Celebrating Star Wars in Chicago at the Star Wars Celebration

Disclaimer: The Fandads received press passes to cover Star Wars Celebration Chicago. All thoughts, opinions, tears of joy, and enormous feelings of happiness are our own.  

 Chicago was the center of the Star Wars universe and the Fandads were there for all 5 action and not-so-action packed days. So what did we see? What did we do and who did we meet? Keep reading to find out.

Day 1

The great thing about Day 1 was that there were no panels. If you follow us on Instagram you would have read about the issue we had with our badges. Once that issue was resolved, I went straight to the store line to get my shopping done and taken care of before the busy week began. That was my entire day one, standing in line waiting to buy some exclusive merchandise.
The great thing about being in a line for that long of a time is you start talking to the people around you and sharing stories about Star Wars. The group that I became friends with were from Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The father from Denver was part of the Denver 501st Mountain Garrison. He attended the first Star Wars Celebration in Denver, like me, and he was there with his two sons to experience this one. The other two people in our little group were a brother and sister. They had some cool stories about meeting Stan Lee, Weird Al, and Star Wars too.

Instead of writing about what else happened on my first day, here is a short recap video.

Day 2

Friday morning the feeling in McCormick place was palpable. The big panel that day was the Episode IX panel. We already knew from the description that J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, the director and producer, were going to be in attendance. What we didn’t know was that the host for the panel was going to be Stephen Colbert and most of the cast was going to be there. 
This was a lottery only event and we did not get passes to this lottery, but it did not stop us from trying to get in. I ran into a friend who tried to get me in with him, but things didn’t pan out and I ended up watching the panel from the convention floor with hundreds of other fans. It was great watching it in the room and cheering as the actors came on stage. 

One of my favorite moments of the panel was seeing the interaction between Oscar Issac and John Boyega. They really played up their friendship/relationship for the crowd and hearing Oscar Issac say R2-D2 in Spanish which is something my family members would call me: Arturito, brought me back to being that little kid that everyone knew loved Star Wars. While hearing that was awesome, the best moment was the crowd’s reaction to Kelly Marie Tran. My eyes teared up as the crowd chanted her name and seeing her become emotional on the stage was just beautiful. For all the grief that she went through by a small band of toxic Star Wars fans, it was great to see the real fans show her love at the panel.

Then after the panel came the moment that everyone was waiting for: our first look at a teaser trailer for Episode 9, which we found out was titled: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

This video captures my experience while watching the trailer on the celebration floor. I was all the way on the top right near the Rubies Costume store.

After the trailer, Ian McDiarmid came out and in his Palpatine voice demanded to “Roll it again” and they replayed the trailer. I mean, are you really not going to listen to the Emperor?

Day 3

I was still riding solo on the third day. The other half of Fandads was unable to attend with me and my friend, who I went to the first celebration with, was working one of the booths at the show. I stopped to watch the Galaxy’s Edge presentation and found out some cool stuff about this new attraction.

You can pilot the Millenium Falcon in Smuggler’s Run and the damage on the ship will be determined on how well you fly the ship. That’s not all, everyone that is in the cockpit has a role to play and if you all work together the Falcon can come back without a scratch, but if not the interior of the ship will be damaged. I would really like to see how they pull this off because they said that lights will be hanging off, sparks will be going off around you, and panels will be hanging off the walls. Seeing the Falcon in disarray after your adventure will give you the experience of actually flying it in combat.

At the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge booth they had photo-ops, an actual car(?) from one of the rides to take a picture, a look at their merchandise they will sell at the park, and a confessional booth. Why did they have confessional booths you ask? The booths were there to give visitors at Star Wars Celebration a chance to record a short 30-second video of why they love Star Wars or what Star Wars means to them. 
All of the videos that were made at Star Wars Celebration will be saved and added to Jedi Holocrons that will be at Galaxy’s Edge and visitors to the park will be able to see these confessionals. That’s right friends, we are part of Galaxy’s Edge and it is cool to know that someone is going to see my confessional and know what Star Wars means to me and my family. 
Day 3 was also cool because I got to meet Dave Filoni and Doug Chiang. They were just walking around and I stopped and asked them if it was ok to get a picture with them. I thanked Dave for Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. When I was taking a picture with Doug Chiang, I thanked him for the Naboo Starfighter. I still think that is one of the coolest looking ships in the Star Wars saga. 
Day 4
My daughter attended Day 4 with me and we started the day at the Mandalorian panel. Somehow, Chicago wanted to give those attending the Celebration an interactive experience and with the help of the weather, everyone was able to see what it might have felt like if we were on Hoth. Snow in April? Yep! 

The panel started with Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, and Kathleen Kennedy explaining how the project came together and then they bought out the stars of the show. Let me tell you that the audience went wild when Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, and Carl Weathers came out on the stage and took their seats. It was funny seeing Carl go to “Apollo Creed” mode when he started yelling out “I want you! I want you!” and pointing to people in the audience. 
Obviously, there was a lot of secrecy before the show was created and when Pedro received a call about a “Star Wars Project” he would have been happy just being a robot or bug in the background. When he was told that he would be The Mandalorian, he broke down and could not believe it. What is really fantastic about this show is that you can see the love that the cast and crew have for making the show the best it can be. Gina Corano mentioned that during one day, Jon Favreau started tearing up while explaining to them the importance of the scene they were filming. It was moments like that that made her feel really good about being a part of this show. 
While the audience streaming at home saw a blank screen for a few minutes, those in attendance saw a behind the scene reel. In this reel we saw how the Mandalorian’s ship, “The Razor’s Crest” was created along with some lighting shots of it. We saw some of the directors that are on board with the show: Bryce Dallas Howard, Deborah Chow, Taika Waititi, who voices a character on the show, and Rick Famuyiwa. After the stream was “over” Jon Faverau yelled at those leaving the arena to get back in their seats for a quick look at the show along with a sizzle reel. I don’t want to give away much but the funniest moment of the clip was a Kowakian monkey-lizard on a spitfire with another one in a cage looking really nervous. Just the footage alone made getting Disney+ a no-brainer for me.

My daughter and I walked around the show floor and tried to take advantage of all of the photo opportunities. We did have a snag when trying to get into a family workshop that ended on a sour note for my daughter and I tried to make sure that she had a great experience at the show, but this put a cloud over her day. 
Here is our Instagram post about what happened and how her experience changed the next day. 

As a parent you always try to give you children amazing life experiences. On Sunday at @starwarscelebration my daughter and I did not get into a workshop that she had her heart on attending: Porg building. The ladies at the booth were nice about telling us to try coming back later in case they have extra kits. As we walked out of the room my daughter started crying and as a father I went back in the room just to try one more time. I just asked nicely and this time the guy at the booth said “Sorry, but no.” Last thing I wanted was for my daughter to have a bad experience at her first Celebration so I tried to make her forget this experience. With the unplanned help of @paulbettany I made her chuckle through the tears (If you ever see this Paul, as one dad to another Thank you for stopping for a brief moment and telling her you’re Vision). As the tears subsided she asked if I can get her the @starwars Women of the Galaxy book. A book which I already bought as a surprise and wanted to get it signed for her. I opened up my backpack showed her the book and she was feeling a little better again. Sadly after that event she told me she doesn’t like Porgs anymore. Flash forward to the closing ceremony and you would never guess who was one of the hosts in the room we were in? @amy_geek. My daughter got excited and I told her we should try to see about meeting her after the ceremony. After the show ended we walked up to the stage, called out to Amy and then this happened! Just the smile on my daughter’s face made me want to cry tears of joy. Thank you Amy for taking the time to make a little girl’s day and to make her dad feel so happy and excited for her that he forgot to ask to take a picture with you. Maybe next time. On another happy note: my daughter loves Porgs again. If you read this far, thank you! #starwarscelebration #starwars #chicago #fandads #womenofthegalaxy #amyratcliffe #paulbettany #porgs #bethespark
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It seems that every day you, depending on where we were, we were lucky enough to run into celebrities from the Star Wars universe on the show floor. On this day we saw Alen Tudyk, Paul Bettany, the cast of The Mandalorian, Sam Witwer, Matthew Wood, Ashley Eckstein, and Joonas Suotamo. I was not able to get a picture of everyone, but I did get a video of the Mandalorian cast which you can watch here

Day 5

Day 5 was family day and the day started with my family being in two different places. My wife had a photo-op during the Phantom Menace 20th Anniversary panel, so while she went to do that, I went to the panel with my son. While we went together as a family to celebrate Star Wars we also were celebrating the birthday of our son.

My son was dressed in his X-Winger Pilot costume and his Pinklejinx birthday crown and was getting high-fives and pins from the people around him. It was pretty awesome to see how people were wishing him a Happy Birthday and making his special day even more special. An amazing thing happened while we were waiting for the Phantom Menace panel to begin.

I am part of a Star Wars Celebration Facebook group and I posted the above picture in the group showing how we were celebrating his birthday at the event. People in the group started commenting with Happy Birthday messages. One of the members of the group (Sara Z) messaged me with an extra QR code for the Lego Darth Vader exclusive. She said “I saw that it was your son’s birthday. I have a LEGO QR that they didn’t scan when I got in line….consider it a birthday gift.” How awesome is that! Like a friend of mine told me earlier in the week “Star Wars makes us fam”, and that could not be truer with a lot of the fans that I met that weekend and with the members of this group. (Sidenote: I was unable to get the LEGO Vader, because, by the time I saw her message and went to the booth, they were done for the day.)

The Phantom Menace panel was very cool and I did not expect to get so emotional when they played the teaser trailer for the movie. While sitting there with my son I saw his reaction to the pod race, Darth Maul, and Jar Jar and was just smiling the entire time. Later on, he told me he wanted to see the Phantom Menace. I think he needs to finish the original trilogy first.

There were some cool tidbits that we learned at the panel that I did not know before. Warwick Davis had three roles in the movie and Ray Park played a Naboo Soldier during the climactic battle at the end of the movie. That’s him below on the right. 

It is hard to believe that the Phantom Menace came out 20 years ago, but also the first celebration was created 20 years ago to help promote the release of The Phantom Menace. Pictures from the first celebration were shown on the screen and they showed a picture of the “Jar Jar Jam” with Ahmed Best on stage and Ray Park dancing on the stage. This was an after event party where Ahmed Best and his band were performing. I remember my friend and I did not attend, but later heard stories about how Ray Park was break dancing and how much fun everyone that was there had. Seeing how the crowd reacted to Ahmed Best was another incredible moment that I was glad to experience. 

The last thing I did at the event was an interview with my friend Ro from the new podcast, The Scarif Scuttlebutt, about what Star Wars means to me and takeaways from the event. Give them a listen and follow their podcast for some amazing Star Wars discussions.

My family and I had a fantastic time together at the Star Wars Celebration. We took some memorable pictures and just enjoyed the atmosphere at the event. It is always great to go somewhere with your family and everyone have a great experience. My wife was able to meet her favorite celebrity and get a picture with him. My daughter got her Women of the Galaxy book signed by Amy Ratcliffe. My son felt like he was the center of the universe with all the birthday wishes he received.

As for me, I was able to relive an adventure I had 20 years ago at the first Celebration in Denver with one of my best friends. I was reaffirmed that the toxicity that we experience online by so-called Star Wars fans is very small because I saw none of that at this event. I felt like a little kid again when I watched the new teaser trailer with hundreds of Star Wars fans. I did not expect to get so emotional at the event, but there was more than one moment where I was wiping tears from my eyes.

Star Wars is always going to be universal and will be around long after we are gone. I am glad that my children naturally took a liking to the saga that has given me so many great memories. After the event, my daughter started asking questions about the animated Clone Wars and wanting to watch it and finish watching Star Wars Rebels. I have watched all of those episodes, but would not mind watching them all over again with my children.

Star Wars Celebration is an event that every Star Wars fan has to attend at least once in their life. It really is a fantastic experience and reminds us that the Force will be with us, always. Hopefully, we’ll see you all again next year in Anaheim.

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