8am May 2, 1999: Last day… and I ain’t ready to leave.
My flight, however, would be leaving at 11pm , ready or not. I pack everything that morning because I’d be checking out before catching the bus to the convention. Since I’d been spending my days at Celebration, having dinner and hanging out in the lobby for most of the night, there wasn’t much sense in paying for a room I wouldn’t use before catching the 9pm bus to the airport. I had arranged to leave my bags in the valet luggage locker behind the front desk and I was ready to go. Rob and I met again for breakfast to go over the event schedule and make a plan for the last day, then went to meet up with everyone from the previous day. Mike walked over to our hotel to hang out before the bus showed up. Unfortunately, the others had caught an earlier shuttle and we didn’t catch up.
The day was spent checking out the ILM displays in the exhibitor hangar. Favorite displays included a Millenium Falcon model, the Episode 1 C3PO and Scout Walker and Tie Fighter models from Episode V. An R2D2 rolled about the floor, stopping to chat with guests and pose for photos. A few yards behind was a gentleman carrying a magazine in a rather ungainly manner. It was, in fact, R2’s operator trying fruitlessly to hide the remote control. He looked up and smiled as I walked by, it was Don Bies. Way Cool.
We checked out displays of all the toys that were scheduled to go on sale at the midnight Toys R Us Star Wars release and filled out raffle cards to win pieces of the Taco Bell and Pepsi displays. Ben Burtt was doing a presentation, Steve Sansweet had a panel on collecting and Anthony Daniels was set to host the closing ceremonies at the end of the day. As we walked to the line for Ben’s panel we saw something we had not seen all weekend. The Sun! The rain had stopped, the clouds had parted and the fog was almost completely lifted. The Rocky Mountains were finally visible at the horizon! A nice treat for the last day.
I don’t recall much about the panels and closing ceremonies – apologies to Ben, Steve and Anthony, but it was ten years ago. The big news was that some dealers in the vendor tent were having huge discounts because the tent leaked. We ducked in but the soggy posters and wet boxed items really weren’t worth the discounts being offered. We went through the exhibitor hangar one last time and discovered that Mike won part of the Pepsi display in the raffel. A huge Darth Maul printed on plastic awaited him along with a Naboo Fighter printed on cardboard. He offered his winnings to Rob and me as thanks for the previous night’s dinner but I just didn’t have the means to carry either piece on the way home.
We made our way to the bus, sadly looking back at the convention grounds. The mud glistened in the late afternoon sun but more storm clouds were gathering just above the horizon. Maybe it was time to leave after all.
As I prepared to board the bus I noticed a couple of folks wandering toward the grounds, all decked out in black and silver. My first, clueless thought was, “What are Oakland Raiders fans doing here?” Then, as they turned around I noticed the forehead ridges….
As I looked around I saw the motion of the crowd begin to slow as all eyes moved toward them. They were obviously out for some attention, and they were getting it.
“Wrong convention,” shouted one fan.
“Go back to your own galaxy,” shouted another.
One plucky lad of no more than 7 or 8 flipped the bird as his mortified mom pulled his hand down and his dad laughed. All Geeks, apparently, are not created equal. On the bus I’d heard talk of a Star Trek convention that was happening at a nearby hotel. I could only wonder how many Jedi would now be crashing their party.
We arrived at the hotel in time to watch a sunset. I hadn’t seen one of those since before I left Orlando. Later, a lengthy dinner gave way to some convention stories with other fans in the lobby. Rob had an early flight and was soon off to pack. We exchanged addresses and wished each other a fun Episode I premier. A little while later, I was headed for the airport. The rain had held off and I took some time to gaze at the stars before the bus arrived. No Star Destroyers were visible.
Another series of flights awaited and a two and a half hour lay-over in Atlanta meant plenty of time for a turbulence free nap. My flight from Colorado turned out to be a smooth one and I slept almost the whole way. The flight from Atlanta was filled with memories of the convention, looking over books and programs and replacing the sadness of having to leave with the anticipation of opening day which was not far off.
Orlando greeted me with a sunny, warm morning. My dad picked me up and listened as I went on and on during the whole drive back. He’d taken me to see Episode IV, V and was my ride to VI. I’m sure he was having flashbacks of those drives home. Once back at my apartment I left the unpacking for whenever I woke up. I’d scheduled an extra day off and used the time to catch up on much needed sleep.
When I awoke, sometime that afternoon, it was raining. I went back to sleep.
I had written Rob once or twice since the convention but we eventually lost touch.
John got to experience Celebration 2 – sans rain and mud – at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
John and I both had a monumentally cool time at C3, again in Indy. We passed on C4 and eagerly await C5.
Look on Wikepedia and you’ll hardly see a mention of the first Celebration. For whatever reason the following 3 were better documented. That’s another reason I decided to post my memories.
Every so often I’ll meet someone who was at C1. Some will simply roll their eyes, some will smile with fond recollection. I’m one of the latter. For all it’s issues – the rain, the lines, the autograph refusals – C1 was an experience to remember. Of course there were going to be problems, we all knew that going in. You can find bad points in anything if you look hard enough. What matters are the memories that are made, the fans you meet and the celebration of the films that made our childhood. And our lives.
End … until the next gathering.