‘Star Wars’ Celebration – More Than Just a Convention

Star Wars Celebration VIII in Orlando, Florida, this past April celebrated the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope with special appearances by the original cast, which included surprise appearances by Harrison Ford and John Williams, both who rarely attend fan conventions.

Thousands of fans celebrated their love of all that is Star Wars over a four-day convention where they cosplayed as their favorite characters, found old friends, and made new ones, all while sharing their love of a movie from a galaxy far, far away.

I was sitting against a wall on Thursday morning, witnessing the chaos that ensued from super long lines, mandatory metal detector screenings, bag checks, and a crew that had no idea what was going on when I realized something…there is far more to these conventions than the panels, autographs, and cosplays.

Jim, Daks, and John. The Three Caballeros.  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Jim, Daks, and John. The Three Caballeros. Image: Dakster Sullivan

While standing around trying to figure out where things were happening and how to get from point A to point B, I saw total strangers talking about the love they have for Star Wars.

On Thursday, everyone shared a similar loathing for the way things were being run. And while the news channels were covering the massive crowds and even more massive lines around the convention, what you didn’t see was the depth of the connection the fans had with each other.

Conversations at the lunch tables, in lines, and just wandering the halls, are some of the best parts of a convention. Fans listening to other fans talking and some jumping in and joining in. People helping each other with insider information they heard from other fans earlier.

Scout Twins.  image: Dakster Sullivan
Scout Twins. image: Dakster Sullivan

While eating at Denny’s after the con, I overheard a conversation between a couple of fans. Turns out the two couples didn’t know each other but kept running into each other at the convention. They struck up a conversation about where they were from (two different continents by the way) and how their days went.

I saw quite a few people that I’ve only met at conventions that gave me hugs and we talked it up about all that has happened since the last time we saw each other.

Brian, Some old guy in a sweater, and Dakster.  Image: Convention Photo Shoots
Brian, Some old guy in a sweater, and Dakster. Image: Convention Photo Shoots

It’s funny. We all kind of transformed from strangers to a family of fans together for one thing…a movie meant for 12-year- olds that that debuted 40 years ago and has been changing lives ever since. My buddy and photojournalist for the Orlando Business Journal, Jim, was at the live stage when Harrison Ford showed up. He said you never saw such a considerate group of fans making sure they weren’t getting in other people’s photos, taking their own and politely moving out so someone else could get a shot.

Brandon learns X-Wing Fighters!  Image: Dakster Sullivan
Brandon learns X-Wing Fighters! Image: Dakster Sullivan

Some outsiders see Star Wars as a dorky science fiction movie. But it’s so much more to us.

Clone Trooper Denal, that I cosplay as, struggled with how he felt about the Clone Wars and put the tear stains on his helmet to reflect that. I relate to him because in a way he had a form of depression about his situation and I struggle with depression as well. He rose above his feelings though and was one of Captain Rex’s right arm guys (until Cad Bane, another character that I cosplay as, killed him, but that’s a story for another therapist’s couch).

For my own conventions experience, I was reminded how many amazing friends I have.

Warwick and Brian  Image: Brian Sullivan
Warwick and Brian Image: Brian Sullivan

When I posted on Facebook about not being able to do my costume, Aayla Secura, because of a broken compressor, it wouldn’t take more than five minutes before someone was offering to help. When it came down to realizing my compressor was not going to cooperate, a friend gave me her shoulder to cry on. People I didn’t even know in person but knew of my cosplay offered up support and encouragement.

It shows that Star Wars Celebration is more than just about a few movies and celebrities. It’s about friendships, comradery, and being together as fans.

Disclaimer: GeekMom was given a press pass into this event.