This past weekend Chicago had its first-ever Star Wars celebration festival. This year happened to be the 20th anniversary of this event, which is held every 1-3 years in different locations around the world. This event is a great place for Star Wars fans to get together, cosplay as their favorite character from the franchise, see celebrities from the films in-person, and pick up exclusive merchandise. This year's event was one of the longest celebrations ever, running five days from April 11th through the 15th, and fans could even pick up their swag bags on Wednesday to start off their weekend. Usually the first day of any con is low attendance not this con! People from all over the country and the world are at this convention. Major Star Wars groups such as 501st Legion and Rebel Legion are here to network, trade pins and patches, and connect!
The big hit on Thursday was the SWC Celebration Store. It promised rare exclusives that you can get no where else. Patrons were waiting in line since 6am. The store does not open until 1:00 PM! The line snakes all around the McCormick center. On the SWC group page it was reported people were waiting up to 5 hours to get into that store. The exhibit hall is what the majority want to enter. Big name shops such as Funko and Hasbro hold a lottery. Winner of the lottery win a CHANCE to buy in their store. If you don’t have a ticket you cannot enter the store. A dozen or so shops offer exclusive pins and patches. Most are sold out immediately because they shops cap after 100 sales. There is quite a bit to see as well as buy, with scenery for photos, an art gallery, gaming dioramas and demos, and previews of Disney's Galaxy's Edge and upcoming VR game!
The convention also have big name guest where fans and get a photo with and autographs. Only a handful of celebrities arrived on Thursday so the lines and crowds were not bad.
Day 2 of SWC was arguably the biggest day. Hundreds of people were waiting in line from 6am. No, not to shop in the Celebration store inside... but outside around the Wintrust building for the first big panel - the Star Wars Eps. 9 panel. This panel was only available for lottery winners. Everyone else can stream it or watch it on the con floor. The panel had Stephen Colbert As MC. The major cast and JJ Abrams showed up to answer questions. It was an amazing group of people. Colbert asked some “hard hitting” questions and everyone jokingly dodged them. It was very entertaining. A big moment was when they introduced Kelly Marie Tran, everyone stood up and chanted her name. She was very emotional. Of course at the end of the panel it was time to reveal the Trailer and the new name of the movie. The trailer showed off the cast new look, hinted a few things that drove theorist wild, and revealed the name at the end - The Rise Of Skywalker The stadium and the con floor stood and cheered! Later in the day, there were surprise interviews on Galaxy stage, right in the middle of the convention floor. One by one the cast that was part of the Ep. 9 panel came on stage to be interviewed for a few minutes. This was the only way non lottery tickets attendees could see their favorite stars in person. Afterwards a few of them came on the floor to sign or take photos with fans! These two events were hands-down the best part of the day. Friday also boasted the first day where many of the exhibitor lottery tickets could be redeemed. Very long lines were seen throughout the floor due to attendees picking up items. Many strong cosplays were out and about as well. There were many group photos shoots. The costume groups had some cool shoots and even did a parade around the con floor! Despite the extremely long line for the Ep. 9 panel, it was another amazing day at SWCC!
Saturday was a bit more subdued, with fewer big announcements and celebrity appearances. The floor was packed, with Saturday being one of the busiest days. With the previous day's announcement about Episode 9, Saturday was a bit more subdued. Many people decided to hit the convention floor that day, leading to some crowding.
On Sunday, a lucky few got to get a glimpse of the upcoming live-action TV series, The Mandalorian. The trailer for this has been kept something of a secret since, and was not even re-shown later for SWC guests, as many of the other trailers were. Sunday was also one of the few--if not only--day at a Star Wars Celebration to see snowfall. Let's call it "Hoth Day". The snow kept some fans away, but made for some amazing cosplay pics with the all the snow troopers around.
Though, luckily by Monday, the snow melted and the sun came out to deliver some nice weather for the final day of the convention. This was a more subdued day that saw fewer big events, but there was still a lot going on. Though the closing ceremony and the Phantom Menace 20th anniversary panel were packed, the lines weren't as bad as events earlier in the weekend. And attendees were able to just walk into Warwick Davis' Short Stories panel, in which he discussed his career from Star Wars, to Willow, and even the Harry Potter franchise.
The event capped off nicely with the closing ceremony, which was viewable from the various stages around the convention, each featuring speakers that the camera cut to throughout. This was a good way to see some of the things you may have missed earlier in the weekend, including a cosplay montage, and showings of some of the trailers that debuted at panels at the convention--including the Episode 9 and Clone Wars trailers, but not The Mandalorian, unfortunately. The event capped off with the big moment--the announcement of the next Star Wars Celebration, which will be in Anaheim, California in August of 2020. Start planning, Star Wars fans!