I just spent a week at Star Wars Celebration Orlando and I must say it resembled my version of heaven. As friends we banded together almost a year ago to take a chance at getting VIP and to our surprise we actually did it, despite how fast they sold out. I
couldn’t believe my luck! It actually turned out in my favor because I had told a coworker the tickets were going on sale. She, along with her husband, decided to try and both got in to purchase. They contacted me asking if we still needed VIP. I responded ‘yes’ with glee. It’s amazing to think they thought of me at that moment.
I hadn’t been to a Star Wars Celebration since the first one in 1999 in Denver, Colorado. My return wasn’t a coincidence though; it was the Star Wars 40th anniversary and I knew there was only one place to be. Packing for the trip wasn’t hard; unlike punk shows I can wear my Star Wars gear to the Star Wars Celebration – and I had plenty from which to choose. The only thing missing was a Star Wars hoodie which I remedied on the first night in the Celebration Store.
I’m usually pretty good about not buying too many things at conventions, however the Star Wars Celebration store changed all that. Weeks before I was telling a friend I was worried I wouldn’t have enough items picked out to buy in order to reach the required spending to get the Star Wars pins I needed for the pin trading. Turns out that wasn’t a problem; I couldn’t stop myself from putting a huge dent in my wallet. Everything in the store catered to the one thing I loved, “Star Wars”, and I wanted it all. We were one of the last ones to leave the store that night because we had to look at everything and then look at it again and again.
What is pin trading you might ask? Disney releases certain pins you can only get from specific areas and events. Star Wars Celebration was no exception and it was my personal goal to get them all. For me it was like being sent on a scavenger hunt and I was determined to finish it. I diligently wore the pins I had to trade on my lanyard, while keeping the pins I wanted to save for myself safely tucked away. I make no apologies to all of the people I asked to trade who were wearing pins they wanted to keep. If it was out and I wanted it, I asked! The pin trading actually became a group activity and we all worked together to get the pins we needed for our collection. However, two of us going through the signing at the Del Rey booth to try and trade for a Thrawn pin was not productive. Clearly everyone in that line was a Thrawn fan and wanted to keep their pin. In the end though we all completed our sets, something that could only be done with the help of friends.
The panels were insane! I thought nothing could come close to the Star Wars panel at SDCC in 2015. Clearly the organizers were going to try and I have to say the 40th Anniversary panel is probably tied with the SDCC one. There were many big surprises in the panel. I got to see George Lucas in person, Harrison Ford walked on as a surprise guest (I screamed like a lady, I swear), and I got to see John Williams compose in person. There were a lot of tears at this panel, especially when we all said goodbye to Carrie Fisher. As someone who has always looked up to Carrie as a role model, I felt like I finally got to say my goodbye.
I decided to do something I had never done before, I purchased an actual autograph session. I had no clue what I was going to get signed, yet one night after a few beers I finally talked myself into a Mark Hamill autograph. As fate had, it they gave me a poster at The Last Jedi Panel (I think Jedi is plural!). It was the perfect item to get signed, something to remind myself of a truly amazing week. I showed up 15 minutes before my autograph and was promptly escorted to the VIP line. The people in line next to me said they had been in line since 2am, for an autograph they had purchased weeks ago online. I couldn’t imagine spending that much time in line when I had already paid $250 for an autograph. They wouldn’t let you personalize your autograph and they were pushing us through like cattle. Personally, I found it inconsiderate and Mark Hamill barely had time to look up before they had him signing the next one. Being the rebel that I am I asked to shake his hand. He politely said yes and stopped to do just that. I think TOPPS Authentic (the company running the autograph and photo op section) needs to focus less on selling autographs in order to make it a more memorable experience for both the celebrity and the fan.
A friend had been kind enough to schedule us a photo op with Mark Hamill, what can I say other than HE PLAYED LUKE SKYWALKER! This was probably the better option between an autograph or a photo op, I think you get 30 seconds more with the celebrity with the photo op. We had been planning it for weeks. We discovered that we all owned the same ugly Star Wars Christmas sweater and that was what we would be wearing. That morning we realized that it would be amazing to put Mark Hamill in one too. Luckily, welovefine had a booth at Celebration, so we promptly bought one for Mark to wear. We were so excited that we told everyone our plan in line. They were all so supportive that they cheered when Mark Hamill put the sweater on. His face when everyone started clapping and cheering was priceless! I hope he actually kept the sweater we gave him. It would be amazing to see him in it one day and know it was from us or even just knowing he was wearing it to stay warm in his home. After all, we all know he likes ugly sweaters!
If you love Star Wars, then I suggest you go to a Celebration event at least once in your lifetime. I have been lucky to attend two and it has never disappointed me.
Hopefully I will see you at the Star Wars Celebration in 2019, wherever it will be.
You can find the sweaters at www.wefinelove.com.