GUEST BLOG: The Star Wars Weekends That Almost Wasn’t

Written by Matthew Clifton

“I think I’m skipping this year’s Weekends.”

That’s what I told my best friend. Blasphemy, right? There’s definitely no shortage of activities this year for this Florida fanboy. Honestly, there was always something going on this year during ALL the Weekends. Tree sales, family gatherings, birthdays, holidays. May is always hectic for me. 

Good thing I’m adaptable.

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Weekend número uno!

I had work and had promised to help for a weekend tree sale. So it was Friday or nothing. No problem.

Thursday evening. Off from work at 6:30, I hit the road and got to Hollywood Studios at 8pm.

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I lugged my lawn chair through the parking lot to the entrance of the park where the autograph lines were already set up for the next day. This is one of my favorite things, if not my favorite thing about SWW (Star Wars Weekends). I love “camping out” in the signature lines for SWW. Something I started doing on a whim one year. Now I do it every year. Most of the people who do it know each other. I’ve made some great friends doing so.

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That night I was there for Ahmed Best. Wasn’t to sure how popular his sig would be, so I decided to play it safe and I am glad I did. He was a popular one. By morning, his line had stretched to the boat dock. With a 10 o’clock FastPass for a guaranteed signature, I was set.

 

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I was dying to meet Vanessa Marshall that day but the rules of the celebrity FastPasses are one FastPass per person and I already had one for Ahmed. I decided to chance it for a standby. If a celeb has any time left over in their set, they’ll take some standbys. That changed when a Cast Member gave me a wristband and FastPass for a guaranteed sig in the evening. She said they had some leftovers from this morning. I was ecstatic! It truly made my day. 10 o’clock rolled around and I got Ahmed Best to sign my Clone Wars poster that I’ve been working on. Eleven signatures strong and still growing. The Rebels panel was a big highlight. Seeing the new footage with Hera was really awesome.

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Eventually it came time to meet Vanessa Marshall. I’m always a bit nervous meeting new celebs. No clue how they are around new fans. I quickly found out just how awesome she was. She’s definitely one of us. Afterwards, it was time for me to zip on home. Weekend One was over for me. Endorphins were running high. I just kept wondering, how could I top today? Little did I know the best was yet to come.

SWW: Weekend Two!

I left work Thursday evening to get to Hollywood Studios at 7pm, rinse and repeat. A FastPass for Tiya Sircar and the day was on.

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Tiya Sircar SWW
But this weekend was different. This was the big Rebel Force Radio meet up! I wasn’t too sure what to expect. The parade rolled around so it was time to pick a spot. When I got to my spot, low and behold, everyone was there! Jimmy Mac, Teresa, Tricia, Steve Glosson. Getting to meet all the podcasters before hand really helped break the ice. It was the perfect preview to the meet up.

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Before I knew it, it was time for the meet up. It didn’t matter that it was 100 degrees with a choking percentage of humidity. It really did feel like a mini Star Wars Celebration. I got to meet so many great people and made brand new friends.

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Having a surprise visit from James Arnold Taylor while we were podcasting was the cherry on top.

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After stories and pictures, we headed over to Star Tours. 25 people into one car. It is possible.

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securedownload-14 Jimmy Mac was even the Rebel Spy.

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After two more shows in the day, I had to say goodbye to my friends. Once again, I had to hit the road early. Work and an annual trip to Atlanta prevented me from attending Weekend 3 and 4. It was all good. I had my sights set on Weekend 5.

Or…….. So I thought.

SWW: Week Five.

I had hit a snag. It was Father’s Day weekend and family comes first. Saturday and Sunday were out of the question and I worked Friday. This was the weekend Steve Blum was attending. I had missed out on meeting him before at several anime conventions. I’ve been a fan of his since Toonami, Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, etc etc etc. I’d been looking forward to it since it was announced. I was going no matter what. But how? Easy. A closing shift till 10 o’clock on Thursday. My next shift started 2pm on Friday. As soon as I was done on Thursday, I drive up there, camp out, get a guaranteed FastPass for Steve for his 10 o’clock set, get any merch I want at Darth’s Mall, meet Steve and get his sig at 10, then immediately hit the road, be home by 12, freshen up, and hit work.

I had a plan.

And that’s just what I did. When I arrived at Hollywood Studios at 11:30pm on Thursday, I was the only one in Steve’s line. I had gambled and won!

Just for the heck of it, I tweeted the pic to Steve’s account. Why not? Morning came and I was ready.

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Rain had deterred the crowds and the  lines were small. It was a cake walk getting into Darth’s Mall which was usually packed. I also had my eyes on the limited edition Magic Bands that were only being sold that weekend. They were all mine.

securedownload-1Also, Jedi Mickey and Leia had NO wait inside Darth’s Mall.  Why not?

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With a trash bag of merch (It was the only bag big enough), I was on my way to the celeb tents. First in line for the 10 o’clock set, everything had gone right that morning. And it was about to get better.

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After tweeting him the night before, Steve Blum had a Zeb print. Just for me. Just because. I was at a loss for words. He was one of the nicest, coolest celebs I’ve ever met. The trip, and exhaustion, had been 100% worth it!

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In summation, it had been one of the best SWW for me. Hectic, hot, and spontaneous. While I’ve had fun past years, this one was extra special. Getting to meet so many fans, podcasters, writers, cosplayers, and it wasn’t even a Star Wars Celebration! The memories and mementos from this year’s trip are priceless. My non fan co-workers heard of my escapades this year and called me crazy. Why drive all that way just to spend two hours in the park? You sleep outside, are you crazy? They may not understand, but that’s ok. Those of us who have done it know that it’s all part of the magic that makes Star Wars Weekends exactly what it is. Although I’m sad to see it come to an end, I can’t wait to see what next year’s Weekends has in store for me.

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We want to thank Matthew Clifton for his great recap of Star Wars Weekends 2014! If you’re interested in reading more about Richard and Sarah’s time at SWW Week 2, please check out our Blog Post about it. And if you want to hear SWW recaps, check out Episodes 31-35 of our Podcast. Thanks for reading!

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