Something that people may not know about me is that I like Star Wars just a little. I’m kidding, of course — anyone who talks to me for more than 5 minutes is probably going to hear about how much I love Star Wars, how it’s my favorite franchise, why I love all the movies and books and characters, etc., etc., etc.
So it was probably inevitable that someday I would make my way to Star Wars Celebration, the official Star Wars convention. I actually decided to go to the 2019 Celebration somewhat on a whim last summer. When they announced that the location was going to be Chicago, that definitely grabbed my attention. I live in the Midwest, and that was the closest the con had ever been to me (and, realistically, the closest that it will probably ever get). I started thinking to myself, You know, maybe I can do this.
When tickets went on sale, I believed I would have a while to think it over and maybe find someone to go with me. Then the 5-day passes sold out way sooner than anyone had bargained on and I had a moment of panic where I realized that if I was going to go, I needed to buy individual day tickets and I needed to buy them NOW.
Despite my fears about going to a big con completely alone in a large city, my husband told me that if it was my dream, I should go for it. And I’m super thankful I did.
Star Wars Celebration Chicago was an absolutely incredible experience — worth every penny I spent on it. It was a weekend of fun, excitement, positivity, and camaraderie, and even though I’ve been home for several days now, I’m still buzzing.
I could write way too many words about this experience, if I allowed myself to, but here are my top four (abbreviated) takeaways from the weekend. If you’re a Star Wars fan, I absolutely recommend going to a Celebration someday; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
1. That Episode IX trailer
I’ve been hyped for Episode IX ever since I walked out of “The Last Jedi,” and my anticipation for this movie is part of what motivated to me to go to Celebration this year.
I was hoping to get into the Episode IX panel with the director and cast, and I did (well, sort of). This year, instead of waiting in an overnight line, you had to enter a lottery ahead of time to get into the premier convention panels.
While there was some debate amongst fans about this system, overall I’m a big fan of the lottery concept. Camping overnight on the convention floor to attend a panel was just not viable for me, and the lottery at least gave me a fair chance to get in.
I didn’t win the lottery for the main stage for the Episode IX panel, but I did get into one of the big overflow rooms, where they projected the panel on a giant screen. While not as cool as being in the room, it was so amazing to watch the trailer debut with a huge group of other Star Wars fans.
I could spent the rest of this blog just talking about the trailer, but I loved it and have so many thoughts/theories about what’s going to happen in the film. I’m hoping to write up a more detailed analysis once I’m finally done unpacking all my Star Wars loot from the con.
2. Meeting my favorite authors
I was excited to see the long list of Star Wars authors who were coming to Celebration this year, and I was able to get two books signed by my favorite Star Wars author, Claudia Gray, as well as attend several of her panels. She’s a great writer and a cool person! I was able to pick up her new novel, “Master and Apprentice,” about Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and I’m looking forward to diving into that to help me get over my post-Celebration blues.
I also got to meet the author of “The Last Jedi” novelization, Jason Fry, and he signed my copy of the book. He was very kind, warm, and friendly, and we got to chat for a couple of minutes. And I managed to snag a convention-exclusive cover of E.K. Johnston’s Padmé book, “Queen’s Shadow.”
3. The Mandalorian
I lost the lottery for “The Mandalorian” TV show panel, but I was able to watch the panel on one of the big screens on the show floor, which was still a cool experience.
I was already planning to sign up for the Disney+ streaming service so I could watch this show and “The Clone Wars” revival, but this panel made me even more excited. I love that they’re going for a Western/Clint Eastwood vibe with this show, and the few clips/photos we got to see look amazing.
My only complaint is that apparently the people who were at the main stage for “The Mandalorian” panel got to see a full trailer, but the streaming cut to black before then. I really wish they had played this trailer for everybody, and it seems a little odd to hide it, since they’re trying to motivate people to sign up for Disney+. But I heard from people who saw it that the footage looks really great.
I had so many things on my con schedule that I didn’t make it to “The Clone Wars” panel or even watch the live stream, so I’m hoping to catch up on that at some point this week. They replayed the trailer at the closing ceremonies, and that also looks good. There’s so much to look forward to!
4. Restoring my faith in the fandom
It’s no secret that the Star Wars fandom has appeared a little turbulent of late, at least in terms of online discussion. While I never stopped loving Star Wars, over the past year I did find myself getting burned out on the fandom. All the negativity and unkindness I had experienced online was really bringing me down, and I was a little nervous going to Star Wars Celebration because of what I might encounter.
However, the camaraderie I experienced at Celebration was incredible. I didn’t have a single negative encounter with another fan. People were warm, friendly, and as excited to be there as I was. I felt valued and respected, and I just had a huge grin on my face pretty much every second I was there. I met so many great people and made some new friends. I didn’t feel scared or lonely about being there by myself.
This experience helped remind me that the toxicity we see on the Internet within any fandom is really only a small but vocal minority. I also loved seeing the diversity of the crowds at Star Wars Celebration. People from all over the world, and all ages, came together to have fun.
My actual favorite moment of Star Wars Celebration, even more than the Episode IX trailer, was when the fans at the main stage gave Kelly Marie Tran a standing ovation. “The Last Jedi” actress has been the recipient of cruel Internet bullying, and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she wanted to stay away from Celebration because of that.
The fans at Celebration knew what she had been through, and their standing ovation was designed to let Kelly know that they supported her and loved her as a person. I heard that “The Phantom Menace” actor Ahmed Best received similar treatment at a panel on Monday.
Thanks to Celebration, I’m excited about interacting with other Star Wars fans again. Even if I encounter toxic behavior online, I’m going to remember the way I feel right now and all the great things that happened at Celebration. Love always wins in the end — which is pretty much the entire message of Star Wars.
Until next time…
After nearly of year of prepping and planning, it feels weird that Star Wars Celebration is over now. Even though I’m already missing it, realistically speaking I probably won’t be able to attend another Celebration for a long time. However, my first Celebration was a great experience with lots of special memories, and I’m so grateful I got a chance to go. I hope to find my way to another Celebration again someday.
And, of course, we’ve got lots of great Star Wars content to look forward to in 2019. As always, may the Force be with you!