Tuesday, April 26, 2005


My nephew Rick and I attended the Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis over the four-day weekend. What a disaster, both organizationally and weather-wise! We ended up scaling back our expectations, and still managed to have a good time. Here are the highlights and lowlights.

WORST PART: The organization, sure. But that lack manifested itself into horrible lines for everything, including an average of two hours just to get into the building (and we're talking about the special "fan member" line here). Once you got into the building, it took another two hours to get into any presentation (except George Lucas', which took all night or cheating or being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time) or an average of seven hours to get into the Celebration III store.

MOST UNPREDICTABLE: The Weather. I did forecasts every day for a month leading up. The last forecast, which was Tuesday for our Wednesday flight, showed rain only on our travel day, and mid-sixties for the rest of our stay. I didn't bring a jacket. When we got there on Wednesday there was no rain, and it was balmy. It rained the rest of the weekend, and even snowed on Sunday. The wind, which came in on Saturday, brought the weather down to the 20's.

SECOND MOST UNPREDICTABLE: Which line will they let in? When will they let them in? If we stand in the non-fan line will we get in any faster? If we stand in the SkyWay (leading to the hotels and mall), will we get in at a decent rate and be warm and dry? The staff did not communicate, and we had no clue from day to day as to what the rules are. The FAST PATH system, publicized so that you did not have to wait on line to get into the Celebration III Store, had an empty booth all weekend; they never employed it.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TO MOST FANS: The inability to purchase Celebration III exclusive merchandise. I predict that only about half the attendees, if that, made it into the store. The lines averaged 7 hours. We waited for the last day, Sunday, as we knew a lot of people would be going home; however, they were out of most things by that time (except the Darth Vader figures).

BEST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE CONVENTION: The fans....most of them wore costumes!! And we're not talking sacks on their bodies. Most of the costumes were outstanding! We couldn't walk 10 feet without wanting to take a photo of these walking advertisements for their favorite film(s)!

2ND BEST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE CONVENTION: The fans...we could talk to them and find out what they knew, compare notes, etc. We met one guy and his nephew right behind the woman and her nephew (us). We found several very short and young Darth Vaders out there. Lots of inventors standing very proudly next to their own constructed R2D2's. The guy who drove in from Tennessee for one day who wanted to know if anyone could get into the store for him (no).

THE BEST PRESENTATION: This is a tough one. We only made it to about 20% of the presentations, because we didn't have two hours to spare in line for each one. But I would have to say that the whole Behind-the-Scenes crew were incredible: The Art Department (all 7), the Visual Effects Supervisor (John Knoll), the martial arts expert who taught Hayden Christensen and Ray Park how to fight. The best was Executive Producer Rick McCallum, who brought an incredible visual opera with him to show us the new footage from Revenge of the Sith. Wow!

BEST COSTUME: Almost impossible to say. There was one woman with her blue tube-like structures falling off her head. Some very tall, very imposing Darth Vaders. A Chewbacca that made your hair stand up on your neck (and his as well). And a Slave Girl Princess Leia that made all the young men file behind her as she walked, bottomless, through the convention area.

BEST PLACE TO RELAX: The Touchdown Lounge, home of the season ticket holders of the Indianapolis Colts. The Lounge was an informal place for fan club members (yeah, right) to relax, eat a hot dog, and enjoy the crew members and actors who came by to review your portfolio or to have pictures taken with you, respectively.

BEST STANDSTILL EXHIBITION: The Exhibit of actual Star Wars props, which included the original landspeeder model from Episode 4, an array of light sabers from Episode 6, and several models of the Milennium Falcon.

SECOND BEST STANDSTILL EXHIBITION: The R2 fan room, a very small enclave with fan-constructed robot units. One very popular addition was the carbonite-enclosed Jar Jar Binks. But everybody loves R2D2 and the exhibit boasted one of the originals being in his own special spot, surrounded by about 30 fan-made R2's.

WORST FIASCO: Oooh, there were so many. But most would say the inability to get into the Celebration III store. No one really thought of eBay until you couldn't get any Darth Vader talking figures; once that happened, everybody who did wait the obligatory day to get in would sell their other three (you were allowed to buy four) on auction.

MOST HYPED EVENT: The Celebration Opening Ceremonies. It took three hours of waiting in line to get towards the front (we were off to the side in about the 6th row) only to be greeted by a salsa band that was too loud, and Steve Sansweet introducing a bunch of lesser stars. Not one major star came to the event. We hear, though, that the Celebration Party on Saturday night may have been worse...

I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO COLD while waiting in snow flurries on Sunday morning. Wind chill factor brought the temps down to 20 degrees. I bought hot tea and/or chocolate, not to drink but to keep my hands warm.

The force was not with this convention (or at least the organizers), but we still had a memorable time.

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