Anyone who has been to Star Wars Celebration before will most likely agree on several cardinal points. First and foremost: the two-year postponement of this year’s iteration of the globe-trotting symposium of all things Star Wars, while inevitable and inarguably the right decision, was hard to swallow. This past weekend, when a parallel universe without the pandemic may have seen us all gathered in Anaheim, fans reminisced over all channels of communication about the great times in the convention’s 21-year history.
Some experiences, like wandering the exhibit hall, meeting heroes from a galaxy far, far away, participating in cosplay, and, yes, waiting in line for this year’s hot (and sometimes bizarre) exclusives, are almost universal in their appeal. Nearly everyone takes part, and nearly everyone loves to. But in any event as large as Star Wars Celebration, there is simply too much to do for any one person to do it all. To help celebrate the good times and to look forward to 2022, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite Star Wars Celebration fun you might miss if you’re not careful.
From Greedo’s ill-fated attempt against Han Solo to the mystique of the Child, bounty hunting has been a part of the Star Wars story since the beginning. But it doesn’t matter who shot first when you’re having as much fun as there is to be had in the Star Wars Celebration Bounty Hunt, organized since 2007 by superfans James Floyd and Dan Hamman. In this fast-paced two-hour puzzle challenge, a hundred teams race all around the event to get their scorecards stamped. Some stamps involve solving just mazes or puzzles, while others may require competitors to answer difficult trivia, play a hand of sabacc, or even battle in a lightsaber duel. We’d like to think even Greef Karga would regard it as a formidable challenge, but it’s ultimately about having fun.
Just like the motley crew assembled to capture the Millennium Falcon, the Bounty Hunt at Celebration attracts all kinds. “We have all types of people playing, families, groups of friends, players in costume, young and old, and usually the top teams are ones who are sharp in mind and fleet of foot (and know their way around the different levels of the convention center),” Floyd tells us. “The Bounty Hunt is free for all participants and we give out trophies and awesome prizes donated by different Star Wars licensees for the top five places.” We hope to see you on the hunt in 2022. No bounty pucks or chain code trackers needed!
The main exhibit hall at Celebration can make any fan feel like Rey at the Festival of the Ancestors on Pasaana: jubilantly overwhelmed. But just as Rey’s moment with the Aki-Aki woman who asks her name is one of the most memorable takeaways from that adventure, sometimes the smaller booths tucked away amid massive licensee pavilions and the striking displays made by larger fan organizations are the best gems hidden in the hall. At their first Celebration last year, Pride Squadron, a group uniting LGBTQ+ members of the various large costume clubs, gave away free pronoun pins featuring new art by Lucasfilm artist Katie Cook and hosted author signings at their table. Nearby, Cosplayers of the Old Republic showcased creative cosplays in the iconic art style of the video game series with their own spins on many original designs. Jedi Order Japan hosted Celebration mainstay Okitsugu Kado and his masterful Star Wars vegetable carvings, one of my favorite examples of how you can find just about every expression of the love of Star Wars at these fan tables.
There’s no way around it: Star Wars fans love stuff. From the insatiable demand for action figures immediately after the film’s release to the recent explosion of the Force Friday tradition, we like tangible artifacts of our fandom. But that doesn’t mean it all has to cost us money. Enter the Star Wars Celebration SWAG Crew, a dedicated band of Rebels doing their part to ensure no one leaves empty-handed. SWAG, their Facebook group says, means “something we all get/give,” and their members (and other fans, too!) show up at Celebration with freebies to give away just for the love of Star Wars. I first encountered the SWAG Crew in Orlando, where I received all manner of stickers, pins, poker chips, and more. At Celebration Chicago, I participated myself for the first time, with little parodies of the convention pass, but for porgs. By doing so, I met so many fellow porg devotees and forged some lifelong friendships.
Star Wars Celebration extends far beyond the bounds of the convention center in which it’s held. As with any massive convention, some of the best memories are made in the official and unofficial events that orbit the event like the second Death Star over the forest moon of Endor. From the massive Bash thrown by the various costuming clubs as a collaborative effort to The Old Republic’s Community Cantina, there’s usually more than one big party every night. These shindigs are just as full of like-minded fans and Force-powered fun as Celebration itself, so we advise joining one of the big Star Wars Celebration groups on Facebook and staying informed about these outlying outposts of the galactic gala.
Just Being There
Next time you attend Star Wars Celebration, whether it’s your first, your third, your tenth (as it will be for me) or somewhere in between, take a moment where you’re not in line, you’re not freaking out over a trailer, you’re not sweating encased in plastic armor, and just…be at Star Wars Celebration. It sounds silly, but as Qui-Gon Jinn advised Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs.” With a flurry of Star Wars news and nostalgia, it can be easy to get hyped up thinking about the next Star Wars film that’s months away or looking back wistfully to when you first heard about the Force.
And while that’s certainly an important part of Celebration, some of the best memories are made sitting in a cozy corner of a hotel lobby or an out-of-the-way area of the convention concourse with friends who are family. Sometimes it’s friends I’ve had almost as long as I’ve been going to Celebration and sometimes it’s friends I’ve just met that day, but it’s always friends who share a deep passion for the same story that I love, and sometimes I zone out and take a moment to remember that for those few days, I’m in the one place where we all share that. It’s those moments and not the chaos of the Celebration Store or the unbelievable excitement of a trailer reveal that I found myself revisiting all weekend as I thought about this piece. I think the best part of Celebration is ultimately just celebrating the saga together in our own way in the one place where we’re all there to do just that.