BY AMANDA BULAT
Music fans have Cochella. Football fans have the Super Bowl.
And Star Wars fans have Celebration, a convention dedicated solely to that beloved galaxy far, far away. If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, you’ll know that Celebration is currently underway for thousands of Star Wars fans right now in Anaheim, Calif.
As a non-annual event that has moved around to cities like Orlando, London, and Chiba, Japan, it’s seen as something of a Holy Grail for fans: a place where the Star Wars fandom is celebrated non-stop for 4 days with tens of thousands of your closest friends.
In this seventh U.S.-based occurrence of the event, fans dressed as Darth Vaders, stormtroopers, and Jedi will spend the weekend speed dating, on bounty hunts, cosplaying, playing video games, comparing nerdy tattoos, and learning the latest juicy tidbits about Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Celebration, or SWCA, initially began in 1999 before the premiere of The Phantom Menace. Occurring semi-regularly since then, the Lucasfilm convention is a favorite of diehard Star Wars fans and the general nerd community. Fittingly hosted in Anaheim for the first time, this will be the first Celebration under the corporate umbrella of Disney after their acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012.
Attendance was about 35,000 during Celebration VI in 2012 in Orlando, Fla. With the migration to the West Coast, a larger parent company, and the draw of a new Star Wars film set to arrive in theaters in December, you can count on even bigger crowds. With the added benefit of Disneyland as a distraction (literally across the street), the casual fan has an opportunity to enjoy a wealth of experiences.
For many the convention started on Wednesday, a full day before any official events, as fans lined up in designated queue areas for the headline panel featuring J.J. Abrams (director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Kathleen Kennedy (President and CEO of Lucasfilm). Similar to the madness of Hall H during Comic-Con in San Diego, fans were offered shelter, bathrooms, and concessions for those willing to spend the night on concrete. During the early hours of the morning, those intrepid individuals were rewarded with pizza from Abrams and Kennedy. The new Star Wars film was of course a main topic of discussion during the panel, with more details about the The Force Awakens revealed and cast appearances. It ended with the second teaser trailer for the new film.
Star Wars: Celebration is unique within the lucrative world of trade shows. There’s something for every age, level of interest, and type of fan (animation? no problem. prequels? yep. dating? you bet.), and that’s a good thing. The events can act as a kind of reunion for friends from far-flung locales or even an opportunity for romance to blossom all in the name of an incredibly specific shared interest. (I’m not kidding; I know at least five couples who met their future spouses here.) For four days Star Wars fans get to come home and that’s pretty special.
If you weren’t to be able to attend Celebration this week, you can following along with the events on the livestream from the Star Wars channel on YouTube.
Screengrab via StarWars/YouTube