Thoughts on Star Wars Celebration Orlando

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Star Wars Celebration Orlando is officially behind us.  We have seen the sneak peeks, the epic costumes, and heard the stories.  This was my fourth Celebration.  I first attended Celebration IV in Los Angeles in 2007, then Celebration V in Orlando in 2010, and Celebration Anaheim in 2015.  We arrived in town late on Tuesday and spent the first day and a half getting reacquainted with friends, picking up our swag from the 501st and generally enjoying our vacation.  The weather in Florida was beautiful, never got too hot, never rained.  Perfect vacation weather.

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Thursday was the first day of the con and the epic 40th-anniversary panel.  Now, I’ve never been one for the big panels.  I would love to be in the room for the panels, but I don’t want to go through the hassle of camping out overnight for the panels.  I paid for a hotel room bed and I want to use it, haha.

The line to get in on Thursday morning
The line to get in on Thursday morning

With this being my fourth Celebration, I knew ahead of time that the line to get onto the con floor is usually crazy, especially on the first day.  However, I had no idea of what we were in store for when we headed out from the hotel.  This was where most of our problems for the weekend began.  We stayed at the Rosen which very conveniently had a walkway leading you directly into the convention center.  Unfortunately, most of the time that walkway was not usable, especially early in the day.  The convention center security and employees would not allow entrance that way, instead directing us to one of the other side entrances.  Thursday morning the line ran down International drive.  Again, this did not seem unusual.  As we approached the convention center we saw that the line did not lead directly into the main doorways, instead, went past the doorways, wrapped around the corner of the convention center and around to the backside of the center.  This line would eventually run the entire length of the convention center and then circle back upon itself.

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We entered the line around 10:30 am, well aware that it would be a wait to get onto the convention floor.  What we did not expect was that nearly 2 hours later we would still be in line and that the line was now capable of being measured in miles.  Our excitement quickly wore off and was replaced by a sunburned frustration and confusion.  The line seemed to go on without end.  It felt like we were part of an elaborate prank.  Anyone who follows me online knows that I was being quite vocal with my frustration through Facebook and Twitter.  I’m sure my voice was just one among a chorus of other voices who all felt similarly as the convention center finally opened additional entrances and allowed more entry points.  The worst part about it all is that it seems the large holdup was due to security checkpoints and metal detectors, but the other entrances barely even bothered with a simple bag check so it was ultimately futile at preventing any kind of issue.

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However, things changed drastically once we hit the con floor.  The overwhelming positive feeling from the crowd helped wash away the negativity and keep us from all turning to the dark side.  The sour moods and bad feelings went away, but our sore feet would not.

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One important stop we had to make was in the autograph hall.  When it comes to the autographs I always like to pick one or two that are important to me.  I could not miss out on getting Denis Lawson’s autograph.  I love everything about the pilots and X-wings, and knowing that this was his first Celebration I couldn’t resist.  I know there were complaints about the autograph hall, but I had a fairly easy time getting his autograph and Denis Lawson seemed genuinely pleasant and happy to be there.  Even though I did have a bit of brain freeze when we approached his table and had no idea what to actually say to him.

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The biggest thing for me at Celebration is the fans.  I love watching the panels, but I’m not very good at actually making time for them or remembering to get in line for them.  Most Celebrations I only make it to one or two panels the whole weekend.  What I love is just taking a headfirst dive into Star Wars, seeing the fans, the displays, connecting with others who love the same things that I do.  Since joining the 501st Legion, Celebration becomes even more so about these connections.  I love to meet Legion members from all over the world, and connecting with old friends who I haven’t seen since the last Celebration.

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When the con ends for the day, there are the parties.  This year, we made it to two great parties, that while drastically different were each fun in their own unique way.  Thursday night was the Drowning in Moonlight gala to honor Carrie Fisher.  This was a great time to meet friends and remember our favorite Princess.  Saturday night was the incredible 501st Bash.  If you’ve never been to one of the 501st parties, there really isn’t anything quite like it.  This year’s Bash included a concert from Weird Al, dancing twi’leks hanging from the ceiling, Tatooine inspired set pieces, and any number of outrageous costumes and outfits representing the scum and villainy.  Needless to say, Sunday morning was a bit of a rough start for many of us.

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Was this my favorite Celebration?  I don’t think so.  Was this the best Celebration?  Pretty doubtful.  It’s easy to dwell on things that did not work out or that did not go as planned.  It’s easy to let the negativity overshadow the good things.  This was a massive Celebration with the largest crowds yet, and there were a number of things that did not go the way I wanted them too.  But, it’s important to remember the good times I had, the friends I met and the smiles.  There are lots of conventions right now, but they are not Celebration.  Celebration is something different, something unique, something special.  I’m already counting the days until the next one in 2019.

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