Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 – Saturday, April 13

Saturday is usually the busiest day of a convention and it showed at the queue for the shuttle. In the morning my sister and I met Megan, Lea and Nicki at the line for the shuttle and it was a cold wait. I was dressed as Padmé that day and I didn’t want to bring a jacket or scarf. It was going to be a long day of running from queue to queue and I didn’t want to carry it around. So while waiting on that line outside I was shivering.

A few shuttles passed us by and they were full. We waited about 40 minutes and about 4 shuttles passed us by. We were about to order a Lyft when finally an empty shuttle arrived.

I made my costume. At first I was going to dress in the leather corset look from AotC but then I thought about the Chicago weather and also what costume I could finish in time for Celebration so I went with the green velvet gown from RotS, minus the pregnancy belly. It is more of an “inspired by” look than an exact replica. The fabric is actually pleated velour and I beaded the pin myself with the symbol of Naboo.

Ugh, the hem got caught in the escalator! Luckily I pulled it out in time, but I have to clean some grease off the hem. Such a cosplay noob move!

Megan originally was going to cosplay as Medal Ceremony Leia but her costume was not going to be repaired in time. So she dressed as Bespin Leia (the dress is from Her Universe).

Ever since Celebration Orlando 2017 I have had hope that Hayden would attend another Celebration. Bummed that we missed Orlando, Megan and I vowed to attend the next one and if Hayden came we would go in together for a photo op.

With the exception of The Clone Wars cast photo op (which to save on cost Megan and I decided to do together) I held off on other ops, waiting for Hayden’s announcement. He was the last to be announced. Since he was a bit pricy I sacrificed my other wish list items:
– I also considered getting a photo op with Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jason Isaacs, or with the Rebels cast (although the voice actor for Zeb was not there)
– and then I was also considering getting autographs from cast of TCW and Rebels.
– I would also like Ahmed Best’s autograph on a photo I have with him and Jake Lloyd from Big Apple Con in 2010.

After Hayden was announced I only ended up getting Warwick’s photo op and Matt Lanter’s autograph.

The thing is Hayden doesn’t go to many cons, but Jason, Freddie and Warwick do. So I hope to see them at another con or at another Celebration. Hopefully the whole cast of Rebels will be at the next one for a cast photo.

The first thing for the day was that Megan and I had a photo op with 7 cast members from The Clone Wars.

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Left to right: Dee Bradley Baker (Captain Rex), Matt Lanter (Anakin Skywalker), Catherine Taber (Padmé Amidala), Matthew Wood (General Grievous), Tom Kane (Yoda), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Kenobi).

There were only three photo booths and lots of photo sessions with a large cast for all the combos of photos. The solo ops, the Anakin-Ahsoka, Anakin-Ahsoka-Obi-Wan….so on and so forth. So of course they were running behind. And of course there was confusion with being on the right line. Megan and I were getting worried that we’d miss our group window for Hayden’s autograph. (In addition to having timed group sessions for the photo ops they also had them for autographing for crowd control.) With TCW cast we were Group 1 at 11:20 AM. For Hayden’s autographs we were Group 7 at noon.

In the end we didn’t miss our autographing window, but it was close. When going into the photo booth the people at Epic told people that no individual hellos would be allowed. Get in, take the photo and keep moving.

Walking in Ashley immediately remembered me. She and Catherine loved mine and Megan’s cosplay.

From there we immediately went to the queue for Hayden’s autograph. There was a man behind us with a GIANT portfolio on wheels to hold his 9 posters. NINE GIANT POSTERS! That is $1,800 dollars before taxes and admin fees. The posters were signed by every other Star Wars actor known to man. I know he will end up selling these posters for thousands of dollars, but I faint at the thought of paying over $1,800!

Hayden took a little break while Megan and I were on the queue. He also went to Ian’s booth, right next to his, to say hello. People secretly took photos and posted them on line.

As we got closer my heart started pounding. I had to organize my thoughts so that when I spoke to Hayden I would be articulate.

Usually I get my photo print signed, but the way it was scheduled our autograph was before the photo op. I should have bought a nice piece of art (like Megan did) but instead I picked a photo from the table. The one where Anakin’s cape becomes the mask of Vader. It’s one of my favorite images but I wish I took the time to buy some art instead. Oh well.

When we get up there I went first. Hayden and I made eye contact, shook hands and I introduced myself.

First I told him that Life As a House holds a special place in my heart because my grandfather built his own house with his sons in Long Island.

He said something positive, I don’t remember what because I was so revved up to actually be so close to him. I was trying to keep it together and not embarrass myself. So I went on…
Me: Do you have any big birthday plans next week?
Hayden: No, no big plans.
Me: No dirt biking? (A tradition he had with his brother and friends on their b-days.)
Hayden: (smiling) No.
Me: I guess none that you know of. (It was thing where they surprised the birthday boy.)

He was taking his time to sign, which was really nice because it meant we wouldn’t get rushed away, so after a small pause of watching him sign I went on to say that “Anakin is my favorite and I am a big Anakin and Padmé shipper, (and gesturing to my costume) obviously.”

He thanked me and then I thanked him and wished him Happy Birthday.

Then I kind of stayed off to the side to wait for Megan. She told him how she loves Anakin and his performance. I couldn’t really hear the details and I also just spent the time watching him.

He is just the sweetest and so personable. I love him.

We had some time before the photo op so Megan and I met up with my sister to grab some lunch. My sister had gone to the Changing Roles of Women in the Star Wars Universe panel.

This is what my sister had to say about that panel:
“The Changing Roles of Women panel had 5 women on it. One was dressed as Rose Tico, another a X-wing pilot, another was Asohka, another was General Leia, and another was Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The lady dressed as Leia said in the past people would go up to her and say, “You look like Carrie Fischer,” and she’d say “I know.” And then they’d ask, “Do you dress up as her?” And she’d say “Yes,” and they’d inevitably ask, “Do you have the gold bikini?” And she’d hate that because Leia is so much more than the gold bikini. But now she said she has “dude bros” coming up to her when she’s dresses as General Leia and telling her how much they love General Leia, and it makes her happy how they see Leia as more than the gold bikini girl.”

After a quick bite (in a far corner of the building since there was nowhere else to sit) Megan and I went to our Hayden photo op. We were group Group 2 at 3:10.

Megan and I had planned to do like Charlie’s (or Anakin’s) Angles poses. As time was getting closer to buy the ops Megan asked if two of her friends, Colleen and Lea, could join in. I had no issue with it. It certainly helps with the cost. Up to 4 people are allowed in a photo. Colleen was wearing the Ahsoka dress from Her Universe and she had a lightsaber. Lea was wearing a Darth Vader sweater.

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As we walked in the booth Hayden remembered me from the autograph and it felt to nice to see the recognition in his eyes. *melts*

With 5 of us in the photo we were planning before hand how we would pose and Colleen said she would get down in front and even practiced her kneeling. It was like one knee is bent and the other leg is stretch out behind her. Well as she was going down (it took her a couple of tries) Hayden said, “Oh, she’s going for it!” I loved that. I’ll never forget it.

The photographer took the photo and looked at it on his screen and then said, “Everyone keep your eyes open.” And he took a second photo. (When it was printed out we saw that Lea had blinked.)

So we got to spend a few seconds more with Hayden. And all I could think was I have my hand on his lower back. *dies*

After we sat down outside the photo area and we were waiting for my sister to meet up with us so we could go to the Sisters of the Force panel. As we were waiting a parade of cosplayers from the 501st and Rebel Legion passed by.
Very cool.

We said goodbye to Lea and Colleen led us through the McCormick Place to the sky walk (pun!) to the Wintrust Arena across the street. What a trek! And security made me throw out my water, telling me we can refill them at the fountains inside. SO what is the freaking point?

Anyway, the Sisters of the Force was an amazing panel. Really just take an hour to watch the full panel on youtube.

It was very emotional and inspiring. I cried a few times and was glad the photo ops were over. They spoke about fans who have battled cancer, bullying and depression. I loved Athena’s story about her interview at Skywalker Ranch and her friendship with Dave Filoni. I also loved the inspiring story Suzie McGrath told about growing up with a stutter and now she is a voice actress. That is just amazing.

After the panel we hauled it back across the street and through security to the other building where we went on the queue to pick up the Sister of the Force constellation poster. Doing that I missed the panel for Behind the Scenes of the Audiobook Recording Studio.

The last panel that my sister and I went to was Star Wars and Tourism. The panelist shared their photos and stories from when they visited the filming locations in Tunisia, Norway, California, England and Ireland. It was pretty cool but I wish they had visited Lake Como too.

After that panel sis and I met up with our friend Jerry and his daughters to catch up. Jerry and I used to co-moderate a Star Wars message board together. We spoke about our day, the photo ops and panels. His eldest daughter was fan-girling over meeting Jason Isaacs, who sounds really down to earth and funny. So next time he is around I am getting a photo/autograph. They also got a photo with Katee Sackoff and she looks like she could be their mom. It looks like a family photo.

It was nice to see them and catch up.

That night Vic and I went to dinner at Portillo’s where everyone and their droid from Celebration went to eat. The wait was about 45 minutes to an hour. Just for a hot dog. But that is what happens when a big convention is in town.

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