Aug 29, 2010

Star Wars Celebration V Review: Day 3 - Part 2: The 501st Group Photo

(click to enlarge...see if you can find me!)

For me I can pinpoint the exact moment when I knew I had to go to Star Wars Celebration V. There were rumors, will it be Orlando, will it be Chicago, Steve Sansweet kept playfully dancing around the subject in any of his interviews. It was October of last year in a Spirit Halloween store. While taking my kids to check out costumes by the front door they had a display, win CV tickets. How can you have a contest if there hasn't even been an announcement for one? There wasn't even an official logo on it. But they did use a great trick to get kids and adults hooked into putting entering the contest, a photo of hundreds of imperial costumes... it was the Celebration 4 501st Group Photo seen below.

(The 501st Celebration 4 Group Photo)

I would sit there and stare at it like a kid in a candy shop window, trying to figure out all the costumes. Hey there is a Grevious, and a Darth Traya, that Darth Maul is short, I could probably pull it off. I actually hunted down the photo online and looked at it at home. Eventually they announced that Celebration will be in Orlando, right here in Florida, and that got me really excited to go. As I said before I want to build a costume and since I go big, I went with the wampa. I wanted to make something that would be noticeable and it was for my love of the movies and wanted to do something to give back. I had looked up before if a wampa was 501st eligible and figured it would be a long shot. I thought to myself, damn I would love to be part of that photo that sold me on going to CV.

So fast forward to Saturday at Celebration, the day of the group photo. We finally made it outside of the 501st room in the little hallway that we found that we could suit up without a crowd and rested for a bit. Although this was away from the crowds we still got traffic anytime someone saw the suit and even had a reporter come over and ask some questions. We started to hear the call out to the legion members from the atrium below and knew it was time for the Wampa to make it's appearance. We got dressed and headed to the near by elevator.

As soon as the elevator doors opened and I stepped foot into the opening where everyone was assembling, a roar came over the crowd..... the Wampa had arrived. I wasn't even in full suit, my arms were out and had the head in my hand but the crowd and the fellow 501st members didn't care, they just erupted. It was an amazing feeling, the 6 months of building, the hard times the day before the pain I was in wearing it for the 3rd day in a row, every hardship I felt for the suit just melted away and pride overtook everything. The goal of the suit was to give back to Lucasfilm and the fans and this was the moment I knew that the suit was a success.

All weekend when someone complimented me about the suit, I tried to be as humble. I tried to redirect any praise towards the good deeds that the 501st did. I didn't want anyone to get the impression that I was out for personal glory or to out do any other costume makers or prop builders and take any attention from the stars of the movies that were there. But at that moment I felt like one of those stars. But the minute I stepped into my place for the photo any feeling of individual accomplishments meant nothing to me. I was part of something much bigger.

(Hyper getting a nose full of wampa butt)

I am a firm believer in the power of group thought. Each one of these brothers and sisters standing next to me have built their suits for the same reason. They love the Star Wars movies, they do it for the fans and many of them built their suits to be part of the good will and charity that the 501st represents. Our charter does not allow us to accept payment for appearances. In return we ask the hosts to make a charitable donation. This is why you can understand my feeling that you really become part of a greater good. So my suit is big, it dosen't make it any better than those hundreds of other 501st costumes next to me, each one of them deserved to have that same reaction from the crowd when they took the floor. Some of these guys have 20, 50, 100 troops under their belt, take our new buddy Craig "Hyper" Provine who was two rows behind me, he has over 160 of them. I want you to take a moment and look at the list of the troops he has made, all the great causes, he is what I inspire to be. This is what the 501st does all around the world. You could feel that sense of pride in the air and it was humbling to be part of it.

There were chants of 5 0 1.. there was the collective chants of character names when they were coming in a little late, my favorite was GREEEEDO!!!!!! When the celebrities in the pics arrived like Adrianne Curry and Dave Filoni the legion and the crowd started hooting and hollering, but the biggest cheer of them all came when the founder of the 501st, Albin Johnson arrived, the fans probably didn't know him but boy did the legion, the crowd soon caught on and cheered with us. I took a look at the crowd form my high vantage point. The stairs were filled with photographers, there were 2 more levels going up with people hanging off of the ledges. We were the biggest thing going on at that convention, it was time.

We were set for our photo though it took a few attempts, step forward, buckets off, buckets on, buckets off again... wait a bit, buckets on, take a few more steps forward, then once again buckets off. I did get accused of cheating once when they called buckets off, everyone held them high... well I got big arms, I held those about 3 feet higher than everyone else, it was a good laugh, but I did follow along with everyone else the next time and held the wampa head high. Once we were done the crowd showed their appreciation and the legion gave one big hoot and broke position.

Now all of the individual 501st detachments to get their group photos, the Imperial Officers, the F.I.D.S.(First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment) and all the rest, but the Wampa really doesn't fit any of these detachments, and I do regret not staying around, because I am sure many of the individuals would of loved to have my picture taken with them, but someone else had bigger plans for me, and pretty much kidnapped the Wampa as soon as the photo ended.....

and that comes with Day 3 - Part 3: LEGOs, and Droids and Rebels.. Oh My.

Stay tuned

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