Star Wars: Celebration II, 2002
Susu

It started out as a great way to get to see Windu, Rosie, Csillag, maybe even Viktor, Pokémaniac or Iella. But thanks to unfortunate scheduling, Runt and I were the only ones from our sphere of influence who attended the second officially sanctioned Star Wars convention and conference. So we splurged and got the suite at the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Indidanapolis (which we kept calling "a quaint town" -- which seemed to upset our cabdriver), a couple of blocks from the where the Con was being held. By day's end, even that short distance seemed far away.

The exhibits were impressive -- everything from D&D type swords and dice, to old Star Wars toys (including "really buff monkey face Luke") were for sale at fairly reasonable prices. Authors (lots of them) and artists were on hand to sign their works for you, and there were several "Con Only" products, like the Australian postage stamp set featuring Star Wars characters from Episodes IV, V, and VI (Episode I stamps are available online only, though some were being raffled off), Celebrations clothing and figures only for sale at the con, etc.

The most impressive thing? Security was performed by guys in stormtrooper uniforms ... apparently, the uniform kits cost around $500, and they look great. Includes a standard-issue blaster. There were also some who wore the black and gray officer's uniforms instead. They stopped traffic in downtown Indianapolis, some played their roles and inspected cars, asked drivers for droid licences, and allowed people to cross the street against the red lights. Many motorists wanted pictures taken with the 'troopers.

In practice, some lines were terribly long, and so the lines were split up around the exhibition hall. Stormtroopers walked the lines, single file, from one area to the next, to prevent line cutting and other no-nos. When they could, they also told you where to wait in line for a ticket to then get on line of a workshop or talk. Maybe it was because 25,000 people showed up, or maybe more. But the organization stunk... the programs would say, "Coruscant Ballroom" which was not labelled as such in the conference building. It would more likely say, "Sagamore Room" or somesuch. Really confusing.

But despite that, we did see a lot, met people in line, shook hands with a really fat Darth Vader, met the Fetts (Temuera Morrison, Daniel Logan -- both New Zealand Maoris, so the Kiwi-born Runt got to be jiggy with them -- and Jeremy Bulloch), tried not to be groupie-like around Hayden Christensen, and oggled at Carrie Fisher, who had her own signing event. Other signers were in a closed off area; you had to pay for a coupon -- about $15, or more if you wanted collectable posters -- to give to the actor you wanted the autograph from. The longest lines were for David Prowse -- the guy in the Darth Vader body armor, who ended up being a whiney little bitch, à la Alec Guinness. Not my speed.

More my speed -- the big, life-sized Hasbro action figure display, where you could get into the blisterpack, pose with various props and have a photo taken, as if you were an action figure in appropriate packaging! There was a long line of people who were fun to watch -- this is where the costumed Jedi, slave Leias, Amidalas, rebel pilots types, royal guards, Fett boys, Vaders, etc. all wanted to be. This turned out to be where the die-hard fans were, always a pleasure to watch.

The other great thing for sale: lightsabers! They glowed, made the authentic noises (so you wouldn't have to do them with your lips) and though they required plug-ins, the handles were cool and beautifully crafted. This is where we got our first look at Count Dooku's pistol-grip style of lightsabre handle. They were expensive, but not so expensive that we couldn't justify it ... we very nearly did, too!

A word about the hotel -- this was one thing the Wizards of the Coast people did right. The conference-negotiated price was about half the regular price, and we got a very nice one-bedroom suite for a normal large room price. The Deco restaurant stunk, but room service was good, and it was awfully nice to have a pool and jacuzzi to wallow in at the end of a day of standing in line, walking around, taking pictures, trying not to laugh at the stormtroopers (they even spoke through vocoder type devices that popped and crackled authentically) when people asked where they got their costumes. The always-used answer, "Sir, these are issued upon either graduation from an Imperial military academy or upon completion of basic training." If the asker was creative, they could have asked for a location of a recruitment office. There was one on site! An organization who had volunteer members dressed as stormtroopers could be hired for security, weddings, etc! What fun!

The authors signed things for us, and were much nicer than their handlers and support staff. It was a bit of a zoo for authors like R. A. Salvatore, but he was warm in his thanks and remembered us when we bumped into him later that day. We saw John Knoll, special effects wizard at ILM (and only pilot to die in the Battle of Naboo in Ep.1) waiting in line at the poorly-organized Suncoast Video store like the rest of us to BUY Star Wars books (WTF??), and tried not to hassle him too badly. We did hassle Aaron Allston though. Twice, and he was nice about it both times. And Runt refused to ask Troy Denning for his signature, since Troy wrote Star by Star, and Runt was afraid he'd try to strangle Troy ...

One more thing: our flight to Indy was overbooked, so US Air gave us $400 worth of vouchers plus a bonus flight for volunteering to be bumped. We almost made money on this trip!

Overall, completely worth it, and we're planning to be at Celebrations III! You'd better be there next time!



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