Its been ten years since fans from around the world gathered in Denver, Colorado for Star Wars Celebration. I had no idea what to expect or who I would meet; but I borrowed $250 for airfare from my mother and made sleeping arrangements with some friends. I was going to this event no matter what! With Star Wars Episode One : The Phantom Menace just weeks away from release, rumors were swirling that fans in attendance would get a sneak peek, and I planned to see it! Well there was no special screening, however, there was plenty of rain, mud, and long lines. I wasn't about to let that get me down, I was there to celebrate Star Wars with my friends; and despite my limited budget, the experience was worth more than gold.
I arrived Thursday and met up with Mark M. with whom I worked on Yakface.com with. I was crashing on his floor and we couldn't wait for the show to open Friday, so we went exploring to see what we could find. After getting lost several times, we eventually found the event location. Star Wars Celebration was held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, Colorado. We could see numerous tents set up outside and Pepsi products being promoted everywhere. Giant inflatable Pepsi cans, and pallet after pallet, loaded with cases of Pepsi products.
Back at the hotel, social hour was gearing up as fans from all over gathered in common areas and in each others' rooms to talk about the show. I recall sitting in the lobby with Mark and customs guru Gary Weaver, watching Gary create a vintage styled bounty hunter 6 pack, complete with cellophane window; it was amazing. After a bit, a crowd had gathered and a vendor had returned from set up with an official event guide. We all went nuts looking it over to see what was planned for the weekend ahead.
Friday arrives and we head over early for a badge pick up. We bump into Gary again and he's somehow managed to get a VIP badge because he's supposed to be on a panel. A customs panel. It was all good though when we managed to get a vendor pass upgrade off of Fan Club President Dan Madsen. All badged up we were ready to see whatever surprises awaited us inside the main hanger.
Inside the main hanger there were official military planes on static display, and mixed in between it all was a convention that would revolutionize, recharge and reinvent the Star Wars community for the next decade. The main floor had displays from most every licensee that was on board for Episode I and there were a ton if you recall. Hasbro had a non-stop line moving fans through their booth showcasing most of the Episode I line toys. Everyone finally got a chance to check out the new toys up close rather than in a magazine or on a website. Every licensee seemed to follow suit, showcasing all of their products that would be coming out. From blow up pool floats, to kids bikes, to Star Wars bedding, the place was oozing Darth Maul and Jar-Jar everywhere you turned.
Star Wars Celebration was my first major convention experience, it was like being a kid in a candy store, a Star Wars candy store! Inside the hanger was a huge X-Wing on display, making it a must stop photo op for fans. I thought it was awesome to see many fans dressed up as their favorite characters, some with such attention to detail. I saw my first Slave Leia at Celebration I, and couldn't believe she had worn that to the show! Lines were everywhere for pretty much everything. However the dealers tent only had about 2 inches of water in it that was intertwined with electrical cords. I was praying I didn't get zapped. I do recall finding a few good deals at the time though on some POTF2 figures!
I didn't have enough time to go to each panel, but the ones I did left impressions. Producer Rick McCullum didn't seem to care kids were in the audience and would go on profanity laced tirades ever so often. He was and is pretty entertaining to listen to. Anthony Daniels was a riot to watch work the crowd. He made sure every seat in the house was full. Having Ray Park perform on stage was absolutely amazing. Dude, Darth Maul!
Sunday came too quick for me. My fun was soon over as my flight back to reality-ville left that morning. I had just enough time to attend for a short period on Sunday and say all of my goodbyes. I had met a lot of people that weekend and made friends that I still have to this day. I think that's probably the most important thing to me, the friendships forged by Celebration I. It still amazes me that there is this microcosm of a socially networked fans who have created their own family in a sense. All because of their mutual love of Star Wars, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
I created an online gallery of photos from my Star Wars Celebration trip right here. See you back here in ten more years for the 20th!
UPDATE: Jim C. wrote in to let fans know of his blog where he's also posted some photos and memories from his own experience, you can check it out here. Also, Starwars.com have a few articles up on their site as well, most of which are linked in our related stories bin below this article. Be sure to check them out!