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Rancho Obi-Wan Second Annual Gala

Posted by Philip on September 26, 2014 at 08:10 AM CST


A Report from Rancho Obi-Wan's Second Annual Gala
by Jeff Long

Jeff's Gala Photo Gallery


As Star Wars fans, we all have our particular points of view when it comes to ever-unfolding events in the galaxy far, far away, but as a rule our community is populated with people filled with an inspiring sense of community and camaraderie. Especially when we gather together for a good cause. Nowhere was that more evident than at Rancho Obi-Wan's Second Annual Fundraising Gala at the magical former chicken ranch in Marin County, CA, the evening of Saturday, September 20th, 2014.

That Star Wars spirit, embodied with true warmth and grace by hosts Steve Sansweet, Anne Neumann, and Consetta Parker, permeated the entire event. To a person, each of the thirty or so volunteers and approximately 70 guests in attendance that I encountered throughout the course of the evening were the kind of people you could imagine having hours-long conversations with. As a lifelong Star Wars fan and winner of a Gala ticket via a Twitter contest, I felt very fortunate to be among them. They truly made this a night to remember.

My brother and I arrived in town more than an hour and a half later than we had originally planned after being delayed by thick traffic due to a major weekend highway shutdown, but it ended up not mattering in the least. We soon hopped aboard a beautiful black tour bus at our hotel with Rancho volunteer John, who gave us the lowdown on what to expect when we got to the ranch.

We were met upon arrival by members of the 501st (Lord Vader, an Imperial officer, and two stormtroopers) along with two adorable unofficial canine greeters. We then checked in and were given our event lanyards and information packets, which included a schedule of events, a facility map, and the list of items up for auction.

Steve, Anne, and Consetta were there to greet us, too. I have to confess that I got a little emotional for a second talking to Anne and Consetta. Being at Rancho Obi-Wan for the first time really was a dream come true for me.

Consetta then escorted us up the side of the main building to the drink area where beer, wine, water, and soft drinks were available. I didn't hesitate to fill a cup with some specialty brew, and the evening was off and running.

We then made our way into Jabba's Palace and Banquet Hall at the rear of the property, where photographer Scott took our pictures with the big baddie himself, freshly delivered by the 501st New England Garrison. Jar Jar Binks was standing frozen in carbonite nearby.

It was at this point that we actually made our way into the exhibit areas for the first time, starting with the back of the building where The Expansion, Art Gallery, General Store, and Arcade are located. My brother and I took advantage of the opportunity to visit the store and bought a few goodies for our kids, and I picked up a famous Rancho Obi-Wan 3-D Viewer for myself!

The evening officially got underway with a welcoming address from Mr. Sansweet in the Front Bay at, appropriately, 5:01PM, where he unveiled a new addition to the collection, James Arnold Taylor's Obi-Wan Kenobi costume from his public appearances for "The Clone Wars." Mr. Taylor also greeted the group in a pre-recorded message made especially for the event.

A number of VIPs were in attendance, including Lucasfilm's ‎Brand Communications Manager Pablo Hidalgo, and Matt Martin, LFL's Manager of Digital Content and Community Relations. Stan Stice, co-author of The Art of Ralph McQuarrie, was there as well, along with every member of Rancho Obi-Wan's Board of Directors, most of whom are authors of Star Wars-related books of their own. All the VIPs happily chatted with people, took photos, and answered questions.

After a bit of a poke around the place and the announcement of some door prizes by Ms. Parker, it was time for dinner. Guests were offered a selection that included green salad, a quinoa side, grilled squash, veggie lasagna, and pulled pork sliders (all delicious). We sat across from ROW board member and Director of Development Rich Smolen and a fan originally from Belgium, who both offered a lot of fun dinner conversation.

Next up, it was time for the live auction--a centerpiece of this event. Steve played auction master and did a great job making people laugh as they vied for one amazing piece of art or memorabilia after another. Among the most-coveted items were three production-used storyboards from each of the original trilogy films, and a hand-painted R2-D2 maquette used as a color guide for "The Clone Wars." I was standing in front of the woman who won the storyboard featuring TIE fighters from A New Hope. After seeing and hearing her reaction, it was obvious she was thrilled.

The high point of the auction for me came toward the end, when I was outbid by the emcee himself on an original piece of art entitled After Chaykin, a parody of Howard Chaykin's 1976 Star Wars Corporation Poster #1 by Jeff Chandler, $125 to $100.

Following the live auction, I made my way upstairs to the Posters room where the silent auction was being held and placed my bid on a couple of items. I had budgeted a certain amount of money for purchases and was really excited to eventually win something in the silent bidding--Kotobukiya's Obi-Wan Kenobi A New Hope Pre-Painted Model Kit. (I'm still debating about opening it, but it's awesome!) Regardless of any bidding activity, though, there were LOTS of enticing treasures up for grabs to behold.

Making my way back to the The Expansion area, I grabbed a Chewbacca cupcake from the TIE fighter display stand from "Cupcake Wars" and continued to visit with other guests. Among the many great people I met that night were fans from Chicago, Texas, Washington state, England, and Norway.

I heard stories about seeing Star Wars in other countries, writing for TV game shows, bringing a Star Wars icon back into the limelight, growing up as a trading card collector, supporting an English Premier League team, working for Lucasfilm, and a good one about "Willow's Wand."

I also played the Death Star bean bag toss and Light- or Dark-side balloon dart game for the chance to win a variety of swag. Gamemasters David and Michael made that a lot of fun for everyone.

I knew going in that I probably wouldn't have much time to actually pour over the collection itself, and that definitely turned out to be the case. I made sure to stop and look at Kenner's original twelve action figures on their cardbacks, and I spent a decent amount of time in the Library, where volunteer Lucas enthusiastically showed me Steve's first-ever Star Wars collectable--a studio promotional booklet for Star Wars that Steve recovered after it had been tossed out!

Before boarding the last bus for the ride back to our hotel at about 11:30PM, we were given our swag bags, which were filled with all kinds of new and vintage goodness, including an event t-shirt, Celebration Anaheim trading cards, an action figure, and Little Debbie snacks!

Overall, it was quite a whirlwind-type of experience, to say the least. In fact, I've seen things in my pictures that I didn't even notice in person. I can't wait to go back and actually see all the amazing things I missed.

It's one thing to own the largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia on the planet. It's another thing to happily share that collection with fellow fans. Mr. Sansweet obviously takes the view that the true joy comes in the sharing, and we can all be grateful for that.

Next year's Third Annual Gala (dubbed "Gala-ween") will be held October 24th, 2015.

For more information about Rancho Obi-Wan, visit http://www.ranchoobiwan.org/.


Related Stories:

Rancho Obi-Wan Goes Virtual
Rancho Obi-Wan: The Death Star Auction


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