Star Wars Celebration Orlando: Part 1

It’s no secret that I am a MASSIVE Star Wars fan. Like, bake Wookie Cookies on May the 4th, NEVER miss an episode of the Star Wars Show (or Rebels Recon! We love you Andi Gutierrez!), stalk Fandago on multiple servers on multiple devices every time movie tickets go on pre-sale, and then stalk Fandango again after it comes back up from the inevitable crash, and yes, sleep in convention center basements in hopes of getting into the big panels at Star Wars Celebrations. And this week, I got to join eleventy-billion of my fellow Star Wars fans at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. My goal was to score seats at both the 40th Anniversary Panel, and the Episode VIII panel. #lifegoals I’d heard the hall would hold anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 people, depending on the size of the stage, and being both a numbers kind of gal, and an overly-paranoid kind of gal (seriously, I am WAY more C-3P0 than BB-8), I knew a two-night campout was in order. I learned a lot at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, so this time I came prepared. (See C-3P0, above.)

Thursday Night: Camping for the 40th Anniversary Panel

8:30 pm – Arrive at Orlando Convention Center to camp out with thousands of my newest soon-to-be Star Wars BFFs, and a group of awesome Star Wars friends I shared floor space with in Anaheim. The official line opened at 8:00 pm, so we should TOTALLY get into this panel!

9:30 pm - We are still standing in the metal detector line. I REALLY hope we get into this panel.

10:00 pm – Whew! Made it through the metal detectors! And it looks like there are only about 2,500 people in line ahead of me!! We are so totally getting into the panel! I hope. Now it’s time to settle in for the night!

10:30 pm – Air mattress set up. Pillow plumped (the one that I may have borrowed from—and returned to! Hey, I’m honest!—the very nice hotel room currently being occupied by my luggage), legitimate sleep mask at the ready. Time to meet my line neighbors!

10:40 pm – Aw! Juan, the 17-year-old who saved up all year to buy his ticket to come here all the way from Columbia, is the sweetest kid. Must buy him breakfast in the morning if there are any food carts in here. Please, God, let there be food carts in here.

12:00 am – LOVE my line neighbors, and DOUBLE LOVE getting to catch up with my old SW friends! Now to walk around, say hi to the super cool guy dressed as Radar Technician Matt (after the rain comes the rainbow!), and . . . IS THAT A PIZZA CART?? OMG THEY HAVE FOOD THIS TIME!! Must get a pretzel.

12:30 am – Belly’s full of pretzel. Better put on my sleep mask and get some bed. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day!! Goodnight, Star Wars friends!!

1:00 am – What. The. Helheim. Why is a DJ blasting Miley Cyrus at us? At one in the morning? I mean, I like to Party in the USA as much as the next gal, but . . . now? Really?

1:30 am – The DJ moved on to Don’t Stop Believing. I stopped believing I’m going to get any sleep tonight about ten minutes ago. (Though I did sing along from behind my sleep mask when he played Weird Al’s “The Saga Begins.” I am a fangirl, after all.)

1:35 am – My Australian line neighbors are leading a rousing chant of “No more DJ!” while I commence a meditative mantra of “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me.” Maybe Chirrut Îmwe can help me get some sleep.

2:00 am – The DJ has stopped, but the light saber battles have begun. Chirrut must be on a donut break.

5:00 am – Chirrut IS one with the Force! I slept! I know this because I awaken to an angry security guard yelling at my line to pack our things and move forward. Only six hours until the panel!

5:30 am – OMG somebody just said we might not all get in. Resume channeling Chirrut.

7:00 am – We have our wristbands!! We are all getting in!! Circle through line, all the way around the basement, and return to nearly the same spot in line. Briefly question logic of moving in one massive circle, then just thank Chirrut that there is a shiny Galaxy Stage band on my right wrist. Thank you, Chirrut!

8:00 am – DUDE! THERE IS A WAFFLE CART!! And my Star Wars besties brought me a Red Bull. I <3 you, Star Wars besties. You are so stuck with me FOR LIFE. (And, if we turn out to be late-blooming Jedis like we totally know we are destined to be, you will be stuck with me when we are Force ghosts, too!)

9:00 am – We are moving forward! It must be nearly time to go into the panel room!

10:15 am – We. Are. Still. Moving. Forward.

11:00 am – OMG WE ARE IN THE ROOM!!! And every single minute of the last fifteen hours was so totally worth it because . . .

George Lucas is here!!

AND HARRISON FORD IS AT HIS FIRST EVER STAR WARS CELEBRATION!!

Mark Hamill just made me cry with his awesomeness!! And George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy’s tribute to Carrie Fisher made me cry even harder.

And . . . a curtain’s going up. Why is a curtain going up? Wait. OH. MY. GOD. IS THAT JOHN WILLIAMS?? AND AN ORCHESTRA? He’s conducting Princess Leia’s Theme. OMG JOHN WILLIAMS IS RIGHT OVER THERE, CONDUCTING PRINCESS LEIA’S THEME IN TRIBUTE TO CARRIE FISHER. My hands are shaking too hard to take a decent picture. And there aren’t enough tears. Not nearly enough tears. The grown men behind me are openly weeping. Right on, grown men. Right on.

Losing Carrie Fisher was a massive blow to the Star Wars community. But to get to celebrate her life here, like this, with the creative forces who worked with our princess, is a blessing I will never forget. And to see George Lucas speak about his vision for Star Wars . . . to hear him tell us that he wanted Star Wars to be exactly what it means to me, and countless fangirls (and boys!) like me – an epic space adventure with mythological and psychological themes that resonate so beautifully across cultures and generations . . . a guide post for young people on the precipice of adulthood, that hopefully guides them toward the Light Side of the sometimes-scary grown-up world. Well, that was an experience I’ll never, ever forget.

But now, it’s time to visit my luggage at the very lovely hotel room it’s currently enjoying all to itself. Because in five short hours, we’ll all be back in line to do this all again for the Episode VIII panel!! May the Force be With Us!

And also, the Red Bulls.

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