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Star Wars Celebration Chicago: Day One

April 12, 2019

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It’s been happening just about every two years for the past twenty years and now it’s come to Chicago. Today was the start of a five-day celebration of all things Star Wars, appropriately called Star Wars Celebration. You may have heard of it, that is if you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s essentially a convention focused on the universe that George Lucas created, which he handed the reins over to his longtime collaborator, producer Kathleen Kennedy, who has been working with Disney for a handful of years now to oversee the present and future of all things Star Wars. It’s a place where you can bump into an R2 unit, purchase Chewbacca bubble bath from the 70s or sit yourself down in the Millennium Falcon, but most of all its a place where you can feel accepted for something you’re passionate about, which is something that’s sorely needed.

Of course, that is if you’re passionate about all things Star Wars. These days, if you’ve been paying attention to the online rumblings of certain fans, there appears to be a disturbance in The Force, with people complaining about what they don’t like about the current state of the Star Wars films in particular. Call me obtuse, but I didn’t pick up any such vibes as I walked around the McCormick Place convention floor at the first day. Everywhere I turned people were excited, happy, friendly and easy to talk to as they engaged with people they’ve just met or reunited with old friends. That’s the difference between tangible, in-person fandom and the kind that tends to surface on the internet.

“It feels like I’m in Star Wars”, said a woman who I shared an elevator with who works at McCormick Place. I confirmed with her that she could indeed consider herself in a Star Wars movie this weekend, considering all the elaborate cosplayers and homemade droids rolling around the floor.

 

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The whole thing feels like a well-oiled machine from Reed Pop, the global company that’s been producing such pop culture conventions since 2006. They’re the crew behind C2E2, a comic and entertainment expo that just saw its ten year anniversary here in Chicago (also at McCormick Place) a couple weeks ago, which is probably why it feels that way. They’ve been doing this kind of thing for so long, they know what needs to be taken care of. I felt that immediately when I walked in this morning as staff led me where I needed to go in order to pick up my press badge.

Everyone was very courteous and helpful and, minutes later, as I stood in awe at the multitude of fans forming lines that snaked around hallways and corners, I began to realize just how organized it all was. I learned there were several groups scattered throughout the building all waiting to get into the exhibit floor, which opened at 1pm. I also learned there was a separate line created solely for those with ADA needs, as well as an entire line devoted to those looking to purchase merchandise exclusive to the Celebration.

 

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It was at that merchandise line where I met Alvin, who works security at McCormick. When I asked him how he likes these events, he stated he gets a kick out of them and finds seeing a diverse group of people getting along together is a good feeling. Alvin had arrived to work around 5:30am and would be there till 9pm, and had seen fans already lined up outside the building and then inside for the merchandise line that would open at 11am. He mentioned he had already seen one guy pretend to pass out in hopes of getting escorted to the front of the line. It made him chuckle at the lengths people would go for exclusive T-shirts or tiki mugs.

Much of my time today focused on getting a lay of the land, perusing the con floor and determining what was essential to experience before the crowds grow over the next couple of days. Fortuitously, I bumped into Elliot Serrano, a fellow colleague and local geek journalist, and the two of us took in the sites with that common goal.

 

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We wound up getting a tour of an interior replica of the Millennium Falcon, the lived-in one we’re familiar with and the sleek and clean interior from last year’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, when the Corellian ship was owned by Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. We also visited the expansive Galaxy’s Edge booth, which focused on the new Star Wars-themed Disney amusement park that’s set to open in Disneyland on May 31st and at Disney World on August 29th. We closed out the afternoon by getting our pictures alongside a life-size X-Wing fighter.

This first day, was the calm before the storm however – and I’m not referring to what feels like winter’s last stand in Chicago outside McCormick Place – because tomorrow morning will be the anticipated “Episode IX” panel presentation on the Celebration Stage at the WinTrust Arena, adjacent to the convention floor. This is likely where a title for the next chapter in the Skywalker saga will be announced along with a teaser trailer and some surprise guests. At least that’s what fans hope and hope is something that has been a constant in the Star Wars universe since 1977.

Star Wars Celebration Chicago runs from April 11th through April 15th. More information can be found here.

 

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