, we had others back-to-back, leaving little time to gobble down lunch. I
was starting to get a little hungry before the 11:30 panel started, so I ate one of my Detour bars to tide me over. I unwrapped the bar carefully so I wouldn’t touch it with my hands and ate it. After that panel was over, we had to walk to another hotel for the next panel we wanted to attend. We found a vendor where we got something to drink and hurried as quickly as we could to the next location. Since it was time for lunch when we got in line for that next panel, I hurriedly gobbled down my Beanee Weenees, yogurt (which was warm due to being in my backpack for several hours), and fruit cup while we were waiting in line. There really was no way to run to a bathroom to wash up, and I didn’t even see one nearby, so I had to be very careful how I handled my food items. I wiped the Coke can using the underside of my shirt. I opened up one of my packages of disposable utensils at the bottom end, where the utensil handles were, and pulled them out that way. I opened up each item and ate each one one-at-a-time. Fortunately, I was able to finish up everything before they began ushering us into the conference room. I was able to throw away my trash in a trash can that was right at our line as we walked by.
The afternoon went by really smoothly. I had a filling lunch, so I didn’t really need to snack on anything in the afternoon. We did, however, end up getting something else to drink at the buffet line in the
hotel where the convention attendees can meet the guests. My friend ended up getting a hamburger as well because he wasn’t able to eat anything except for cookies between breakfast and that time. We went into the Walk of Fame, the area where the stars would meet with the convention attendees, and introduced ourselves to several of the stars there. That’s always the highlight for us. They always seem to love the fans coming up to see them and talk to them, and we’re always happy that they take time away from their busy schedules to attend Dragon*Con to meet with us. It usually costs money to get autographs and pictures taken, so we usually just walk up to their tables, shake their hands, and introduce ourselves, talking about how much we love the work they do.
We decided to head back to the food court for supper. My friend got a dinner plate at Farmer’s Basket. Before I discovered my food reactions, this was one place I loved to get food. They always had a good variety of meats and vegetables from which to choose. Not many food courts serve food like that. It’s usually burgers and fries. Subway was another place in the food court I would sometimes get food. I think there was a Mexican place as well that we tried one year. All of that is to say that I was jealous of my friend’s meal. It looked and smelled delicious. I pulled out my salad, which was still okay despite spending all day outside of a refrigerator, and ate that and my Pay Day bar for dinner. I decided not to worry about going to the bathroom to wash up this time either because of the food court being so crowded. I just handled things carefully like I did at lunch and had no problems. I managed to eat each meal and snack without any reactions throughout that day. After dinner, we attended one more panel before heading home. I took my evening dose of vitamins after I got back home. I didn’t want to have to worry with those while we were out.
Our day at Dragon*Con was wonderful. It was crowded, but not as crowded as Saturdays are normally. We got in several panels and didn’t have to spend a large amount of time waiting in line. We loved meeting with the stars. It was a great day, and I was glad I was able to handle everything without having any exposures. Of course, I had my antihistamines and epi-pens with me just in case, but it was wonderful not to need any of them. Situations like this can be pretty tough for someone who has highly-sensitive food allergies, but they can be managed. It’s possible to go to things like this and enjoy yourself while being able to eat safely as well.
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