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The day I met a Wookie


Star Wars has always been a big part of my life. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a wee lad and from what I was told, Empire Strikes Back was one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater – at a drive-in as well if I am not mistaken. Growing up, I had dozens of figures, a bevy of vehicles, and a plethora of other miscellaneous platforms and playsets. I had the posters, the paperbacks, and the Marvel comics. And four of the six movies I’ve seen on their respective opening nights were Star Wars-related.

(The other two were Waterworld and Eyes Wide Shut. Don’t ask why.)

As an adult however, my Star Wars fandom had been weening a bit. Especially after seeing Episode 3. Sure, I saw the Clone Wars movie (yuck) and read the book where Chewbacca dies (WTF?), but other than that, I hadn’t paid much attention to the Star Wars Universe.

Somewhere along the way, however, one of my co-workers must have picked up that I was a fan because last Tuesday she asked if I was going to Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando. To be honest, I had no idea what a Star Wars Celebration was. They explained to me that it was a convention of Star Wars fans, vendors, and special guests who all had a love for the fictional universe and that it was supposed to be a great time.

My co-worker was right.

Star Wars Celebration V was impressive.

Most impressive.

Although I was only able to go to the convention one day of its scheduled four, and although I barely missed the “main event” of Daily Show host Jon Stewart interviewing Star Wars mastermind George Lucas, I still had a phenomenal time. Right as I walked in, I saw numerous people dressed as jedi and sith, bounty hunters, ewoks, and of course every type of stormtrooper possible. Eventually, I learned many of the costumed fans were part of a fan-costume organization called the 501st Legion, an organization

“…formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…”

And they are good at their job. Whether part of the 501st or independent costume wearers, there were no amateur costumes at Star Wars Celebration V. No garbage pail R2D2s, no people wrapped in a rug claiming they are Chewbacca, and no one trying to pass muster in a mask cut from an old cereal box. All of the costumes were extremely well done. Of course, besides the typical costumes, there were also many people in variants on Star Wars themes. I saw several pink stormtroopers, a pink jawa, a pimpin’ disco themed Darth Vader and Boba Fett, and even Barf from Spaceballs.

Besides costume gazing – and not just at the slave girl Princess Leias, I promise – I checked out the enormous vendor area. There were vendors from all over the world peddling Star Wars wares, from toys to books to everything and anything in between.

After perusing the merchandise (where the real money from the movie is made), I took a gander at some of the exhibits, to include a display of some very interestingly designed stormtrooper helmets, some of the artwork of famed Star Wars illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, and a showcase of individually designed, completely operational astromech droids.

(Of course, thanks to the Internet, droid builders also have their own organization, complete with magazine, website, and local chapters.)

After seeing the exhibits, I finished my day with a few shows. The first was the critically acclaimed “One Man Star Wars Show“, performed by comic performer Charles Ross. Ross was amazing and his show was absolutely hysterical. Click the link to see part of his show or look him up on YouTube.

Shortly after Ross’s comic depiction, I got in line for the real thing, a viewing of both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in one of the many convention center theaters. The showing of Empire was especially exciting for everyone in attendance as 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the celebrated Star Wars sequel. And of course, those movies never disappoint.

Watching Empire and Jedi with hundreds of other diehard Star Wars fans was perhaps the highlight of my visit. Although I was at first taken back by the constant comments and cheering by many of the other viewers during the movie, I quickly learned that getting into the movie is part of the experience. People hooped and hollered when they saw Darth Vader, chanted “Yoda” when the character attempts to levitate Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter, and moaned sounds of disgust whenever Luke and Leia kissed in a non-sibling way.

Of all the reactions, however, one stood out more than the others. As the night was ending and Return of the Jedi was coming to a close, during the scene when ghostly Anakin Skywalker joins Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, a young fan, probably no older than seven, stood up in his seat and yelled “It’s Anakin!”. I like to think that maybe at that moment he connected the dots and put the Star Wars story together for the first time.

Perhaps at that moment he also became a life-long fan, eager to devour all things Star Wars, from the figures to the vehicles to any miscellaneous platform or playset. Maybe he will also acquire the posters, the paperbacks, and any other literature or art he can get his hands on. Then, maybe after 30 years or so, as he finds his fandom weening, he will go to a Star Wars Celebration convention and have a great time.

May the Force be with him, always.

(Click to see all 118 of my Star Wars Celebration V pictures.)


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