Star Wars: A Geek’s Tale: Episode XVIII

Celebration III
Day 3, Part 1
April 23, 2005

ciiistarbucksHaving made the decision the night before to not wait in line to see George Lucas, I chose to sleep in a couple extra hours to get some much needed sleep. My lower back and legs were in dire need of the rest.

The decision to miss out on seeing my lord and master was not one that was easily made. The emotional pain was almost palpable. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see The Flanneled One (geek speak based on Mr. Lucas’ propensity for wearing flannel shirts) speak with the fans and answer their questions. And while I don’t idolize the man, I still admire him for his vision, his ability to craft a good story and his ability to separate millions of people from their hard-earned money.

I may one day regret the decision, but waiting in a line that started at midnight, would grow to huge numbers very early and would be outdoors in the rain and near freezing temperatures made the decision a much easier one to make.

I got out of bed at 6:30 and turned on the TV for coverage of the line. They were supposed to be letting people in the Sagamore Ballroom starting at 6:00 and I figured the local TV stations would be covering the big event. They weren’t. There was no mention made of the line or of Celebration III. What they did show was their super-duper radar and the showers that were passing through the area. They also showed the storm that hit while my fellow geeks were standing in line. The storm preceded a cold front that dropped the temperature to a frigid 38° and brought with it very windy conditions. I felt much better about not joining them.

I left the hotel at 7:30 with my backpack and cameras in tow. My only protection against the elements was a sweatshirt. Boy, did I pay for it. The wind and cold cut right through me. I had thoughts of talking to the dopes in line to get their thoughts on the weekend. Instead, I waited out the line in the Marriott across the street. I bought a cup of Starbucks, grabbed a chair near a window and kept my eye on the line.

A young woman wearing a four-day badge came to the same window to check on the line. She told me that she and her family drove by the fan club entrance at 7:00 the night before. They saw people already in line for Lucas. Some of them were waiting in pitched tents. A few minutes later a dad sat his two boys on a sofa that was nearby. The boys, probably around seven years of age, were wearing Jedi robes and carrying toy lightsabers. They had a portable DVD player and were watching one of the Star Wars movies. It took a few minutes of careful listening to discern that they were watching The Empire Strikes Back. The scene put a smile on my face. I’ve long felt that as cool as it would be to have kids, it would be even cooler if they developed a love for Star Wars. With my luck my kids would have been fans of the Power Rangers or something equally stupid.

The doors opened at 9:00 and the fans started filing in. Around 9:30 I went outside to get ready for the end of the line. There were four others standing just outside the Marriott with a similar idea. They were discussing the weekend and their experiences and were happy to let me join in on the conversation. It was really neat to listen to their stories and learn that there are others out there like myself. They were game players, book readers and comic book readers. They collected the action figures, busts, statues and theatrical posters. They didn’t dress up in costumes but thought it would be fun to do so. These were my people and we were all here to visit our Promised Land.

Normally I don’t enjoy talking to strangers. It takes me a long time to open up to people and even longer to share my innermost thoughts. These people were like old friends, the type of friends that attend our camping trips and, as odd as it might sound coming from me, talking with these fans filled me with a sense of joy.

What I experienced next added to that joy by tenfold.

The line to enter the convention center had dwindled down to a more manageable level. The two or three of us still chatting outside the Marriott crossed the street to get in line. We parted ways as we entered the doors at 10:15.

A Celebration volunteer handed me a blue wristband as I walked in. When questioned, he told me it was for the next George Lucas session. My jaw nearly hit my chest. He told me they still had space and, if I hurried, I could get a very good seat for the show. Naturally, I walked as fast as I could to get in line.

The line was a jumbled mess. People were walking around trying to find where the line ended. Volunteers were working to separate the line for George Lucas and the line for the Celebration Store. We were instructed to put the wristbands on and hold our hands high so the volunteers would know we were in the correct line. Behind me, a fan dressed as a TIE Fighter Pilot struggled with his wristband. His gloves didn’t allow him to peel off the strip of paper to expose the sticky part of the band. Another fan peeled off the paper and tried to get the wristband around his glove. I tried to help out but the glove was too big for the band. We helped the guy remove his glove so he could get the wristband on.

The line became more organized as we got closer to the escalators and stairs going upstairs to the Sagamore Ballroom. There were two lines going upstairs. I was directed to go up the line that was steadily moving. Halfway up a volunteer at the top of the steps was heard turning people back. NO WAY! I thought. As it turned out, she was telling the volunteers at the bottom to not let more people come up the second line. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Those of us who came up the second set of steps were told to stand aside but were assured that we would get in. A few minutes later we were allowed to get back in line and headed for the ballroom.

Once inside the ballroom we were herded into seats section by section. My seat was incredible. I was near the center section and close enough to the stage that I would be able to recognize Mr. Lucas when he came out.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Here I had given up on the possibility of seeing my lord and master and now I was just minutes away from seeing him.

My thoughts drifted to the dopes who sat out in the cold and rain all night for this opportunity.

I wanted to feel bad for them.

I didn’t.

Coming up:
CIII Day 3, Part 2

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