If you frequently attend megacons like SDCC, NYCC, Emerald City Comic Con, DragonCon, SLC Comic Con, Phoenix Comic Con, etc., then in many ways Celebration will be a piece of cake compared to the pandemonium of being in a convention center with 100,000 people. You’ll seldom have to wait more than 2 hours in line to see or do anything, there’s a lot more elbow room, and there’s surprisingly a lot of time to really smell the roses instead of the hustle, hustle, hustle to get from one line to the next.
On the other hand, since Celebration is a relatively large convention focused on one thing and one thing only, a lot of the E-ticket panels and events tend to draw everybody. This is much more of a challenge than a Supernatural Creation show at a Holiday Inn in Des Moines.
As a survivor of three Celebrations from one coast to the other, I suggest you do the following to make your excursion less frustrating and annoying:
1. Bring a durable swag bag
If you’ve saved those free, re-usable bags from a megacon you’ve attended in the past, bring one with you. Some exhibitors might be offering them as a bonus with purchase, but SDCC-style bags are NOT given away at this con, or at least they haven’t in the past. What I would do is lug whatever crap I get or buy that day in those bags, dump everything out in the evening, and go back the next day just with the essentials.
If there is a desk where you can check in your loot so you don’t have to carry it around all day, take advantage of it. It will be the best $2-$5 you ever spent.
Also, if you have a poster tube, bring that to store any posters you buy or get for free.
If you don’t have a big swag bag from another con, a messenger bag or a large DURABLE reusable bag will do instead.
2. Bring the following with you on your person
At minimum you should have a bottle of water (the con center will charge you highway robbery fees for bottled drinks and you can keep refilling your bottle in a sink or water fountain), snacks, painkillers, chewable tummy tablets or pills (Pepto, Immodium AD, Gas X, etc.), gum/mints, tissue, baby wipes, a few Band Aids, and hand sanitizer. If you’re on medication, bring it with you too. Ladies, or anyone else cosplaying in makeup, bring a small cosmetics bag with face blotter, powder, a small comb/brush, lipstick or gloss, and anything else you might need to touch up during the day. Bring a cardigan, light jacket, or hoodie to stay warm inside cold convention halls.
Oh and if you can swing it, take a small bottle of PooPourri in case the choo-choo has to leave the station. Bring it to the hotel room anyway…your roomies and family will thank you.
3. Wear comfy shoes
You will be on your feet a lot.
4. Bring something to keep yourself occupied if you have to wait
Though to be honest, I end up talking to people most of the time. But occasionally I feel like checking to see what’s going on in the world outside of the convention center, listening to music, or reading. Luckily in 2015, you can have a single device that covers all of those activities.
5. Bring a hat and sunscreen
I don’t know if you’ll have to spend any time waiting outside, but it doesn’t hurt to have those things just in case. You’ll definitely need them if you are going to the parks.
6. Figure out your must-sees and dos
It can be overwhelming to figure out what to do with so many things going on at once but it will make your life a lot easier if you do. What’s the one thing you’re most interested in? Collectors’ panels? Autographs? Seeing the actors? Podcasts? “Rebels?” Book panels? Figure out what would you be the most disappointed to miss and plan everything else around it. Also, look to see if panels or performances are going to be repeated. That way if you miss it one time or if there’s a scheduling conflict, you’ll be able to catch it another time.
7. Going to see the Abrams/Kennedy Panel?
Hahahahahaha…that’s cute. I don’t know where they’re holding this as of writing or how many people it can hold (I think they should just rent out Angels Stadium nearby so everyone can go), but this is as close to the Hall H at San Diego Comic Con experience as it gets at Celebration. I remember people camped out for as long as two days to see George Lucas’s chat with Jon Stewart at Celebration V. If you have the Jedi Master and Jedi Knight VIP tix, you’re golden. But if you don’t, and you need to do things like sleep in a bed, shower and shave, eat breakfast, and use a toilet, your chances of getting in are extremely poor. Don’t count on other panels or fans rushing to buy exclusives first thing in the morning to improve your chances, because nothing else opens until 11 a.m.. They may have an overflow room or two or monitors set up throughout.
If you do make it inside, keep your expectations in check. We may or may not get to see a new trailer (though some new clips of some kind is likely). If they do take questions, it’ll likely be restricted to a few carefully curated ones forwarded to a host who does the questioning. As for the Mystery Special Guests, I’d say the most likely to appear are noobs Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, maybe Oscar Isaac. Odds might be good for a few other of the not-so-well-known new cast as well. I’ll be really surprised if Adam Driver shows up and I’d have to put Harrison Ford and Lupita Nyong’o in the Hells To The No category. Also, it’s a big unlikely George Lucas will show up.
8. Other E-Ticket panels/events
I would consider any of the panels with actors like Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, or Ian McDiarmid, the “Rebels” panel where they’re going to show the first episode from Season Two (and maybe the promised Clone Wars surprise), any collectors panel, most of the book panels, performances of things like “The Saga In 60 Minutes,” and showings of AOTC and ROTS in 3D to be very popular. Plan on getting in line for these panels at least two hours in advance. The collectors panels have drawn people like crazy because of random giveways collectible giveaways at random. One of my friends will literally sit in that room all day to make sure she gets everything. Like SDCC, they do not clear rooms at Celebration unless policies have changed. Sometimes you have to pay attention to what’s scheduled in a room AFTER the panel you want to see because people will pack in early to get a good seat if it’s something really popular.
9. Wait for popular events or go late/early in the day to see exhibits; crowds tend to clear out at those times.
10. Pre-order art from the art show, pick up at less peak times.
11. The early bird gets the worm.
There’s a reason why my collector friend gets up at 5 in the morning and makes sure she’s close to the front of the line by the time exhibit doors open at 10. It’s easier to get giveaways first thing in the morning or to get in line before exclusives sell out for the day. Even if you’re not interested in that stuff, getting in early is helpful to get in line for popular panels scheduled in the morning.
12. Celebration Store
There are always items that are way under-ordered and therefore disappear quickly. But I found that at Celebration V (the last one I went to), buying most items was no problem. The days of standing in line 7 hours to buy a t-shirt are long in the past.
If you don’t have time to wait for meet and greets, using Official Pix’s pull service is the way to go. I’ve found the only people who have huge, slow-moving lines for autographs are Hamill, Fisher, beloved Clone Wars alumni like Ashley Eckstein, and Anthony Daniels. I’d say that Ian McDiarmid will have a long line too. I’m not sure about John Ratzenberger, but he since he’s famous for “Cheers” and for his work in every Pixar movie ever, he may be busy too. It can take hours because the signers will go on breaks, plus Official Pix hasn’t been good about getting solid times set up for people to appear. You’re at the mercy of the guests’ schedule; they kind of show up whenever. Be aware that VIP ticket holders will get priority over everyone else in autograph lines. But autographs for anyone else is a snap. Most of them are just sitting there chilling, though if things are too slow, they may leave early.
Oh, if you’re doing one of those Olan Mills-type portraits with the guests, be sure to wear Christmas sweaters and pick the background with the wagon wheel.
14. Cash vs. Credit
So you don’t run out of money, use cash for small purchases, tips, or when a vendor will not accept credit. Use credit cards for everything else. You don’t want to spend your day hunting down an ATM. Make sure you have more cash than you’ll need before you leave from home.