Celebration VI Through The Eyes Of Chris Wyman
Posted By Chris on September 19, 2012
It took me at least a week to get back to my normal routine. You know the one Iím talking about where you get up for work in the morning, work all day, get home at night, eat some dinner and then go to sleep only to repeat this at least four more times that week? Yeah, that routine. Well, once every few years, I have the pleasure of changing that up. I genuinely miss the alarm clock going off in the hotel room and getting up super early to prepare for another day of Star Wars Celebration. Itís hard work, your feet are sore, you donít eat enough food or drink nearly enough water, but itís Star Wars and it's absolutely wonderful.
These "Through The Eyes Of" features are fun to write and I dare say that mine will be different than most everyone else on the team. You wonít be hearing about any panels or show events that I experienced because that simply didn't happen. Instead, youíll be reading a play by play about the Official Pix behind the scenes fun that takes place at a Celebration. My Celebration VI really started over a month prior to the show as I began to receive hundreds of packages from all over the world for Official Pix customers sending in their own items to be autographed during the show. This is a service we provide that started with Celebration V and it has grown into quite the large production and spread to multiple shows each year. For the last two Celebrations, I've had the pleasure of driving myself and everything I have to bring living only an hour and fifteen minutes away from Orlando. Not having to worry about packing everything for a flight has been fantastic and has allowed me to accept a very wide range of items such as...armor, glass plates, helmets, trading cards, photos, posters, plaques, game boards, books, magazines, comics, statues, lunchboxes, busts, original art, prints, badges, action figures, banners and more making up thousands of autographs over the course of a four day period.
My fiancť, Courtney, and I arrived in Orlando on the Tuesday night before the show began and picked up my Rebelscum teammate and Jedi Journals co-host, Jay Shepard, from the airport. We checked into the hotel and grabbed some shut eye before the sun came up.
I refer to setup day as Day 0 just so I donít confuse people when Iím talking about my first day. It was business as usual at the convention center when I arrived. We got everything setup and I had Jeremy Bulloch and then Kenny Baker stop by to sign a couple hundred items over the course of several hours. This took up the rest of my afternoon. I finished up the signings and made my way over to the Celebration VI Store for Preview Night, grabbed a few things and we were off to the ForceCast Listeners get together at a local restaurant across the street to finish out the evening.
The first day of the actual show was quite busy behind the curtains. With so much to do, itís absolutely imperative that I have a great team to help manage everything which consisted of fourteen wonderful volunteers. I had Ian McDiarmid, Chris Malcolm, Bonnie Piesse, Amy Allen, Nick Maley, Paul Springer, Garrick Hagon & Mark Hamill all back in my area to sign customer items on the first day. That may not sound like a lot, but over the course of nine hours, the time flies by very quickly as each person signs their items.
We finished up at the convention center and strolled back to the hotel to freshen up. On the way through the lobby, we caught up with Dave Filoni and Joel Aron so Jay could gift a piece of original artwork to Dave and then made our way over to the Rebelscum.com/TheForce.net/ForceCast.net party at the Wyndham Hotel. This was much better than the Celebration V party for two reasons. First, there was plenty of food! Second, there was no live music which made it much easier to talk with everyone. Great evening!
The second day of the show provided more of the same fun, but this was also the first day we started accepting items at the Official Pix Drop-Off booth. This was set up for attendees that didn't want to wait in the long lines for autographs. They drop their items off with me and come pick them up later all signed and ready to go. I think there was a line for avoiding the lines!
This was also the day I had Carrie Fisher and Warwick Davis in the back for the first time that weekend. Warwick came zooming in on his Segway and got straight to work. Later that evening after the show had wrapped for the day, Carrie walked in with her little dog, Gary. His chew toy was a little Darth Vader doll that said ďI am your father!Ē which Carrie would throw around for him to fetch in between signing her name. A couple hundred autographs later and around the ten o'clock hour, it was time to head back to the hotel for dinner and sleep!
Another super busy day on Saturday with a ton of autographs to get, long lines at the Drop-Off booth and several guests in the back. Tim Rose, Matt Wood, Brian Muir and Ian McDiarmid were among the many knocking out customer items. Strangely enough, I was gauging the size of the show crowd by how loud it sounded from behind the curtains. Believe it or not, Thursday and Friday sounded much louder than Saturday. After what seemed like a day that was twice as long as the previous two, we wrapped up that evening and my fiancť and team member Mike Barrick grabbed some dinner at one of the hotels and called it a night.
The final day of Celebration VI. The last day of a show is always bittersweet. In one respect, youíre glad to be off your feet after a long and exhausting several days, but on the other hand, you know itís going to be some time before you are with friends and fans again which is just a sad thought no matter how you look at it. The last day is also usually pretty stressful for me as I run around making sure everything is done because once itís over, itís over! The one thing different I decided to do on this last day was actually stop and take some pictures of the outside and a few of the impressive set pieces before the show opened.
At one point during the afternoon, Ian McDiarmid decided that he wanted to see the show floor and all that was going on. Official Pix teammates Brian Wauchaus, Mark Barbian and I were literally the Emperor's Royal Guards (dressed in red!) as we walked him through a maze of people. The first stop was Rancho Obi-Wan for a quick meet & greet with Steve Sansweet. Ian signed a book for Steve, checked out the collection and we were off again. We hit the Del Rey booth were Ian got a copy of Darth Plagueis, we walked him by the life-size Rancor, stopped by a few vendors so he could find a Star Wars t-shirt, browsed through Artist Alley and the Fan Club tables, walked right past the live ForceCast show (where not a single person noticed) and then returned him back to his booth. Yikes! That was quite nerve-racking, but he enjoyed it and no one lost their life, so we can chalk it up as a positive experience.
Katie Purvis, Chris Malcom, Ashley Eckstein (with husband David), Trevor Butterfield & Paul Springer finished up items in the back, customers finished picking up their Drop-Off items and I started to say my goodbye's to so many friends.
Just because the show was officially over, that didn't mean the work was finished. Now came the fun part...packing everything up! A couple hours later, everything was loaded and ready to head back home. Except, we didn't head home that evening. We stayed in Orlando one more night to relax and enjoy one last meal with team members Jay and Mike. We were up at 5:00am the next day to get them to the airport and then it was back home to begin unpacking and start the long process of sending back Official Pix customer orders.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Celebration VI and wouldn't have changed a thing. Sure I don't get to be out on the floor or see the panels, but I love what I do. I have to thank Philip Wise & Ben Stevens for the continued opportunities that arise and for making these shows so memorable for me personally. It's an absolute pleasure from start to finish. I also really want to thank Jay Shepard for picking up some of the show exclusives for me. Had it not been for him, I would have gotten very little show merchandise and freebies, so he was kind enough to bring some of the show to me. It was great to see all my other teammates who I typically do not get to see but once or twice a year. It's just too bad we didn't have more time to sit and chat.
Hope to see everyone in Germany next July for Star Wars Celebration Europe II!