Well, I've been at TFN for three and a half years now and Celebration V marked a number of firsts for me. This was not only my first Celebration, but was my first Star Wars convention experience ever. Hell of a way to dive right in.
I arrived on Wednesday, August 11th and had the good fortune of having my brother-in-law in town for vacation at the same time to pick Dustin Roberts and me up from the airport. We checked into the hotel and immediately ran over to the convention center to see what was going on. A half hour later, we arrived at the correct location after having walked in the complete wrong direction to two completely wrong buildings. You'd have thought the lack of Star Wars signage would have clued us in to our errant venture, but I think we were a little too drunk on excitement to follow simple directions.
My first views of set-up day were jaw dropping and full-out made me as giddy as a school girl. Besides excitement, I was filled with this utter feeling of loss as to why I'd never hit a convention previously. While the sheer magnitude of exhibits and panels made the trip from Baltimore more than worth it, it was the vast majority of the people that I met that have me never wanting to miss a Celebration again. From meeting up with fellow fans at the TFN Jedi Council Forums party, to doing the same at the Fans of the ForceCast party, to random new Star Wars friends made in various panel lines (Derek from Florida and Mario from Mexico being two great examples), to the folks that you just happen to run into here and there, to the folks you've corresponded with online but have never met. That is what truly defined Celebration V to me. There was an air of helpfulness. There was an air of camaraderie. And more than that, there was just an overriding feeling of immediate friendship between fellow fans. Were there some naysayers in the vast CV crowd? Sure, but why focus on them? All they want to do is take our fun and somehow make it all about them, which is why they were easily ignored.
Work hard and play hard, although a cliché, certainly fit as a CV theme for the busy 4 days. I hit every panel I could while circling the exhibition hall countless times in order not to miss a thing. Personal highlights for me included:
- The Force Unleashed II panel - the developers were a lot of fun and nothing beats watching cinematic footage on the big screen, with big sound and surrounded by other anticipating fans
- I love slave Leias!
- Any panel that featured Dave Filoni - He's funny, enjoys his job, appreciates the fans and you really couldn't have a better spokesperson for Star Wars right now (besides George of course). Star Wars is in very capable hands.
- Seeing the vocal cast of The Clone Wars along with Dave Filoni show up at both the TFN and ForceCast fan parties was a treat. Seeing them be engaging and fun was even better.
- Getting to spend a little time with my niece (6) and nephew (8) on Thursday while exploring the convention hall brought out a lot of child-like fun while making me long to bring my own kids to Celebration VI. (Well, maybe just for a day visit. Daddy was busy "working".)
- It was also great when my brother-in-law got to come back on Saturday, alone, so he could hit some panels with me. Luckily he didn't mind spending the morning at some EU panels. It's also lucky that I actually like my in-laws.
- After briefly meeting author Dan Wallace following his appearance on the ForceCast, I decided to hit up the Star Wars: Year by Year Quiz Show. While lightly attended, this panel was a lot of fun for two reasons. First up, I didn't have to take notes and could just kick back and enjoy the authors (Windham, Lopez, Hildalgo & Wallace) riffing back and forth. Secondly, I was surprised to get a 10-minute preview of the upcoming Family Guy spoof of Return of the Jedi beforehand. By the way, Dan Wallace was an incredibly nice guy and the overall presentation of his upcoming book, The Jedi Path, is absolutely fantastic.
- While they were all great, James Arnold Taylor at The Clone Wars voice actor panel was out of this world.
- If I wasn't before, I'm more than a little ramped up for Season 3 of The Clone Wars after all the new footage we've seen. I'll be having a discussion with Lucasfilm as to why the S3 premiere has to been on my wedding anniversary at some later date. In the meantime, I'm prepared to sleep on the couch that night...and possibly for some time afterward.
- Got to see the ForceCast live for the first time and it just happened to be the episode where Jason and Jimmy were inducted as honorary members of the 501st. Good stuff!
- Nothing beats finishing off a long hard day of covering the convention better than sipping on an adult beverage or two with new friends...while talking more Star Wars.
Besides being my first convention, this also marked the first time I got to meet the entire TFN/Rebelscum/ForceCast team. To put it bluntly, I love you guys. It's a little nerve wracking flying down to meet a whole team you've never met previously, and with whom you're going to have to work face-to-face for a number of days. Not only is the entire team fun, kind and helpful, but also they really know their stuff. It's one thing to say the team is a bunch of nice people, but it's better to say that they're a bunch of nice people who take their "volunteer" fan site work quite seriously. They/we all love Star Wars and simply like sharing in that love in our own unique ways. I'm more proud than ever to be a part of the team and look forward to many more years of Star Wars fun through our family trio of sites. Thanks to Philip Wise for an amazing week and for the opportunity to be a part of the aforementioned team.