Dragon Con 2023 – Keela’s Personal Log

This year’s Dragon Con was very special in that Cmdr. Martok vestai-lungqIj (Robert Plante), my friend and warrior brother, warped down with Lt. Cmdr. Katkith (Andy Fairbanks) and myself. I am very glad Martok got to attend and help see to fruition what had been in the works for several weeks: my resignation as Dark Star Quadrant CO which I spent, I think, about a total of 12 years in service to KAG in that capacity. In January I will be 71, so it seemed that Fate had brought us together with Admiral Kolex (Darren Carter), one of my favorite Admirals other than my House Father, to perform the deed. But I get ahead of myself.

A day or so before leaving, I severely injured my right hand, requiring an eventual trip to ER and 5 stitches. The discomfort and huge bandage slowed me down tremendously. Thankfully, Martok, a retired EMT, was able to change my bandage as prescribed and eventually downgrade the size of it as the con progressed. I am grateful for his help.

Wednesday, August 30

I had been preparing for Dragon Con for a month and was already packed and ready to go. We finally got the shuttle loaded and headed to Taylorsville to pick up Martok. It required creative cramming, but we managed to leave around midday on our journey south. We arrived at the hotel in Atlanta without incident. The room was small, but we made it work and unpacked all our uniforms, boots and accessories and organized them. Katkith set about obtaining his ticket while Martok (assigned to Tech Ops) and I each sought out our respective track heads to get our badges. Security was light because most hotel staff knew that attendee identification was chaos at best in that regard.

I went to the Trek Track room (Hilton Galleria rooms 2-3) to see if I could do anything to help set up. There I met up with Joe Campbell, Dragon Con veteran, who creates the beautiful artwork and framed photography that hangs from the Trek room walls. He wasn’t ready to hang anything, but he wanted items placed along the wall in preparation for that process. For my efforts, limited as they were because of my hand, he gave me the prototype Gorn Hegemony plaque he created. I eventually got my badge and went back to the room. That night Martok, Katkith and I ate out at Hard Rock Cafe because we knew it would be too busy when the con got going.

Thursday, August 31

Most of the day I walked around and hung out at the Trek Track room. I wore my Sasquatch Odyssey shirt to advertise the podcast. It was a relaxing day as the con did not officially start until that night.

I, like my fellow Trek Track volunteers, were to report to the Trek Track room from 7 pm to 8:30 pm for the Star Trek Meetup. I chose my blue-gray semi-Imperial look to wear with my Hedrick headpiece with the gray wig. I used my very first Klingon tunic I ever made back in 1999 for this look. Martok armored up in his Imperial uniform and headpiece. Together we made our way to the meetup, stopping first to get our holo-image made at the Imperial Ballroom, future site of the “10 Forward Party — Welcome to Starbase 80” on Saturday night. The meetup was a lot of fun, but needs more structure!

Friday, September 1

I chose my brown Enterprise Klingon style look to wear along with my new Nurk headpiece which had not been worn before. I sewed the long brown wig on myself. Martok later armored up in his Imperial uniform. The day started off very early at 8:30 am in the Trek Track room with a volunteer meeting. We received our volunteer tees at that time. I must say in all my years of serving, the artwork on the tee shirt this year exceeded them all.

At 10:00 am was “Ad Astra Per Aspera — Opening.” Garrett Wang made his appearance during the meeting and spoke to the crowd. It was good to see him as usual. Garrett reiterated how he became the Trek Track lead and told a little bit about what programming we were offering this year. He introduced the staff and I got the opportunity to discuss Klingon Karaoke and invite everyone to sing with us.

I also got to mention that we always need help with the Star Trek portion of the parade. One has to have a ribbon to march in the parade and they are available at the parade table in the Courtland Grand Hotel (formerly the Sheraton). In recent years Kavura (Kathy Graham Peck) has been coordinating the group and doing a great job.

Katkith and I had started Keela and Katkith’s Klingon Karaoke in November of 2002 at Spartacon in SC. We performed our show at numerous small cons in NC, SC and TN. In 2005, I convinced Eric Watts, then the Dragon Con Trek Track lead, to allow us to present Klingon Karaoke. He did and it was so popular, he brought us back the next year for two nights. We were a very successful part of the Trek Track programming. When Garrett Wang became the lead, I spoke with him and he graciously allowed us to continue. Except for a couple breaks, Klingon Karaoke has been presented at Dragon Con ever since.

One thing that my area of KAG is noted for is fundraising for charity. I credit Lt. Cmdr. Ktarg vestai-B’ry (Matt Power) for setting the tone. Very early on in my KAG career, I got one of this ship business cards which stated, “We work for charity.” I loved the sentiment and made it the thrust of all our ship’s activities and Quadrant activities. Dragon Con has a charity they support each year. In 2023 the charity was CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based organization. Every panel had a bucket for donations on their table and panelists solicited donations.

As soon as “Ad Aspera Per Aspera — Opening” was over I quickly grabbed the empty bucket off the table and ran to the doors where folks were exiting. I began to solicit funds, as only a Klingon can, and got about $100 in cash and ran it back to the table, plopped it down in front of Garrett Wang and said, “Here’s a start on our fundraising efforts.”

Of note, at 11:30 the next programming block that I was free to attend was Nayr and Kavura’s “StarPodTrek Walking Tour of all things Trek at Dragon Con.” I wanted to make this event, but was unable to. Nayr and Kavura always have the most interesting panels.

My next volunteer assignment was the “Away Team Scavenger Hunt” which originated at the Courtland Grand Hotel pool area at 1:00 pm. My friends Lucy and Tony Boydson run this event as well as provide DJ services for the 10 Forward Party and run the Miss REDACTED Universe Pageant. (FYI The pageant could not use the word Star Trek, so they put REDACTED in its place.) I helped as best I could and hung out until the winners were all finally announced about 2.5 hours later.

At 7:00 pm Martok got off shift at Tech Ops and armored up in his Imperial uniform. A little later while we were walking through the Marriott, we ran into the Green Lantern Klingon, Steve Willis from Phoenix Rising Quadrant. It was great to see him!

During the day there was some major star-studded programming for attendees to enjoy. At 11:30 am in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom was “DISCO Q&A” featuring actors from the Discovery series. At 2:30 pm in the Atrium Ballroom was George Takei’s panel. At 5:30 in the Atrium Ballroom was “SNW” featuring stars from Strange New Worlds. Questions could not relate to Star Trek, but any other topic was allowed because of the strike.

From 10:00 pm to 1:00 am was “Klingon Karaoke (Honor).” People had started lining up as much as an hour and a half before karaoke. I had handed out karaoke song slips, but was unable to collect them in time before they were allowed in. Meanwhile, we feverishly started setting up and decorating the stage at 9:30 pm and the festivities began at around 10 pm. Martok provided a most honorable presence on the stage and even got to emcee when I had to step away. During the evening I frequently went around with the donation bucket soliciting funds and yelling Qapla’ when someone donated. I had a large bucket of cash by the time karaoke was over.

A cloaked Admiral Kolex also came to assist at my request. He about tore the stage down with his enthusiasm. I took the opportunity to introduce Martok and discuss my resignation and subsequent promotion of Martok the next day. He agreed to perform the transfer. We were packed with happy, singing huMans almost the entire night, but I forgot to take pictures. Everything had to be taken down and put away behind the screen by 1:00 pm. Katkith and I walked back to the room which was approximately 4 1/2 blocks away. We cut through the Marriott and Hyatt to save time and effort.

Saturday, September 2

This was the day of the Dragon Con Parade! Both Martok and myself made sure our volunteer work schedules were cleared for this event. We armored up in our finest Imperial, but ran late in Martok’s estimation. I reassured him we would be fine and it turned out so. The parade started at 10:00 am and the shuttles run almost nearly up to that time. The shuttle pick up point to the staging area was right outside the rear of the Marriott Hotel across from the Hilton entrance. We got in the long line of variously dressed cosplayers and waited for our turn to board the shuttle. We both carried bat’leths and Klingon mugs. His was gargantuan!

Kavura met us at the shuttle offload area and handed us our parade ribbons to wear. She then instructed us where to go. There we met up with the rest of the Star Trek gathering. It was glorious to see old friends and all the different Star Trek uniforms. There were so many participants this year that when Kolex got there, it was decided to do the ceremony quickly before the parade began. Kolex called the group to assembly and proceeded with the ceremony. It was short and glorious! Qapla’ to Martok and may his service be of benefit to Dark Star Quadrant for years to come!

Our turn to march was called and we lined up behind the group in front of us. The StarPodTrek banner was proudly carried in the front. I wondered again where the KAG banner was again, but it is of no consequence because not enough uniformed KAG members participate in the parade any more to warrant finding it. Those glory days are past.

The parade was about 10 1/2 city blocks long. My feet were already giving me issues though I purchased and used Voltaren gel (Kahless bless the Voltarens!) earlier that day. The parade was difficult for me, but I had to keep up and keep smiling. After we finished up at the Marriott, I hurried over to the Hilton Galleria where the “Star Trek Kids Fest” had already started at 11:30 am. There I proceeded to finish setting up the face painting station they had given me and began working. (My thanks to Lt. Cmdr. Krikala vestai-Hov che’ (Kitty Spruill) for blurring the photos below)

I painted about eight little living canvasses before the time was up. I had also provided crayons and colored pencils for the children to use while coloring the 10 Klingon Koloring Books I printed out. This year I put an advertisement to join KAG on the back. What was not used by the huMan larvae was left in the Trek Track room and got picked up by adults to keep. Qapla’!

I think I sat through Dr. Mohamed A. F. Noor’s 1:00 pm panel on “Star Trek Biology’s Greatest Hits and Near Misses” panel. He always gives a great presentation. Mohamed serves as a technical science consultant for the Star Trek franchise. His sheer presence at Duke University raises the average IQ points of all NC residents by 10 points. I admire him greatly.

Afterwards I slowly made my way back to the hotel room. I was exhausted. It took me 2 1/2 hours to peel the sweat-drenched uniform off of myself unassisted, shower and wash my hair while keeping the hand dry and elevated, and dress myself in clean dry clothes including my new volunteer shirt.

Anther great panel for attendees to enjoy that day were: “SNW” featuring a Q&A with some of the actors at 4:00 pm in the Marriot Atrium Ballroom.

I reported early before my next assignment at the Trek Track room. I wanted to attend Nayr and Kavura’s presentation at 7:00 pm on “50th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Animated Series.” They did not disappoint! I wished at that time I had created a TAS look, but time and resources did not allow.

At 8:30 pm I went on duty with the “Star Trek Pop Quiz: Trek Trivia Night with Starship Tempest” panel. I handed out forms and after the panel collected all discarded forms and waste. It was interesting and the questions were definitely above my paygrade. I always like Starship Tempest panels.

At 9:30 pm, I wandered over to the Marriott Imperial Ballroom to see if any help was needed. They didn’t need me so I just chatted and sat around until it started. The music by DJ THX was glorious! I thought Martok might be working that event, but he was not. I thought he might show up, but he did not. Eventually I went back to the room. Another Dragon Con day in the can.

Sunday, September 3

I chose my green and gold casual warrior look to wear with my Hedrick headpiece with gray wig. I was not in a hurry that morning because I did not have to report for volunteer duty until 1:00 pm. So I basically wandered around a little as I headed towards the Hilton.

I could have kicked myself for missing George Takei’s panel at the Hilton Salon at 11:30 am. Two other panels for con attendees to enjoy were another “SNW” panel in the Marriot Atrium Ballroom at 2:30 pm and another “DISCO Q&A” in the Hilton Salon at 4:00 pm.

At 1:00 pm in the Trek Track room I assisted as much as possible for the “Felt Nerdy Presents: Bad Reboot and Beyond (Star Trek Puppet Show).” However, the Star Trek photoshoot was at the same time, so I asked for a small amount of time to participate once the panel began. My feet were very sore, but when I made it to the location, I found a chair to sit in while the photo shoot got organized.

I participated in one group shot and reported back to the Trek Track room. Most of my help at the Felt Nerdy panel consisted of watching the door to make sure only badged attendees came in and that the doors were shut when they left. I did not aid in fundraising except for the initial panel on Friday already mentioned and for Klingon Karaoke.

At some point in the day I ran into Lois Jolly, an honorable Starfleet International member in the Asheville area.

At 4:00 pm I reported to the Grand Courtland Ballroom A with my Dark Moon Fleet banner and set it up in its traditional spot on stage directly behind the speaker podium. It has graced many Miss Star Trek Universe pageants over the years. This year, however, Garrett Wang could not emcee the Miss REDACTED Universe pageant due to the strike. Instead they chose Miss Star Trek Universe 2020 winner, Leah D’Andrea-Lee, to emcee. She did a fantastic job!!! Watch out, Garrett!

I assisted Lucy with whatever she directed, but finally, due to my feet, I was allowed to sit out my normal duties and observe the pageant in the handicap area right off the catwalk. It was an amazing experience. My face still hurts from smiling. All of the performers were great!

Afterwards, I took the banner down and went back to the Trek Track room to wait until it was time for Klingon Karaoke. I watched a couple of panels as I waited: “The Star Trek Salamander Awards — Trek’s Best of the Worst” at 7:00 pm and “The Trial of Captain Benjamin Sisko: War Criminal and Terrorist” at 8:30 pm. (He was found innocent.)

From 10:00 pm to 1:00 am was “Klingon Karaoke (Glory).” Once again I handed out karaoke song slips to those who were in line early. I was also able to collect them so I felt like those faithfully waiting in line would be rewarded by singing first. Then at 9:30 pm as before we started feverishly setting up and decorating the stage area. I had some great help setting up the decorations this time and at around 10:00 pm I took the microphone and welcomed everyone to our panel.

(But once again people who stood in line the longest did not get to sing first. By way of explanation when I asked him about it, Katkith said he accidentally dropped the karaoke slips. Only the Fek’lhyr knows.)

Again during the evening I frequently went around with the donation bucket soliciting funds and yelling Qapla’ when successful. I had an even bigger bucket of cash by the time karaoke was over. When people love who you are and love what you are doing and are having a great time, they give more.

By 1:00 am we had packed up, but we could not head back to the hotel because Leo Visentin, Garrett’s second in command, had not come to pick up the donation money. It was almost 2:00 am before we could leave the Trek Track room. My feet hurt so bad, I could not keep up with Katkith. So I decided to take longer steps which worked. But I did not know this would wrack up my left knee so badly I could hardly walk the next day.

Monday, September 4

The pain was excruciating. I could not bend my knee without yelping. But I somehow managed to get showered and dressed. I wore my TOS uniform. I did not have to worry about packing up as we were leaving Tuesday morning to meet up with two of my friends from college for lunch. I made my way over to the Trek Track room where I got to listen to two back-to-back panels: “Biology and Science: Consulting in Star Trek: Discovery” by Dr. Mohamed Noor at 10 am and “The Holodeck is the Safest Thing on the Ship. No, Really!” by Peter Stolmeier at 11:30 am.

Other major offerings for con attendees were “SNW” at 11:30 am in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom and “DISCO Q&A” at 1:00 pm in the Hilton Salon.

My final volunteer assignment came at 2:30 pm in the Trek Track room for “All Good Things — Closing.” This is when I heard the complaints about the karaoke song slips on Sunday night and I, with my apologies. I offered Katkith’s explanation as to why that had happened. I think that the input from this year’s convention will make for a better Dragon Con next year and I cannot wait to return. Qapla’!

IXL Brigadier Keela zantai-Septaric, Retired CO Dark Star Quadrant, CO IKV Executioner, DSQ IXL Legate