‘Star Wars’ Celebration Orlando: What We Loved

Image: John Booth

One of the neatest things about a Star Wars Celebration, like the one that just wrapped up in Orlando, is that despite its size and crowds, its’ single-universe focus means that pretty much everyone in attendance has one thing in common: they’ve been personally moved by some corner of the ever-expanding Star Wars universe. Sure, we may disagree on prequels, or first shots, or books or comics or action figures – but at the end of even the most heated debate, there’s room to shrug and smile and say, “Yeah, but…STAR WARS.”

This year, several GeekDads and GeekMoms were there, and while there are still at least a few more posts forthcoming, we’ve collected a few of our favorite memories here.

Dakster Sullivan

The best part of my Celebration experience was watching my 11-year old son who has severe focusing issues find something that held his interest. The Fantasy Flight Games booth had demos going on of various Star Wars games and my son was interested in the mini-figure ones. X-Wing was recommended because he’s a newer player.

Image: Dakster Sullivan

The instructor was patient and kind as my son learned the ropes, got distracted a few times, and over and an hour later finished his first game. He walked away with a ribbon for his badge and confident in his new ability to play the game. We bought the core pack the demo instructor recommended from Amazon while we waited for my husband to leave a panel. As a parent with a sensory and focused issue child, this put a huge smile on my face and is my favorite Celebration memory.

Anthony Karcz

This was my first Star Wars Celebration. Heck, it was my first convention. I’d made a conscious decision to just go for one day so as not to be completely overwhelmed by the process. Have you seen that puppy video floating around where the Golden Retriever is playing with his ball, puts it down to play with a leaf, finds his foot and tries to play with that, then runs towards the camera to play? That’s my brain in a situation where there’s so much to do and literally no way to do it all. I kept it together by staking out a few choice panels. Among them was a talk on how to write awesome first chapters by Delilah Dawson. I’ve been a fan of her work and social media feeds for well over a year now and it was thrilling to actually meet her in person. She had a seemingly inexhaustible well of writing knowledge and was funny and accommodating and nimble in her answers.

Rebel, rebel. Chuck Wendig was wonderfully accommodating. Highlight of the con for us. (Image: Anthony Karcz)

I was a bit bummed that my other favorite Star Wars author, Chuck Wendig, didn’t have a panel on Friday. So when I saw him sitting at the Barnes & Noble booth, I got a little giddy. Then even more so when I saw that the line to see him and get my copy of Aftermath: Empire’s End signed was actually manageable. I actually remembered to mention the site and found out he likes GeekDad (though I’m not sure if I actually said who I was…note to self, must work on proper introductions). He was gracious enough to snap a quick picture, even though he was nearly at the end of his time at the booth.

Speaking of the line, while I was standing there I finally was able to stop and take in all the amazing cosplay walking around the Celebration floor, from the countless Jedi, to the Bushido Vader, to the blue-haired Stormtrooper who mounted the replica of Vader’s Interceptor and posed with her heavy blaster slung over her shoulder. Then an impressively accurate Seventh Sister walked by…at the same time an Emperor Palpatine was walking in the opposite direction. They met in the middle of the aisle, she gave a curt bow, and they turned to pose for a picture. At that moment, a kid in a Boba Fett Halloween costume, with a Deathtrooper mask and Hasbro blaster ran up and jumped into the shot, blaster held high. More than anything else, that coming together of the generations epitomized why conventions like Celebration are as amazing as they are.

My son and I ended the night with the Rogue One/A New Hope marathon and we couldn’t have been happier, surrounded by fans who cheered in all the right places and acknowledged every on-screen lightsaber battle by sparking sabers of their own. It was exhausting and lovely and we both agreed we couldn’t wait to do it again.

Brian & Helene McLaughlin

Celebration has always been described, as we had heard, as Lucasfilm’s love letter to Star Wars fans. If that is the case, the people attending go out of their way to return that love. The people of Star Wars Celebration are amazing. The fans come in from around the world with amazing costume work, operational droids, modified cars, and a deep love of the Star Wars universe. There is a general kindness among the Star Wars community that makes you feel welcome.

Image: Brian & Helene McLaughlin

The love is infectious and we are now determined to stop sitting on the fence and finally build our own costumes. Helene is designing a Sabine Wren costume and I am going to start with a Jedi and move to an X-Wing pilot. We are also looking at building our own droids. Maybe starting with an MSE-6 and work our way up to Astromechs. Star Wars has always been a big part of our lives, but Celebration really inspired us to take it up a notch.

Image: Brian & Helene McLaughlin

The Jedi training for the kids was amazing. We had been at Hollywood Studios earlier in the week but hadn’t made the line in time for Jedi Training. Our boys were bummed but took it in stride. When we arrived at Celebration and saw the Jedi Training, we were ecstatic. We made sure the boys were there and sure enough, they were selected. The amount of focus and determination they put into listening and becoming Jedi warmed our hearts. Our children are becoming Jedi – like their parents before them.

Image: Brian & Helene McLaughlin

We would be remiss in not mentioning how excited we are about the Battlefront II trailer. Battlefront has brought both of us back into gaming after a long absence and we really enjoy the action. Battlefront II looks to be a solid follow-up and we are counting the days till release.

John Booth

This was my fifth Star Wars Celebration, and it continued the convention’s tradition of meeting my expectations, presenting me with surprises, and establishing a vibe that was both familiar and all its own.

I didn’t even attempt any of the sleepover events aimed at the crowds seeking advance wristbands for the most popular panels, like the 40th Anniversary event on Thursday or Friday’s panel on The Last Jedi. I was, however, lucky enough to be passing near a smaller stage in the main exhibitors’ area when Kathleen Kennedy, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas made surprise appearances not long after sharing the stage in one of the huge halls.

Image: John Booth
Image: John Booth

Doug Chiang’s talk on the design of Rogue One was another highlight, as was the panel on Star Wars: Rebels and the upcoming final season – that trailer, right?!? As a fan of Timothy Zahn’s early 1990s Thrawn trilogy, being in the room when they revealed Rukh would join the show was very cool. And then they showed us the Season 4 premiere!

As always, I loved seeing the amazing range of costumes on display, from the incredibly detailed and screen-accurate to the insanely creative and funny – and sported by attendees of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. It seems cosplaying is embraced by a bigger and bigger group of people every time around, and it boggles my mind in the best ways.

The next Star Wars Celebration is planned for 2019. The location hasn’t been announced yet – it’ll take a few moments to get the coordinates from the navi-computer – but when it is, I’ll be doing my best to get there. In the meantime, I’ll kick back with some blue milk and reminisce.

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Writer John Booth lives in northeast Ohio with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the book "Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years."