Earlier this month the Star Wars fandom descended upon Orlando, Florida for the latest Star Wars Celebration. Besides new film releases, Celebration’s have quickly become the next biggest event in the Star Wars calendar. This year’s convention certainly lived up to the hype (even with some hiccups along the way). While there were plenty of announcements, reveals, trailers, and events, the most important thing, to me at least, were the people.

While Celebration is similar to other Triple-A conventions like San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con, it has plenty of things that allow it to stand out on its own. Obviously the biggest thing is that it has one sole subject matter while other conventions are an amalgam of other pop culture franchises and properties. What this allows for is an attendee-ship that automatically has something in common with each other. Everyone you look at while at Celebration is a Star Wars fan. The experience you have there is unique and most often one of a kind.

This time around was my second time attending a Celebration, on top of trips to the other Triple-A conventions I mentioned before, which makes navigating around and achieving what you want to do much easier. Surprising to most I went into the convention without a planned schedule of panels and things to do. I’ve learned that having a brief plan in your head of some things you would like to see or attend is good, half of the fun is taking in the spectacle itself and letting it come to you. I was lucky enough to have stayed in a hotel that was literally, directly across the street from the convention center. What this allowed for was simple and easy decisions for the headlining panels.

After learning of the disaster it was waiting overnight and trying to get into the convention center in the morning, we decided to use that to our advantage. Some quick thinking and a store bought HDMI cable later, we created our own streaming ballroom using our hotel room. Gathering friends that had either tried to get to the panels or some who didn’t even bother, we instead streamed the 40th Anniversary, The Last Jedi, and Rebels season four panels right to the TV. Watching The Last Jedi teaser trailer while sitting on the hotel beds and clutching onto one another will be something I will never forget.

All of this leads to a greater question worth answering. Why do we go to conventions in the first place?

Obviously there are several factors in this equation, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. The feeling of camaraderie, witnessing a spectacle that is bigger than yourself, and being isolated from the “real world” are some of the biggest drivers. In most of our daily lives we don’t have the opportunity for large group experiences. Whether you go to work or school, your day to day routines are limited to yourself and a limited group of others. Going to conventions allows us all the chance to break that pattern and extend ourselves with a very large number of other people. With Star Wars Celebration, there is a commonality between yourself and the other attendees that gives you a bond you don’t find everyday. Being with like-minded friends enjoying panels, exploring the show floor, and partaking in after hours festivities reinforces friendships and makes new memories.

One of the more far reaching aspects of conventions is being the target audience of the specific programming. While the news that breaks from these conventions is broadcast worldwide, being in attendance gives you a truly unique and once in a lifetime experience. Surprises and unexpected occurrences are part of what make conventions worth it. This Celebration included a live performance from John Williams during the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars panel and a surprise appearance from Daisy Ridley during the Heroines of Star Wars panel. These are the sort of things that draw us to go to conventions.

Large conventions like Celebration, SDCC, and NYCC usually span over four days, with San Diego even featuring a preview night before starting proper. The way these are laid out enable attendees to briefly turn off their daily lives and enjoy in something special. No matter your age, career, or location come into play during these kind of conventions. The escape into the convention world serves as a way to let you unwind and put yourself first. Taking time away from the daily grind is extremely beneficial to ones well-being and attending a convention is certainly one of the best ways to achieve that sort of balance.

What are your thoughts on conventions? Do you feel the draw for the things I mentioned here or for other reasons all together? Feel free to comment below or email in.

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