Star Wars Celebration I: The 10 Year Anniversary
Well, I was going over some pictures a few months ago trying to pick some good ones to upload to my Flickr blog when I came across pictures of my trip to Denver, CO in 1999 for the first Star Wars Celebration. While looking at them, it dawned on me that this trip happened 10 years ago this weekend. TEN YEARS!!! Man, time flies.
The Star Wars Celebration I occurred from April 30 – May 2, 1999 in Denver, CO. It was held as a “celebration” (obviously) of the original Star Wars trilogy as well as a “release party” for the new Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace (which was set to release in less than a month from that time).
At that particular time I was on a client site in Tampa and I went to the Celebration with my friends Jason Collier and Jonathan Loden. Denver had inclement weather the entire weekend so it was either rainy or sprinkling at all times. Plus, since this was the first official Star Wars convention in many years, some of the mechanics of the operation were not as well oiled a machine as you would come to see in Celebration II and Celebration III. Despite that, it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I went.
Let’s take a little photo walk through some of that weekend’s festivities.
The venue for Star Wars Celebration I was Denver’s Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. It was out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but airfield around it. The convention area in the main building was big enough, but they had trailers and portables setup in the airfield for other events and guest appearances. Above is the entrance to the main hanger where all the vendors and exhibitors laid out their wares. This was also where you could find the “Celebration Store” that sold exclusive Celebration merchandise and Star Wars toys. The Episode I figures would make their first appearance in this store for $8 a piece. The only figs left when we went through at the end of Day 1 (Friday) were Jar Jar Binks, and I wasn’t about to pay 8 bucks for a figure of Jar Jar. The rest of the figures as well as all of the toys would receive wide release in toy stores the following Sunday.
Here’s the official program. It listed out all of the events that were happening for the weekend. There were some last minute cancellations, so they had to print an addendum. Here’s the program they printed with the updated listings. This image would also be used on the official Celebration I poster.
This is the three day admission badge given to Celebration attendees. You could buy single day as well as this three day badge on the morning of each day as well as pre-ordered from the Star Wars fan club. However the one, two and three day badges sold on each morning sold out quickly during these “day of” sales. There were 9 other badges besides this including the Friday badge with Obi-Wan, the Saturday badge with Qui-Gon and the Sunday badge with Anakin. See all of the other badges here.
Here’s some pics of Jon, Jason and I at the Celebration. In the first pic Jon Loden and I are sitting in Tent B waiting for a Star Wars celebrity to take the stage for a Q & A. Like I said, it rained like crazy that whole weekend so that’s why we looked DRENCHED in water. I’m holding a copy of Star Wars Insider to get it autographed by whomever showed up. In the second pic, Jon, Jason and I (right to left) are standing in line waiting to get into one of the Tents in order to see a celebrity Q & A. The second pic was taken either the second or the third day of the Celebration. I can tell because Jason is wearing the Star Wars Celebration hat he bought from the store on day one.
What was interesting about this first Star Celebration was that there wasn’t any sort of “Autograph Alley”. Usually with these conventions there is a common area set up for you to get all the actors to sign autographs. However at Celebration I, the celebrities were only doing “Q & A” type interviews on two separate stages. After the interview, they also took questions from the audience (much like San Diego Comic Con and their “panels”). Years later, Celebration II in Indianapolis would have the roped off autograph area as well as many more celebrities to get an autograph from, but not at Celebration I. If you wanted to get an autograph you had to run up to the stage after the Q & A and hold up your stuff for them to sign. Most of them stayed for an extra 5 minutes or so and signed stuff. The first day it was very easy to get autographs, but by the last day, everyone had caught on to the “run up to the stage” routine and it became increasingly difficult to get your stuff signed.
Some of the celebrities that attended:
The actor who played C-3PO, Anthony Daniels (in the gold coat), was the host on the main stage. He interviewed all the celebrities. Here you see him asking Prequel trilogy producer, Rick McCallum, questions about the new movie.
All of us flew out on Sunday evening. I went back to Tampa and got in a little after midnight. I drove down to the local Toys R Us that was by where I worked and walked in around 12:30am or 12:45am. I was there to pick up the previously mentioned new Star Wars toys that went on sale at midnight. Most of the crowds had dispersed so I was able to pick up most of the toys that night. I finished the ones I missed at a Target the next morning.
That weekend would begin the new wave of Star Wars toy collecting that continues to this day. And in three more weeks, we would have the first new Star Wars movie in 16 years.
Happy 10 years Star Wars Celebration I!
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