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Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My Experience


Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My Experience

As I am sure many of you are aware, the latest Star Wars Celebration has come and gone. It was the eighth U.S. Celebration and the twelfth overall in a series of conventions that first started in connection with the release of Episode I. This year’s Celebration was held in Orlando, Florida, from April 13-16, 2017 and if there is one word that could describe this convention to a T, it would be…


Oh my word, the lines.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceReedpop, the company that puts on Celebration (along with NYCC and some others), announced that the attendance record was over 70,000 people. On the first day you could easily get the feeling that they didn’t plan on that many people actually showing up. It was like they were just printing tickets with no real plan for controlling or organizing the massive influx of people.

Anyway, let’s take a look back to my Celebration experience:

Day 1 (Thursday)

The big thing on Thursday was the 40th Anniversary Panel, of which I was not all that excited about. The people who slept out in the convention center were able to get into the panel room itself (a room that held only 3,000 people), but when I arrived at the convention at around 11pm Wednesday night, the actual panel wristbands had all been given away. The way Celebration did their large panels was that you got there early to wait in line for a wristband, which would get you access to the panel room. Well, I decided to get up early Thursday morning to get in line for a wristband for one of the two rooms that they were screening the panels in, especially since I missed out on the live panel.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe line I waited in to get a wristband to see the 40th Anniversary Panel.

The line was so bad, that I was actually closer to the convention center in my bed than I was at the end of the line.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceA washed out view of my hotel, through the woods in the direction of the convention center.

The lines were so bad for one primary reason: security. This is my third Celebration and I have never had to go through metal detectors before. They had six metal detectors for the massive crowd trying to get into the convention just to line up. For some reason they thought this was enough. Apparently, at the last minute they realized their error and were putting together more metal detectors, but literally one person was putting them together as we slowly walked by in our line.

Finally I get through security and pick up my wristband for the third screening room and proceed back to my hotel to get my family. We breakfast and head back to the convention center for the 40th Anniversary panel.

Like I said, initially I wasn’t all that enthused about the panel. Technical difficulties in our screening room didn’t help any matters where first they were showing us a distant view of the screen:Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceOur view of the 40th Anniversary panel for the first 10 minutes.

When the intro video was almost finished (about 10 minutes into the panel), they finally fixed the issue. Not a good start to the convention, but things slowly progressed. They proceeded to bring out the man himself, George Lucas.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe Maker.

As my wife said sitting beside me: “Don’t you wish you slept out overnight now?”

This was true. I was feeling the urge to be in the panel. I wanted to be there but knowing full well that wasn’t a possibility. Then they brought out Harrison Ford for his first Celebration ever. This is what I’m talking about. A real 40th Anniversary panel. Bringing out the top guns. This made me forget all of the troubles up to that point. I also didn’t care that I was in a screening room. I knew they were there, at that moment, with me, in the same building. I may have swooned.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe full lineup for the 40th Anniversary

Along with a rather moving tribute to Carrie Fisher and watching John Williams conduct live, I may have been a bit in euphoria by this point. And on top of that, after the panel we got a really sweet Carrie Fisher poster.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceFree Leia Tribute poster

 Afterwards we wandered the floor for a while checking out the merch. The layout of the floor was … weird. They felt like they had tons of space, but everything was crammed into the center of the floor. Making the showroom both feel very open and crowded at the same time. And in previous Celebrations I felt they did a better job of separating the actual licensed venders from the local shops hocking their wares. But overall, even though they were nice to look at the crowds were getting overwhelming. The family left to go enjoy the pool at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency across the street.

After they left, I met up with my good friend Dale to prepare for our next endeavor, The Bounty Hunt. This is something that I look forward to each Celebration. It is a scavenger hunt where you need to solve clues and then run around the convention center to find your “bounties”. And the best part, out of 60 teams on the first day, we came in fifth!Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My Experience“Love in a Tauntaun” taking fifth place! Photo courtesy of Jawa James.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceSome teams solving some of the problems. Photo courtesy of Jawa James.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceA team getting their bounty at one of the stations. Photo courtesy of Jawa James.

We even won some awesome watches, one of which my daughter was more than enthused to get.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperiencePrizes!

Day 2 (Friday)

I decided to wake up even earlier than I did the first day to get a wrist band to the much-anticipated The Last Jedi panel. I wind up in the first screening room this time, which was actually rather fun. The irony is that we sat with a good chunk of the people who slept overnight at the convention center and still weren’t able to get into the live panel. We had Warwick Davis as our stage host and even though the panel was being screened, he still ran around the crowd and provided a good waiting period before the panel started.

Finally…Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe Last Jedi

I am as stoked for this movie as I have ever been. I am a big Luke fan and that is what has driven my love of the saga beyond Return of the Jedi. Now that the EU has officially been wiped away, the new canon provides me with a whole new set of mysteries, I am pumped to find out what happens. The Force Awakens left me with a Luke-sized hole in my heart but I feel The Last Jedi will easily plug that up.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe Last Jedi Panel

And after the panel, not only did we get a super sweet trailer (goosebumps!!!), but as we walked out, we got a frame-worthy The Last Jedi poster.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceFree Poster!

Afterwards, I spent most of the afternoon with my family so we will go on to the next day.

Day 3 (Saturday)

After the hustle and bustle of getting up pre-dawn the last two days, I was planning on taking it easy. By this point it seemed that the convention organizers finally figured out how to fix the lines. Friday was WAY better than Thursday, and Saturday seemed to be even better. It appears that they got their act together, maybe even hired more people, and finally realized how many people 70,000 really is.

On our way into the convention center, the wife had spotted a panel about being the spouse of a Star Wars fanatic and we were headed over to it when we walked past a screening of the Rebels panel, which we were told had room so we could just walk right in. Now this is something I wanted to do and since our daughter also loves Rebels we detoured our route to the panel.

I was quite disappointed to learn that this is the final season of Rebels. But even with that disappointing news, this was the first panel my daughter really seemed to get into. She even enjoyed the Season 4 trailer at the end. After the trailer, the family went off to the bathroom and I packed up the stuff. The screen turned off and went to its generic Celebration poster. However, while we were standing out in the hallway, I hear the screen come back on again with another clip from the show. My wife asks me if this is old or new footage, and to my amazement it was new! So we walked back in to find out they were screening the entire first episode of Season 4! Since this was something totally unannounced, it was a tremendous surprise to get to see it.

After the show, I spent some more time wandering around the show floor. Here are a few images (with more in the video at the end of the post).Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceWampa!Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceLife-size StarfighterStar Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceSome Mandalorian skull decorations for sale. A bit out of my price range.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceThe Diorama builders actually let kids construct parts of massive sets at each Celebration. This year was the Death Star.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceA Minion droid in the R2 Builders room.

On a side note: Through the last two days I had tried to get the Celebration exclusive copy of Thrawn (The newest Star Wars adult novel out). The first day I didn’t want to do the line, so I waited and found out later they were all sold out.

The second day they said they would give out tickets starting at 10 a.m. for some of the remaining copies. I arrived at 10:05, due to the door people at my door not letting us in at 10 like they were supposed to, and they were all out.

On day 3, they said they would do a raffle starting at 3. I wandered around the floor waiting for the raffle. I ended up getting mixed into the line without realizing it and lo and behold, I won the raffle to be able to buy my edition. Yes, I know I can get essentially the same book at Amazon for far cheaper, but still, it’s an Exclusive. Collectors understand.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceExclusive Celebration Edition of “Thrawn”

After all this, I tried to get the Celebration Exclusive signed by Timothy Zahn (the author). To get a book signed at the Barnes & Noble booth, you needed to buy a book from them (which is plain ridiculous to begin with). Since that was not possible for me with this book I had to try and do the Del Rey booth, where he was also signing. I get there at 4:30 (the signing started at 5) to learn the line was capped, even though people weren’t allowed to sign up until 5-10 minutes before. So I ended up waiting in a line, that wasn’t really a line (because fire code), to get on the line, which they said they would uncap once the main line started to filter down. Well, eventually I did it and was able to not only get Timothy Zahn’s autograph but also Delilah Dawson’s (A Perfect Weapon reprinted in The Force Awakens paperback) and Christie Golden’s (Dark Disciple).

Day 4 (Sunday)

The last day of the Celebration and I was anticipating a slowdown in the crowds. It was Easter Sunday after all. And after the Easter Bunny hit up CVS for some Easter goodies for the kid to find (really, no Easter baskets at all? She got an Easter Little Mermaid bag), the family headed off to Disney World while I braved the lines for some author signings. And it wasn’t actually too bad. Also, found out about the new Star Wars books on the way:Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceNew Star Wars books upcoming from Del Rey.

 I managed to get signings by Chuck Wendig (Aftermath), John Jackson Miller (A New Dawn), Jason Fry (Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy). I tried to stay canon for all my author signings this time. I also got to get a picture with story group member and Star Wars guru, Pablo Hidalgo.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperiencePhoto with Star Wars guru and story group member, Pablo Hidalgo.

 And in the mix of all that, I got to brave the crowds to get my photo op with Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017: My ExperienceMe with Mark Hamill. I’m the one on the right.

And that may have broken me (in a good way).

Wrap up

So after all that Star Wars goodness, and a bit of the badness (lines, lines, and … lines). It was overly good. Were there things I wish they would change? Absolutely. Like the fact that I haven’ been able to go into the official Celebration store in three Celebrations because there are better things I can do than stand in line for three hours for the opportunity to find out if they even have what I wanted to buy. But things seemed to get better over the course of the convention. I heard nightmares about the photo op/autograph area from the first day but they seemed to have it figured out when I went over there on Sunday. This is also a first Celebration for Topps to be running that area. We’ll see if they are invited back again.

But even with the bad, nothing about a Celebration could stay bad for long. With the tons of kids dressed up as Jyn or BB-8, to the expertly crafted adult costumes, there are things everywhere for any Star Wars fan to enjoy. To that end, I put together a video of some of the sights I saw:

After everything, I am warmed by the new friends I made, the old friends I got to spend a lot of time with, and overly having a great Star Warsy time. Can’t wait for the next one. How far away is 2019 again?

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