One of the more offbeat events of every year, Labor Day weekend’s Dragon Con is known for its eclectic array of programming, and for both attendees and the good citizens of Atlanta, the centerpiece is Saturday morning’s parade. Not only do hundreds of participants march in the parade, but thousands of Atlanta citizens line the streets to experience the spectacle, or tune in to the local CW station to watch a live broadcast.

This year’s grand marshal was the venerable Stan Lee, and various celebrities riding in cars are interspersed among the various fandom groups, from Ghostbusters to Captain America dancing girls and Peggy Carters, Halo fighters to the 501st, along with elaborate floats from local haunted houses like Netherworld, and the group I march with, the Periodic Table of Elements.

The Periodic Table parade group banner

The first group of the Periodic Table marched 10 years ago in 2007, when a group of science enthusiasts on Livejournal floated the idea (see what I did there) of creating a living version of the periodic table in the parade. The idea was that each person chooses an element and then creates a costume to represent that element. The table is accompanied by a cohort of mad scientists for those who don’t want to represent a specific element, more popular than ever thanks to Rick and Morty.

Costumes can be anything from literal representations like Beryllium, who paints herself a silver color, to puntastic, like Potassium dressing in a banana suit. Each year the costumes get more elaborate and creative, and it’s all incredibly fun.

Mercury and Bismuth
Photo by Steve Eberhardt

Calcium and Rhenium – Photo by Flickr user x376

What’s it like to march in the parade?

Marching in the parade is a commitment; you have to get up very early and head a mile out of downtown to line up, and the parade goes on rain or shine. Late August in Georgia is no joke, so you have to prepare to walk two miles in 90 degree heat at times. Hurricane Harvey threatened to send some serious rain our way, but luckily it managed to end by Friday night, so Saturday was not only cloudless, but cool. Perfect marching conditions.

It’s me, Chromium!

During the parade itself, we like to yell periodic table-themed slogans as we march, such as, “You’re made of us!” and, “We say Periodic, you say Table! Periodic! Table!” And of course, “YAY SCIENCE!” It’s awesome when the crowd gets into it and chants along.

At various points the pace can slow down or even stop, as parades tend to do. When that happens, it’s time to bond! We represent chemical bonding by linking elbows with another element and doing the do-si-do. Sound nerdy? Absolutely. Is it super fun? Yes, yes it is. We were lucky this year – the float behind us had an SUV that was blasting peppy music, which made bonding much easier.

Chemical bonding!

Filling the Table

The group has grown every year since its inception, and over the past few years, the goal has been to try and have every single element represented. We got awfully close last year, but this year we did it! The table was officially full, with every single element marching down Peachtree Street, proudly proclaiming the importance of science and how much fun it can be.

Now that we’ve done it once, we know we can do it again. To learn more about the group or join us in the parade, check out www.paradeofelements.com. Slots for new members will be opening Oct. 23!