There are two huge events for Star Wars geeks this spring. The big one, of course, is the release of the final film in the series, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The other big event, Celebration III, occurs this weekend in Indianapolis.
Tens of thousands of dorks from all over the country and the world will descend on our state’s capital city for the only Lucasfilm-sanctioned convention of the year. It promises to be a huge event, bigger than either of the first two conventions.
Celebration I was held in Denver in 1999 to celebrate the release of the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. Organizers underestimated the response by the fans of the original trilogy and chose to hold the event outdoors under tents. The response was huge. Thousands showed up, overwhelming the capacity of the outdoor facilities. Mother Nature made matters worse by throwing in a healthy amount of rain.
Despite the problems that were encountered, Celebration I was a success. Organizers knew they needed to hold the next convention indoors at a facility large enough to accommodate the legions of fans that were sure to attend. After an exhaustive search they chose the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, mostly for the facilities that were available, but also for the city’s location, ease of access and the other activities the city offers.
I read all of the Celebration II information to be found on the Internet and wasted no time in registering for the event. I printed off my hotel registration information, directions to the convention center and the schedule of events.
The event began in the afternoon of May 3, 2002. I left Fort Wayne that morning planning to arrive at the Westin Hotel with plenty of time to make it to the opening ceremonies. Driving up Missouri Street to Maryland Street I passed a line of people that wrapped around the convention center. I quickly checked into the hotel, which is directly across the street from the entrance to the convention center. After I took my bags to my room I scoped out the line across the street and noticed that there was another entrance just down the street. This entrance was for participants in the Indy mini-marathon being held the next day. I entered through those doors and mingled in with the people who had been waiting in line for hours.
I should have felt bad but didn’t.
Celebration II was a pretty cool weekend event. Most of the fans in attendance felt that Indianapolis was a good host for the big party but complained that the Indiana Convention Center was a bit overcrowded. Almost as soon as the event ended the speculation began about the location of Celebration III. Most of the dorks on the forum boards wanted bigger facilities in a bigger city. To their chagrin, Indianapolis was selected as the host city last fall.
Once I decided to attend all four days of CIII it was incumbent upon me to plan ahead better. For several weeks we geeks waited for information about CIII to be released. One of the first announcements put me a little bit at ease.
The biggest learning I took away from CII was to expect early morning lines just to get inside. Organizers announced that they would have two entrances, one for fan club members and another for normal civilians. Fan club members get in an hour early every day so a separate line will make it easier for everybody involved.
New announcements were released as the weeks went by. Most of them involved guests from the production of the movies. Most of the guest speakers are behind-the-scenes types – special effects gurus, computer animation geeks, stunt men and conceptual artists. There is also an extensive list of actors who will be there to sign autographs. No, Harrison Ford won’t be there. Neither will Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher for that matter (although Ms. Fisher was signing at CII. I got to see her up close as she walked past a line I was in. I won’t comment on her apparent state.) Most of the actors signing autographs are unknown to the general public. Heck, most are unknown to me and I’m a dork for this stuff. The biggies for geeks will be David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca.)
The biggest name announced for autograph seekers was that of Billy Dee Williams. I don’t care to get his autograph or even see him. Given the chance though, I would probably offer him a Colt .45.
Other announcements were about events planned for the weekend. There will be a costume contest, an R2-D2 builders contest, a one man Star Wars show, a display of items from the Lucasfilm archives, a big party Saturday night and other events too numerous to remember.
The biggest announcement in the history of the Celebrations was a doozy. The Lord of the Star Wars Universe, George Lucas himself, will be in attendance on Saturday. My head reeled when I first read that. He will be holding three sessions in the morning, each one only half an hour in length. Seats for the sessions are limited to 3300 per show. 70% of the seats for the first two shows will go to fan club members and the rest will go to the normal people. Those numbers are reversed for the third session.
With all of this information at my disposal, I’ve been making my plans this week. I contacted the Crowne Plaza to verify my reservation. I’ve printed off the schedule of events, the diagram of the convention center, the details of the George Lucas sessions, details of some of the guest speaker events and the catalogue for the Celebration Store.
Last night I checked the forums to get an idea of what time the line will begin for the George Lucas sessions. Most people are saying they will begin lining up at 5:00 AM. I thought they were all lying so I was thinking more like 4:00. Then I checked the weather forecast for Saturday. We’ve been blessed with sunny days all week with temperatures in the 70’s or 80’s. Saturday’s forecast in Indy calls for a chance of rain with lows in the 30’s and highs in the 40’s. The gods are laughing at us.
I’ve contacted Mary about checking on Murphy while I’m gone. Suzie and Ken are expecting me for dinner Saturday night. My cameras are loaded and I have plenty of film. (Note to self: get some extra batteries.) My suitcase is packed. All of my printed materials are packed. I think I’m ready to go.
Wait a minute. Where the heck are my badge and fan club lanyard? I can’t get in without those!
Ha! Just kidding. Indy, here I come.
Reporting from Celebration III…