Leaky Story Time: Dylan the Free Hugs Guy Edition
That gentleman up there is Dylan the Free Hugs Guy. He kind of rocked Leakycon this year. We all know who Dylan is at this point. We’ve all hugged him at least once (okay, who are we kidding, it was totally way more than once). Dylan was the pick me up that we all needed when we were tired or frustrated or hungry or blah at any point during the con.
I was part of the group loitering in the lobby Wednesday before the con, and I remember chuckling a little bit when I first saw the guy in the bright green shirt and hot pink bandanna walk in and stand by the archway to the lobby with a giant free hugs sign. I’d been to anime conventions previously and seen a slew of similar signs and even seen a few at previous Leakycons, generally to moderate success. People kind of glanced over at him at first, not quite sure what to make of it. A few people just ran up and hugged him, then gradually, the whole room started to warm up to him. More and more people started walking over to get hugs, and some people ran and jumped into his arms. The tentative atmosphere where we were all sitting in little groups in the lobby started to break up and we all started watching and going up to get our own hugs. It broke the ice for those of us that were there early and maybe a little unsure. I got my hug and asked what his name was, and he said it was Dylan. I sat back down and continued to watch as people kept coming up for hugs and we all started laughing and talking together.
The hotel staff was grudgingly accepting of us at this point and for the most part looked like they weren’t really sure what was going on. They were kind of watching from the edges of the lobby, looking quite a bit tentative. I wasn’t sure how the con was going to go with the hotel staff so unsure of things. A funny thing started to happen though. The staff started watching Dylan too. They started smiling and laughing at all of our crazy hugging antics. Then the really cool part started. A brave hotel staff lady ventured over to Dylan and asked for a hug. He obliged quite happily and the staff lady walked off smiling to go about her business. Then another staff person came up and hugged Dylan, and a few more. These people didn’t really get what we were doing or what was going on, but they got Dylan. They involved themselves with a little piece of our world and let it light them up the same way we do. That was really cool.
While Wednesday I heard shouts of “Free Hugs Guy!” periodically, by Thursday it seemed like every time I turned a corner, someone was gleefully shouting “Dylan!”
At the Alumni meetup, we had pretty much filled the room and were awkwardly milling around, wondering what to do next. We weren’t really sure how to start things off. Dylan wandered up to the podium in the room and commandeered the mic, greeting us ll and getting things kicked off. After getting a general consensus that nobody really knew what to do for the meetup, Dylan declared a contest for best Leaky story from last year, and Vinny whipped out a bag full of prizes. That “contest” turned into around an hour of all of us telling stories of the things we loved about Leaky, from the first five people to the trickle of people after that to the rush of everyone lining up to tell their part. People went up twice and we all cheered and cried and laughed for the stories and the moments we had the year previous. Sure, we could have had the meetup without all that, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.
So thank you Dylan for making everyone’s Leakycon a little brighter.