Star Wars Celebration VI: Lessons Learned

Article and Photos by JL Knopp

Star Wars Celebration VI has come and gone from the Orange County Convention Center this past weekend.  For serious Star Wars fans, the annual gathering has become ritual.  Trained Jedi know how to navigate its galaxy, but for a Jedi apprentice, attending something like this can be overwhelming.

Being only minimally in tune with “the Force,” I hit a few asteroids during my galactic excursion there.  Had I been further along in Jedi training, some tricks could have helped me avoid problems and enhance my journey.  So as we all look ahead to Star Wars Celebration VII, here are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to attend this convention:

Prepare To Make The Jump To Light Speed

This is not a joke.  I nearly cried when I was handed my Insider’s Guide at check-in.  It’s a book, folks.  Inside are loads of schedules, summaries, and answers to frequently asked questions… all of it pertinent information if you hope to conquer this universe.  Will you attend a Steve Sansweet panel, watch a screening of The Clone Wars, go Star Wars speed dating, stand in line for Seth Green’s autograph or watch the droid races?  There is so much going on, and you can’t do it all.  It really is necessary to sit down with a schedule ahead of time, decide which things are most important to you and figure out how you are going to fit those things in.

Use The Force

Even if I had been informed, I concede that there is no way that I actually could have been fully prepared.  The exhibits and activities are vast.  It’s easy to get lost and confused.  There were countless times that I just stood in one spot, looked hopelessly at my surroundings and said, “I have no idea where I am, and I have no idea what is going on.”  The good news is that there were hundreds of people willing to help me.

Star Wars fans are serious about their passion.  It’s not simply a franchise to them.  It is a culture, and they are eager to indoctrinate any willing creature.  So go ahead and ask your question. “Why is that important?” “What does this mean?” “Where can I find it?”  I promise that you’ll get an answer, and you will probably make a friend in the process.

Don’t Alert The Rebels To Your Presence

Remember how I mentioned that Star Wars is a culture for its fanbase?  It’s truth.  This is why the human race is a minority at Celebration.  Instead most people are disguised as something like Mandalorians, Wookies and Gungans, and you want to blend in.  Honestly, it’s all about the costumes at this thing with everyone on the lookout for the most detailed, most creative, most beautiful and most bizarre outfits.

I didn’t dress up for the event, but one of the days I brought my son who did.  His costume as Cad Bane enhanced the experience ten fold.  People saw the outfit and immediately accepted my son as one of their own (aka a Star Wars geek).  Rather than simply observing the event, we were invited to engage in it socially.  For this reason, not only will he be dressed up next time around but I will be too.  After all, when in Tatooine do as the Tatooines do.

You Will Be Tempted By The Dark Side

At one point, I planned to meet a friend while waiting for an event to begin.  After being herded like cattle, I found myself waiting in a crowded line that filled an entire conference room with no cell phone signal to reach my buddy.  After spending 30 minutes feeling claustrophobic and realizing that the likelihood of finding my comrade was nil under the circumstances, I finally left the situation entirely before I lost my temper.  Don’t underestimate the power of the dark side in this context.

Understand that at Celebration you will spend a fair amount of time searching and a lot of time waiting.  If you make this mental adjustment, hopefully (when things don’t go according to plan) you will spend little time stewing.  Bring a few distractions to help when these irritations arise (preferably distractions that aren’t wifi dependent).  And it may also be helpful to bring some snacks and drinks in case you find yourself in need of sustenance but cannot surrender your position in line.

You’re Being Watched

Every inch of this event is covered with cameras (video as well as still).  Fans are constantly snapping photos of the sights.  Media is continuously filming the activities.  It is very likely that you and/or your family will be recorded in some way, shape or form.  At times it can feel intrusive.  Be ready.

My son was approached often by fans and media to have his picture taken.  Had I been opposed to strangers doing this, it would have made for an extremely uncomfortable day.  But rather than shrink back from the spotlight, we embraced it.  By the end of the day, we had even come up with a few poses so that his villainous persona would come across as extra tough.  Approaching it this way not only made it easier, it actually made it a lot of fun.

Dominate Your Destiny

With these lessons tucked under your cloak, your time at Star Wars Celebration should meet with little turbulence.  Like Jango Fett, you may be a simple man trying to make your way through the universe, but others will marvel at the adeptness of someone so young in the Force.  When they do, refer back to your training here and tell them Obi-Wan taught you well.

Bio: JL Knopp is an Orlando, Florida resident, theme park expert, mom, and creator of The Disney Driven Life (DDL).  DDL is a blog commandeered by JL for fans who want to learn and find solidarity with others who incorporate Disney into their lifestyle.

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