Star Wars Celebration is an event unlike any other in the galaxy. It is completely focused around the characters, actors, and lore of the George Lucas born films and universe. No matter what aspect of Star Wars you have chosen to embrace, there is no doubt that Star Wars Celebration is the event where you can get your fix and meet like minded folk. Articles, videos, blogs, and live streams covered Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017, regaling the awesomeness and spectacle of the franchise’s 40th anniversary. On this Star Wars Day, May the 4th, I wanted to take a closer look at the unsung heroes of Star Wars Celebration, the fans!
I spent the entire event working as an exhibitor, tethered to a booth. I was happy to be on the floor for the show, but also pretty bummed that it meant I was going to miss a lot of the sights and sounds that everyone was so excited for. I knew I was not going to see any panels. The Last Jedi trailer would be circulating for a day before I got a chance to watch it on my phone. I would be in the same building with actors that I loved and had burning questions for, but would never be able to stand in line to meet.
A friend who had worked Star Wars Celebrations in the past told me that the crowd was different from other shows. When I asked what he meant he went on to explain that everyone was in their happy place and it brought a really positive vibe to the show floor. Much like on Star Wars Day on May the 4th, fans at Star Wars Celebration wait all year to immerse themselves into their favorite thing. For all the shows that I have worked and attended, I have never been to a con where every single aspect of it is catered to one specific universe. As a Star Wars fan, I thought that the concept was great, but how much Star Wars can the average person really handle at an event before it becomes sensory overload?
For attendees at Star Wars Celebration the event could have been a week long affair and it still would not have quenched their thirst for more immersion into the galaxy far, far away. It is hardly a shock given that even Star Wars Day on May the 4th, a single day dedicated to honoring all aspects of cross-culture that has grown up from the films, gets pulled into Revenge of the 6th as fans barter for just a little more time to celebrate. Every fan who had a badge at Celebration, loved Star Wars in a way that is hard to put into words. I know that that is a very obvious point, but it speaks to the power of this fan base. While I am sure that there were some people who were dragged along by others most that I spoke with were there because they love any and all aspects of the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars Celebration is the Field of Dreams for Rebels and Imperials. If you build it, they will come. Without the enthusiasm of the fandom, Star Wars Day and Star Wars Celebration would never exist and that is a really sad thought. I witnessed one group of cosplayers that really stuck out as a prime example of what makes these fans and films so special. An older man costumed as Darth Vader, with a twenty-something year old guy cosplaying as young Jedi Anakin Skywalker, with a little girl skipping along in front of them dressed as Rey. I regret not grabbing a picture of them. That was when the magic of Star Wars audience hit me in a way that it never had before. Three generations cosplaying as three different characters from three different trilogies (jumping the gun a bit here for unreleased episodes, but you follow the imagery).
I realized that Star Wars is not just a series of movies, or a catalog of video games, or a library of comics and novels. Thanks to the fans Star Wars is something so much bigger than that. It is something you share. My dad shared the original films with me as a child, I watched the prequels with friends as a pre-teen, and I play Battlefront with my boyfriend and siblings as an adult. Star Wars Celebration showed me that my story is not the exception, it is the rule. As many of us have grown up, Star Wars has grown with us in someway.
Films by their very nature are designed to be spectated. The people that travel from across the globe to attend Star Wars Celebration, with all their energy and passion, have turned Star Wars into a living breathing world. The 501st Legion wear their Imperial dress with pride. The droid builders are happy to answer questions about how many hours they spend working on their droids and always stop their R2 units in the aisle for pictures. The Slave Leia cosplayers compliment each other’s outfits and admire the small details that some carefully include that most people would entirely miss. Star Wars will always have its place in history, but Star Wars fans are the ones we celebrate on May the 4th.