If you’ve been reading this site, or following me on Twitter the last few months, you know that I was prepping for a trip to Orlando for Star Wars Celebration V. Finally, the time for my trip arrived. I left from work and slept at the airport. I’d planned to do a lot of writing – blogs and other things – during my downtime, but ended up sleeping during all of my travel and airport time, was really only in the hotel room long enough for a few hours sleep each night and didn’t spend a lot of time in lines.
The first leg of my trip was fairly uneventful, but the second was and really got me pumped for the event! In the departure lounge in Montreal, I met a trio of friends – two Canadians and an Aussie – who were heading to the same place as me! We were even sitting in the same row. There ended up being six of us – all sitting together on the plane. That was really great and totally random (no seat swapping required!).
I had a few things planned for the first afternoon and evening in Orlando, but decided I didn’t want to rush around, so I just prepped for the convention, got to know my roommates Kathy and Sandy and, most importantly, got a good night’s sleep before the fun began.
The madness began at 6am for me. I worked all day Thursday, starting at 7am, doing registration. It was a nice, slow start to the convention and not really as hectic as I expected. Luckily, most people had already received their badges in the mail. We
had fun in the slow times, chatting and getting more and more pumped for the show. The boss man (Darth Vadar) even came by to check on us. There were no strangulations during my shift though, thank goodness.
My replacement was a bit late to show, so I had just enough time to race to the Ralph McQuarrie gallery to pick up some trading cards (I managed to get six of the nine (I think) cards in the set) before heading into the exhibit hall for my shift at the Rebel Legion table. The set up was great and the snow speeder (as well as the other vehicles and sets replicas set up around the convention hall) that were made and SHIPPED from the Belgian Rebel Legion Base and 501st Garrison. I can’t imagine shipping those things to Florida and back – major props to the Belgians!
My afternoon volunteer shift with Official Pix involved a bit of line control, but mostly Guest Escort. This involved sitting with the guest at his or her table, keeping track of autograph tickets, chatting with them and the fans, taking photos and generally anything the guest would like you to do. I started off with George Roubicek (Commander Praji) for a couple of hours and then moved on to Matt Lanter (90210 and the voice of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars) and Ashley Eckstein (the voice of Ahsoka Tano in The Clone Wars).
After work, I’d hoped to check out the TFN party, but decided, again, that I didn’t want to be rushing around, so I relaxed and changed and made my way over the Fans of the ForceCast party which was one of the highlights (along with our unofficial ForceCast after-party Sunday night) of the weekend. It was great to catch up with all the friends I’ve met on the ForceCast forums and in Dallas. The party was well put together by JediShua and friends with great food, prizes, entertainment (with Glen Nelson) and most importantly, friends. We also had several artists as well as Dave Filoni and some of the Clone Wars voice actors in attendance. A fun night, we didn’t want it to end! We first got ‘kicked out’ of the room so the staff could clean up… and then got kicked out of the hotel bar. That was probably a good thing as I didn’t get into bed until 3am and had to be up again at 6am for my Friday shift!
Friday was suppose to be a totally free day, but I volunteered for an extra shift to get a fourth shirt and also get in early. I just worked until the convention officially opened for the day. I visited the Ben Burtt panel, which was really interesting; I’m definitely looking forward to his new book. After that, I checked out the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit – a must see for any Star Wars or art fan! After that, I finally took some time to walk through the Exhibit Hall and managed to squeak into the Mark Hamill panel. It was a great hour; I think he could have spoken all afternoon with no prompting from host Jay Laga’aia. I got in my one and only collector’s panel before meeting up with one of my roomies and heading back to the hotel where we both got ready for the 501st party.
It was a good party – if you’re into REAL parties that seem more like a rave than a have-fun-with-your-friends kind of party like the ForceCast party was. Despite the fact that it wasn’t really my kind of party, it wasn’t bad. Lots of swag, a few ForceCast people and met some fellow Canadian Rebel Legionnaires. Seth Green and other celebrities were in attendance.
Saturday, I started off volunteering bright and early, again. This time I was working line control and ushering for the much anticipated George Lucas panel, hosted by Jon Stewart. One of my goals for the weekend had been to at least see The Maker from afar. It happened three times over the weekend: the first had been the previous morning while I was working in the back of the store as he was touring it, I was in the main stage for his entire panel and I saw him again later that night at Disney.
When my shift was over, I had about two or three hours to spend at the convention. I spent most of that time in the exhibit and autograph halls and checked out the ForceCast live show for a bit. I left before the convention closed for the day and passed the Robot Chicken panel. I really wanted to check it out, but, to continue with my mission of not rushing any more than needed, I managed to pull myself away from it and made my way to the hotel. I relaxed for a bit and changed into some shorts and then headed back to the convention centre to grab my first and only bit of con food for the weekend for supper – I lived off PB & J sandwiches the rest of the time – and waited for some friends so we could all head to Disney together.
We took a shuttle from the convention centre to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to attend the Last Tour to Endor event that had been set up for the convention and to mark the beginning of the end of the Star Tours ride. That ride was our first stop.
I wasn’t sure about it because, knowing my aversion to rides, several people cautioned me about it. I decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would ride it even if I ended up feeling sick for the rest of the night. It was awesome! I could have ridden it all night! It’s a shame that they’re going to modernize it. Hopefully it’s just as good as the original (though that’s never possible).
Once we got out of the ride, I made the mistake of doing my shopping then… and ended up standing in line for at least an hour while my friends went for food. It was bad because I could have had the run of the almost empty store when we rode the ride again later in the evening; turned out okay though, for two reasons. First, not long after I got in line, George Lucas came by the small stage nearby and had a lightsaber duel with Jedi Mickey. I was too short to see (and didn’t want to lose my place in the very long line) but my friends were able to get some great photos and video. The line was also good because our next stop was the Indiana Jones stunt show which, for the night, was a really great Indy Jones/Star Wars crossover show. The delay meant that we missed the showing we’d planned on going to and so were at the second showing… with George Lucas in the audience and Anthony Daniels & Set Green on stage! The show itself was great; all the iconic pieces of Indy and The Wars in one great performance.
Afterwards, we explored the park a bit and my group went on some rides while I guarded the bags and then we finished up by watching the awesome Star Wars inspired fireworks show as only Disney can do!
Sunday was the last day of Star Wars Celebration 5. : ( I got to sleep in a bit – I didn’t need to be on shift until 930am with Official Pix and spent the morning with Tim Rose. That was a blast! I had about an hour and a half to do any last minute shopping/exploring/autographs before my final shift – which was basically worthless aside from meeting my new roomie. My weekend roommates left during the day and I found someone in the same situation to split that last night’s cost with. We happened to be working together for the afternoon so that worked out well.
After we finished our shift and she settled into the hotel room and we’d both freshened up, we headed out with the ForceCast gang that was still in town for an unofficial little after party at UNO Chicago Grill – complete with Blue Milk! WE did this in Dallas last year and it really was, with the FC party, the best part of the weekend and the reason I go to these things!
I volunteered for Reed, the Rebel Legion and Official Pix. I had about a day and a half to take in the Convention and unfortunately spent a lot of that time just relaxing. I made several hard choices – the longest line I stood in for anything was Peter Mayhew’s autograph. I managed to use the Drop Off service to get Mark and Carrie’s autos. I missed out on some panels I wanted to see, I didn’t get to do the lego mural and diaroma like I wanted to. I would definitely volunteer again, but I would NOT work the last shift of the Con. At Fan Days, I had the bittersweet experience of trying to drag out the experience, meandering to the front door with my friends, wishing it wasn’t over. This time I worked two hours after the Con closed and just wanted the damn thing over with!
I chose mostly early shifts for Reed, not just so I could get in early, but because it means I missed less of the Con. I worked the minimum three shifts: Thursday 7-11, Saturday 7-1 (a bit longer because of the Main Event) and Sunday 3-7 and added a Friday morning shift: 7-10am.
My perks included a different T-shirt each day (that’s one reason why I worked the extra shift on Friday) and the money back for the 4day badge…
Would I work with Reed again? Yes, but only because I get the money back for my badge. If money is no object next time around, I might pass. There were also shifts available Tuesday, Wednesday and from 7-11pm Thurs-Sat. If my schedule allowed (parties and when I arrived in town), I would work these shifts instead and that would mean less of the Con missed.
I worked the minimum two shifts for Opix. Thursday 2-7 and Sunday 9:30-1:30. The perks included a t-shirt, pin, and one autograph per hour worked. The autos were completely random – I got an envelope at the end of my last shift with my 9 in it and even got two of Amy Allen.
Would I work with Opix again? In a heartbeat : ) The perks may not be as good as Reed (though if you were to sell all your autos instead of keeping them, you’d make more money AND you don’t have to wait for them) but it was a very pleasant, fun experience.
Now that I’ve worked for both of the major organizers, I know what to expect and I would plan my schedule better and choose different jobs.
I missed a lot of what I wanted to see – like more collector’s panels and some author panels – but I still had a blast! I also met my goals: see The Maker in the flesh, no unnecessary rushing around and hang out with my FC peeps…. And I only went slightly over budget.
Check out TheForce.net for more reports from the Con!