What an experience! Dragon*Con is SO massive and overwhelming! My wonderful husband help me through each and every exhausting day.
I entered the Friday Night Costume contest which focuses on craftsmanship (there were so many costume contests and I entered the one I thought was right but I think I meant to be in the Masquerade. Turns out I entered the most intense of the costume contests. Oops.) I did walk away with the Best Novice award. I'm in such shock. The costume I went in was Otachi. She caused me so much pain and frustration. I hated her. She didn't turn out right, I made so many sacrifices, but she did teach me a lot of things I should NEVER do again. Turns out, she was something special. She got me an award at a major convention! My second costume I've ever made and she won! I'm still sitting here looking at the award plaque in disbelief, but at the same time I feel some guilt. The other novices were SO good and they were all so, SO nice to me as I spent 6 hours straight in Otachi and couldn't sit down for any of it. They offered water and if there was anything they could do for me. The group was just SO nice, I've never experienced kindness like that from strangers let alone in a competitive environment.
Having been to Anime Boston (about 25k) and ConnectiCon (about 18k?) and then to Dragon*Con (about 70K) I can tell you that even though Dragon*Con is SO much bigger, everyone is SO much nicer! I've experienced some awful people particularly at Anime Boston; People pushing me, hitting my tail or drumming on it, and just general disrespect for myself and my costume. Even when I was out of costume at Dragon*Con, just you're average joe, people went out of their way to help me (and no, not because of the contest or anything, I was in full costume and my personal features were unknown). I had people part crowds to help me pass through or offer to get me water. Just SO nice!
I'd go again hands down. Dragon*Con was an amazing experience with seas of the friendliest people around!
Here is a youtube video by Branden Hartness. I can be found at 14:36 and 59:11 but if you have time I'd say hunker down at watch the whole thing. The announcers were pretty disorganized but the costumes were beautiful and the people wearing them are amazing and kind.