The Force is Strong in Orlando

Outside the Convention Center

With the political convention circuit in full swing, the very sight of the word convention is usually enough to send me running to the hills … except that I live here in Orlando. Rapidly on it’s way to becoming the convention capital of the world, Orlando is currently, #4 behind Chicago,  Las Vegas and Washington, DC (metro area), it is the perfect choice if you want to encourage people who put families first to attend your event. It is a little know fact that Orlando has the second largest convention center in the US behind Chicago.

This huge banner was available for everyone to take their picture against

The huge AT-AT in the lobby

It is not surprising that the variety of conventions here in Orlando run from the sublime to ridiculous and all points in between.

Chalk drawing promoting The Clone Wars that took 4 days to complete

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the 4-day Celebration VI … a convention devoted to all things Star Wars and attended by over 35,000 people. That’s pretty close to the size of the RNC in Tampa if you are looking for a comparison.

Some of the lines for panels were huge

Star Wars fans from all over the world flocked, or would that be jetted into Orlando, to enjoy this bi-annual event. It was also attended by most of the major stars from each of the 6 movies including Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, as well as a special unannounced visit from creator George Lucas himself.

Fan made costume of Chewbacca, the guy really was that tall

This convention had so many events and panels and activities that it needed its own App as well as a 90 page souvenir program and a handy dandy 46 page “Insider’s Guide.”

Without these guides or the App you would be left bewildered by scale of the event.

The amazing thing about Star Wars is the appeal. No movie franchise in history has shown the longevity, fanaticism, cross global and ageless appeal as well as the financial muscle from it’s merchandising.

Decked out in convention merchandise

I saw the movies when they were first released and I consider myself a fan, but not a FAN.  I attended this convention with my 8-year-old son who of course, wasn’t old enough when any of these movies were released to get caught up in the hype, but somehow, without any prompting from me gravitated to them at an early age and now is what I call a FAN. Ask him about everything from the original trilogy to the current Clone Wars cartoon and he will wax lyrical for hours. Proof of the  power of this event for children is that he attended for 3 of the 4 days and never once complained about all the walking, waiting, and of course the endless requests from me and complete strangers for him to pose for photos.

Posing in his Savage Oppress costume

He even attracted his own fan club. Star Wars fans are all ages.

We attended a sneak premiere of the Season 5 opener of The Clone Wars that will air on Sepetmber 29th, complete with complimentary popcorn and drinks; watched a parade of home-made R2-D2s; marveled at fan made replica set pieces from all over the world; stopped several times in the specially appointed family rooms and Lego build areas; posed for pictures with various costumed Star Wars characters (Star Wars fans are by far the best cosplayers in the universe. Their attention to detail and love of the characters are astounding. Look up 501st Legion if you want an example); and in the evening I attended a spectacular themed party event from Moshi-Moshi Productions called THE DARKSIDE GROTTO STRIKES BACK where guests and performers fully embraced the Star Wars universe.

R2-D2 in fancy dress

The red carpet event for The Clone Wars premiere

Boys will be Jedis

There was so much to do and so many freebies given away (I was so glad I brought a backpack), that we never even scratched the surface, of course that could be because we spent so much time shopping the booths which included heavy hitters like Disney, Hasbro and Lego … in fact, for every $50 we spent with Lego we got a free pass to Legoland (we now have 4). One of the top shopping attractions was to have yourself frozen in carbonite by Disney’s D-Tech division. You are photographed in 3-D and then created in a statue replicating the famous Han Solo scene from Episodes V and VI


Lego building provided a break for me

The family room provided crafts for the children

Daddy gets to party at The Darkside

We didn’t spend any time at all waiting for autographs or to meet the celebrities, just because there was so much else to do and we didn’t feel we missed out by not doing it.

This is the second time in a row that Celebration has come to Orlando, but given the passion and attendance numbers, it would surprise me if it didn’t return again in 2014 after next year’s visit to Germany.

Special replica scenes were set up all over

Han Solo in carbonite

Jabba’s Palace

This snowspeeder was built by a Belgian fan group and shipped over for photo ops

Orlando is definitely one place to vacation if you are a Star Wars fan … with Star Tours and The Jedi Academy permanently based at Disney’s Hollywood Studios along with May’s Star Wars Weekends and the possibility of CelebrationVII returning there is something for even the most hardcore of fans … and after all your exertions fighting the Darkside or attending any convention, you will find no better way to relax and unwind than in one of our Boutique Vacation Homes … get home, stretch out, jump in the pool and get ready for the next day when you can do it all again.

There were many toys … vintage and new available

So that’s how R2 worked

Meeting artists and authors was a big thrill. This personalized book is a great read for Fathers and Sons

Wait a minute. I feel a disruption. Something big is heading this way. Watch this space.

The Custom Car show featured the levels of devotion that Star Wars garners

Devotion to your character … these stilts were very uncomfortable

May the Force be with Us.

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