And so the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Celebration in Orlando, Florida has come to a close. Tens of thousands of passionate fans have gathered their wears, their costume pieces, possessions and spoils; and with weary bodies, glowing hearts, and minds filled with cherished memories, they scatter across the globe and head for home.
There were many illustrious moments of this celebration to be noted. There were the moving, tear inducing tributes to Carrie Fisher. (Mark Hamill’s was especially poignant, filled with humor, wonderfully enlightening anecdotes, and stories of hysterical misadventures that cemented his irreplaceable bond with his “space twin.”) There was the 40th Anniversary panel itself, with surprise visits from the great creator, George Lucas, and Hollywood stalwart and Star Wars icon Harrison Ford (marking his first celebration appearance). Fans were left breathless as The Last Jedi panel ended with the first two viewings of the brand new trailer, a blur of spectacular imagery unfolding beneath the echoing voice of Master Luke Skywalker himself. There was Dave Filoni’s big Rebels revelation, that the show’s 4th season would be its last. There was a mind-blowing trailer for Battlefront II, whose November 17th release date was revealed. And there was more information on Disnyeland’s Star Wars Land, which will be as immersive as it is spectacular, transporting guests to worlds never before seen in the galaxy far, far away.
Indeed, friends, nearly every aspect of Star Wars in both its classic and modern incarnations was touched upon, and it was deliciously overwhelming!
And yet, during my own visit to the Orange County Convention Center (the 2nd largest such building in the United States), if I had to point out one thing that leaped out at me among all the other aspects, it is this…
This celebration was special because of the fans.
I know, I know guys, that’s a totally cliche thing to say. My glory is because of you, the fans, says the famous athlete or movie star. (*Eye roll* Yeah, right, buddy. Just take my money and shut up.) But in this case, for me, it was absolutely true. When I got home from my two day visit, (My fellow SWReporters, Justin and Jenn, spent the full four days there – oh, the experience they had!) the first thing I told friends and family was how affable everybody was, how friendly. Now, I’ve always taken pride in the fact that the passions I’ve attached myself to, be it the bands I listen to, or the movies franchises I watch, have great fanbases. It matters, ya’ know? If something touches or moves you, it’s nice to know that people who share in one’s adoration of something have similar values and viewpoints. To their core, art and expression are about connecting, and concerning Star Wars, I’m comforted and proud that a great deal of the fanbase is comprised of like-minded folks who have had their own lives enriched by these wonderful stories.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this year’s celebration was the largest conglomerate of people I’ve ever been around where everybody was so darned friendly. You won’t find that at every concert or convention. Yeah, there were the exceptions, the “push to the front of the line” types, and the “hey, maybe you could move the heck out of the middle of the aisle when hundreds of people are trying to get around you?” kinda folks, but meh, overall, it was really a joy to be among so many decent fellow fans.
This is especially notable to me because this year’s event was marked with some logistical issues that left many people very frustrated. I won’t get into too many details here; there’s mention of the specifics all over social media. But I bore witness to excruciatingly long lines that could have been far better managed had they been dispersed into multiple lines (some eventually were), with more options and venues for certain vendors and events. (The celebration store might garner the most disdain in this regard. Some folks spent the better part of their day in a vain attempt to score a simple t-shirt.)
But the pure good nature of my fellow Star Wars fans outweighed any glitches in the matrix, as it were. People were determined to have a good time, and again, for the most part, not at the expense of others, but rather, because of others, their brothers and sisters in arms. People didn’t take out their frustrations on each other. It was a giant family. All told, it was 65 thousand people all there to share stories, to witness all the amazing events, to display their many varied and wondrous costumes, and make connections that in some cases will last a lifetime.
And man, a Star Wars fan can’t get too upset at anything just knowing Harrison freakin’ Ford was there! Hehe…
I tell ya’, walking around the convention floor was like strolling through the pastures of Star Wars heaven. A full size tie fighter marked the edge of the live stage. Jabba and the Rancor were about. Full, human-sized lego created characters were on display, and a multitude of shops offering all manner of toys, shirts, posters, figures, and just about any item one could think of were splayed all across the thousands of square feet that comprised the main floor.
And in the far corner of all this resided the promised land for me… The autograph and photo-op section. You see, though I’ve lived in Florida for some time, where many large comic and sci-fi cons have taken place, I’ve foolishly missed meeting my Star Wars heroes. When word of this latest celebration was spread, and the guest list began to expand, the little voice inside was like, “Eh, dude, you’re going to this one, and if nothing else, you’re meeting the one guy who really has become the heart of Star Wars, the guy you’ve worshiped since you were 5 years old…”
So, my friends, I’m sure you can guess who that might be, and we at the Star Wars Reporter have already posted pics to give evidence, but I’m going to save the particulars on that little story for another time soon to come. I just wanted to touch base with you guys and give a general inkling of the 40th Celebration. It was big, bold, and a helluva lot of fun. The costumed fans and guests and displays and overall atmosphere truly made this celebration the most amazing event of this kind I have ever witnessed. For someone of my generation, who was there at the beginning in 77′, it’s an absolute blessing and joy to have my favorite creation in the universe alive and thriving here in 2017. I, like so many, would never have guessed that 40 years later, even with its massive popularity, we’d be enjoying a whole new era of movies, shows, theme parks and fandom.
The 40th Celebration was a confirmation that Star Wars has been, and ever will be a beloved companion on this journey through life. It is alive and well, and perhaps as big as ever. And what a truly wonderful thing that is.
Best wishes for health and happiness out there, guys, and as ever, may the force be with you, always…