I just got back this week from Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. While there I wore two costumes; Barriss Offee and Hera Syndulla. (Don’t know who they are, google is your friend!) and I must say, I miss it. A lot. I have attended many conventions of various types and only a handful have left me feeling its loss and that it was too short. By a handful I actually mean 2. Star Wars Celebration Anaheim was one of them.
There are a few reasons for this.
1) Organization. When a convention is run as smoothly and orderly as Celebration was, the entire event has a different feel. You leave remembering different aspects of the weekend, not just the bad things. Too often I or others come back from a convention complaining about lines, panels, attendees, and other stuff. This time, I came back complaining about how I simply didn’t get everything done that I wanted, it was too short, or I miss the people I met there. And I must say, Celebration was organized. Lines were well maintained, attendees were considerate (for the most part,) events happened on time or at least close to on time, the app was updated daily with relevant schedule changes and reminders, and at no point during the con did I feel rushed, bullied, harassed, or judged by staff or volunteers. Even though they were sold out a few of the days, the crowds never seemed overwhelming or unmanageable. Perhaps most of this is due to the location of the convention itself, but I ended the convention of a very high note, and when you can end a convention on a good note, then it’s been a good convention!
2) Comradery. A lot of conventions now a days are a mesh of various geeky fandoms and genres. Panels are broken up into tracks, hotels are organized by fandom, and often entire parts of the convention are separated by interest and location. This variety of interests is great for people watching and really getting your “con on” but that’s about where your comradoree ends. You attend with a group of friends and if you’re lucky you find new friends who share your interests! Often times though you simply meet other attendees while standing in lines and have one or two quick interactions with often awkward conversation. You leave the convention with your friends and talk about how awesome it was and how you all did this or that or whatever. You may make a few new friends, but let’s be honest, everyone is there for their own reasons and even though you have thousands of geeks to chose from, finding a real connection with another human being, is still tricky. With the shear number of attendees and vast amount of fandoms, it’s easy to feel judged by others and sadly you often are. (After all not all fandoms are viewed as equal.)
This wasn’t true this past weekend. It was clear we were all there for the same basic reason, a love for Star Wars. Just KNOWING everyone attending shared that love was enough to make the whole atmosphere more relaxed and welcoming. Lines weren’t as stressful. Attendees weren’t rude or judgmental (much), and making lasting connections with others was simpler. Meeting other fans outside the con and striking a conversation seemed natural.
I have only experienced this comradery once before at a convention and that was JordanCon, a convention celebrating The Wheel of Time novels. And to date, these are the two conventions I have missed the most after I left.
3) Bang for your Buck. Conventions are expensive. Badges, hotels, merch, food, travel….it all adds up. Celebration was no exception, however I feel I got what I paid for. Yes the badges were expensive, but they were cheaper than other cons I’ve gone to. For the same length as another convention I attend, I got ten times the experience for less cost! Buying a 4 day pass for the other convention gets me in the door and access to the dealers room, exhibit hall, and after hours, the hotels themselves. It also came with fear of badge theft, overzealous security, and long lines just to get the badge. With the same 4 day pass for Celebration I got all the above perks as well as access to some awesome photo ops, virtual experiences, exclusive previews, and none of the hassles. (Why everyone doesn’t mail badges now is beyond me.) The exclusive merch was also much higher quality and while costly, still worth it in my mind! Yes Celebration has Disney and LucasFilms backing them with money. Yes it’s a “corporate con” while the other is a fan convention. Yes I am aware of the differences. However, I am also aware that getting what I paid for is important to my time and pocket. I got what I paid for at Celebration and it was worth every penny!
Celebration was perfect. California was gorgeous, the weather cooperated, the fans and staff were considerate, and I made MANY lasting friendships. It was everything I hoped for and I have every intention of attending the next US Celebration.
I left the convention with a cache of memories, moments, souvenirs, and friendships. I miss the whole experience and am SO thankful for everyone I met while there. To me, THIS was what a geeky convention should be; shared with like minded fans, appreciative writers and actors (You rock Dave Filoni!) and enthusiastic exhibitors and while I’m saddened that I missed the other geeky convention (sorry JordanCon!) by attending this one, I wouldn’t change it for the world.