Roughly a year ago I purchased my 4-day pass for Celebration Orlando, thus fulfilling a dream I’d had for years. My buddy Matt and I had talk about attending a Celebration for a seriously long time beforehand. In fact, if I remember correctly, we had made something of a pact that we would indeed go, and that not doing so would diminish our honor in some way. Sadly, we did literally nothing to prepare ourselves in any way to get there. That all changed last year.
The moment it was announced that Celebration 2017 would be taking place in Orlando the gears started turning. Orlando was on the East Coast. I’m on the East Coast. Hmm. But surely I couldn’t go by myself. Matt and my brother Larry had to join me. So I told myself if they couldn’t go then it just wasn’t in the cards. So I called Matt and proposed going to Celebration. He basically said ‘duh’. My enthusiasm growing, I called Larry. His reply was an energetic ‘yes’. Holy crap, we’re going to Celebration.
So, the intervening year of waiting went by far more quickly than we could have imagined. Soon, April was here. Our individual journeys to Florida were prepared. Our planning for activities was complete. And then, Thursday April 13th arrived and we walked into the Orange County Convention Center like three starry-eyed children. Now if you want the details on what we were up to and saw while there you can check out our podcast Home One Hangout #’s 20-24. But what I want to share is what blew me away while we were there.
The estimated number of Celebration Orlando attendees that I’ve seen sits at around 70,000. That is basically an army. If you’d armed us with lightsabers we could have taken over most of Florida, just saying. After the two panels we attended on day one, the three of us decided to split and wander through the awesomeness that exists when you cram ten pounds of Star Wars into a five pound bag. And here is what I saw: family.
70,000 people came from across the globe to this one place to celebrate the one thing they have in common, their love of Star Wars. I knew that out of everyone I saw, I likely differed from them greatly, and they from everyone else. We probably didn’t share the same beliefs, political ideology, or social ideas. But none of that was on the table. We were there for our common fandom, and that is what binds us together, to borrow a phrase from Yoda. People laughed, cheered, and cried together and it was awesome. I saw fans who had never met engage in conversation immediately after joining a line together for a panel. Regular fans became celebrities when they cosplayed and had countless pictures of them. Friendships were forged. It was a gathering for the ages.
I think the “community” aspect of our fandom is something that is lost on most people. We aren’t just a group of people that happens to like a movie. Star Wars is something that brings us together. It transcends simple fandom and becomes a family. I for one, am a better person for being a part of this family. Since becoming a podcaster that circle of family and friends has grown even more and it’s just amazing. So I’m extremely grateful for Star Wars, not just for opening an entire galaxy for me, but also for forging friendships I otherwise would not have had. So thanks everybody. You rock. The Force is certainly with you.