When Chicago Becomes Coruscant

Or… how I spent my unexpectedly snowy Star Wars vacation to Chicago. (Did you know that I hate snow about as much as Anakin Skywalker hates sand? Because I do.)

Snow aside, Star Wars Celebration was an incredible five plus days. I’ve been to a lot of conventions over the years but none of them are quite like Celebration. This is a convention that brings together thousands of fans from across the world just because we all love the same space franchise and then that franchise puts on the best damn show for us… literally. I’m not sure the Star Wars fandom fully grasps how lucky we are that Lucasfilm puts on the Star Wars Show live from the con and broadcasts so many of the major panels but that’s beside the point. What is the point is this: despite all the other cons that I love and routinely attend, Celebration is the convention I can’t fathom skipping. Why? It’s one big family reunion.

Okay so yeah, maybe I’m a little biased because Celebration Chicago was the two year anniversary of a major life event for me. At Celebration Orlando in 2017, Battlefront II was officially revealed to the world and Iden Versio came into my life. At the time, I had no idea how deeply I’d resonate with the character, how so many of the people involved with her story would notice said resonation, how some of those people would become my friends, nor how many amazing opportunities would present themselves because of her. (You probably already know this because I’ve written about here.) Celebration Chicago was the first chance I had the opportunity to meet some of these people in person for the first time and, well, I now believe there’s very little more magical than finally meeting someone you’ve known online for a while and immediately feeling like you’ve been friends in person for years as soon as you exchange those initial hugs. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being grateful for what that video game has brought into my life.

And yet it’s more than that.

Celebration is the place where you see the people you only see once a year and yet embrace each other like family before swapping pins for your lanyards. Celebration is where people will understand your obscure yet hilarious cosplay and high five you for it. Celebration is where you can watch the Episode IX panel in the middle of the show floor with thousands of other fans, see a trailer for the movie for the first time, completely lose your mind, and have absolutely no one judge you. Celebration is where you can find someone who loves that one background character from that one movie just as much as you do. Celebration is the place where you’re reminded about why you got into the Star Wars fandom in the first place: for shared love of a galaxy far, far away.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint a favorite moment from the convention. Was it watching the Rise of Skywalker trailer with my friends and then holding one of them after as we both cried because of Leia? Was it losing my mind when we saw all of that incredible footage from The Mandalorian? Or maybe it was tearing up when the 20th Anniversary of The Phantom Menace panel opened with that initial teaser trailer and Ahmed Best got multiple standing ovations? The Vader Immortal demo was pretty awesome and every minute I was by the Pride Squadron booth was a delight. Meeting Christopher Sean who voices Kaz Xiono in Star Wars Resistance was definitely up there too. I must also certainly admit that moderating Timothy Zahn’s Spotlight panel was an absolute highlight for me on a personal level as was being asked to sign my essay work in Marvel’s Age of Republic comics for the first time.

Ultimately though, what makes Celebration special is the people. I love attending panels and wandering around the exhibit hall floor but what I’ll always remember are the evenings after the show closed, hanging in the Marriott bar with my friends. Those were the hours filled with excitedly gushing about the new story announcements that had thrilled us, catching up on each others’ lives, and eating absurd amounts of dessert that were sometimes accompanied by shot glasses of milk. Those are the memories that will stay with me because what makes something like Star Wars Celebration for me is not only the show itself but also the friends that come with it. It turns out that Star Wars was the real friends we made along the way and I wouldn’t trade it for the world because wow do I love them a lot.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it appears to be getting dusty in here. I’ll see you all in Anaheim next year.

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