We were a little late getting out of the apartment on our way to Star Wars Celebration and thus ran into a moderate amount of traffic. We got down there a little after 6, and by the time we'd checked in and dropped our stuff off in the room it was getting close to 7.
The opening panel the next day featured JJ Abrams. The panel started at 10 in the morning but the line opened up at 6pm that evening. Avalyn had been planning to camp the line if it looked like a significant number of people had shown up. When we checked it out just before 7 there were probably somewhere between 500 and 1500 people in line, so we decided to get in line.
We ended up about half through the second of the (very large) lines. Avalyn had brought a blanket along and we both had bags to prop ourselves against, although if we'd realized the line was going to be in a room with a bare concrete floor we might have brought some more blankets and pillows.
Adventures In Line:
The program had promised there would be restrooms and concessions. And there were. There was a single concessions stand.
A couple minutes after we'd gotten set up in our spot Avalyn suggested i go check out the food supply. I wasn't feeling that hungry yet, but she pointed out that the crowd would likely only get worse as time went on.
So i went over and found there were two lines, with about 10-20 people in each line. The right line was _slightly_ shorter, so i got in that one. When i got near the front i discovered that that line was deli-type stuff only. I let other people pass me up in line while i texted back and forth with Avalyn about what she wanted and ended up getting a salad and an apple for her, a yogurt parfait for me, and some pastries for the morning. By the time i worked out what i wanted there were only a couple people left in line behind me. Most of the rest had bailed for the other line when they realized this one was deli only.
I took the cold stuff back to Avalyn and then went back to the line again. By that point the right side was completely empty and the left side probably had 30-40 people in it. I got in line and waited, spending a lot of the time reading and posting tweets. (I was beginning to form a theory that the concessions stand area was the only spot in the hall where i was semi-reliably getting cell signal, a theory which would later be borne out.) After about 30 minutes i got to the front of the line, and while contemplating the wait i realized that the line was now about twice the length as when i'd gotten into it.
I'd been figuring i would get a hot dog or a burger, but when i got near the front of the line i noticed people ahead of me getting steak burritos. (The signage at this concessions stand was pretty poor, which probably didn't help things.) So i ended up getting a pretzel for Avalyn, two orders of fries for us to share, and a burrito for myself.
I retreated in good order with our supplies and we spent awhile sitting and eating. Then i decided to go back to the concessions area for awhile so i could tweet some tweets and load some web pages. The hot food line had probably gotten a bit longer, though at this point it was hard to tell. And then as i was standing there one of the employees came out and informed everyone that there was a second side of the stand with deli items if anyone wanted those, and immediately about 20 people bailed on the hot line for the cold line. It was kind of amusing the way in which the institutional memory had completely forgotten that was an option.
I got back in line and dozed off for a little bit i think, then woke up briefly when John Morton, the guy who played "Dak" in Empire Strikes Back and apparently sometimes acted as a double for Boba Fett, came though the line to chat with people and pose for pictures.
Then sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 it was announced that a large pizza order was being made for everyone in line. We didn't find out until later that "someone" was actually Kathleen Kennedy (current president of Lucasfilms) and JJ Abrams, and that they'd called up the pizza place about 10 minutes before their closing time and spent awhile trying to convince them that their order for 200 pizzas wasn't a joke. (I sure hope they tipped well.) Then when they arrived Kathleen and JJ helped pass out the pizzas. (We didn't see JJ in our area, but i think we might have seen Kathleen.)
Since we'd managed to get through the concessions line early (good call Avalyn!) we didn't take any of the pizza, but it was still appreciated.
I fell asleep for awhile again, then woke up when James Arnold Taylor came through the line to chat and do autographs and pictures. (We had no idea who he was at the time, but Avalyn grabbed one of the pre-signed postcards just on spec.)
I napped some more and woke up for the final time a little before 5. I went to concessions stand to get some stuff to drink, and found that they were out of pretty much everything except coffee and other beverages. Good thing i'd grabbed the pastries the night before! (And clearly whoever planned, or failed to plan, the employee schedules and stocking for the concessions stand that night/morning lost out on a pretty significant chunk of change.)
We'd been told that wristbands would be handed out around 6:30 but weren't sure if that would mean that we could get out of line at that point. But then they announced that A: we would be moving straight from the hall to the stage, so no getting out of line, and B: that there would be nowhere to put chairs or pillows or such in the main hall, so we either had to take our stuff back to our rooms now, or leave them in a designated area in the queue hall at our own risk and be back by noon to reclaim them or they'd be thrown out.
So a lot of people got up to go dump stuff, and then since that freed up a lot of room we were encouraged to compact. (I'm not actually sure if they were telling our lines to compact, they might have just been yelling that the lines that were still forming, but our lines responded to the prompts as well and filled in the empty space.)
And although we didn't know it at the time, this was also around the point where the lines to get into the main hall filled up and the lines for the overflow rooms started. So given perfect knowledge we could have shown up around 5 am and made it into the main hall easily =P
Then sometime after 6:30 they started handing out wristbands. And of course everyone bunched up even more to get them. And then it started getting really hot. We asked one of the passing staff when they were going to start moving us, and they said 8:30. Since it was about 7:30 at that point a lot of people broke out of line to get breakfast or use the bathroom. I was a little surprised to see that the two lines that had spent the whole night had shrunk down to about half their original length, and as i walked down the aisle between the two to get back to our spot i could feel the temperature gradient rising around me.
Finally at 8:45 they started moving us out. They moved the first large line out, then about 9:10 or 9:15 they moved our line out... into another room where we got to stand in line again for awhile. But we finally got to our seats about 9:30. 14 hours in line was _not_ enough to get us into the front area. It did get us in the first tier of raised seats (the "balcony" ones that is, not the ones that were on a slant on the main floor) and we ended up in the middle section and managed to grab some seats right along the front edge. So not super close but still pretty nice.
Surprisingly, despite all the chaos with the lines, they started things pretty much right on the dot at 10:00.
This was the point where they related the story about Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams and the pizzas, which got them a lot of cheers. We also got told about the "fancy new" Star Wars emoticons. Which are definitely new but would be a lot fancier if they worked _anywhere_ besides the actual twitter website. I guess it shouldn't be a shock that they don't even load on twitter's perpetually messed up mobile site.
After Kathleen Kennedy and JJ Abrams had the chance to talk for a bit, they brought out the three main actors for Episode 7, whose names i don't remember but which wikipedia tells me are Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. They chatted a bit about the movie, obviously in a very limited fashion. The one real bit of news we learned is that the dessert planet seen in the first trailer is NOT Tatooine! It's some other planet called "Jakku".
Like many nit-picky Star Wars fans i wasn't very happy that Tatooine featured prominently in the prequels, _especially_ as a place central to Anakin's origins. It wouldn't be nearly as big a deal to revisit Tatooine after the timeline of the original trilogy, but it's still refreshing to get away from the old. (Come to think of it, many people regard Empire as the best of the Star Wars films, and wasn't it the only sequel that didn't revisit a location from a previous movie in the franchise?)
In any case after some more chatting with the three main stars they brought out a bunch of Stormtroopers in the new armor, and then brought out almost all of the old cast members. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew. Billy Dee Williams had appearances on Sunday but couldn't make it for the opening ceremony for some reason. They claimed Harrison Ford wasn't there because he was still recovering from his injuries, although we all know he wasn't there because he hates conventions. (Though their claim presents an amusing crazy conspiracy theory: Lucasfilms somehow twisted Harrison Ford's arm until he agreed to show up at the convention, and then he deliberately crashed the plane to get out of it.)
Then they brought out an R2-D2 droid, which of course got applause but isn't really a big deal. You can find at least one or two people with remote control R2-D2 droids at just about any convention these days, and there were dozens of them at Star Wars Celebration. But then they brought out a BB8! I'd seen reports that BB8 was a practical effect, like so much else in the movie, but seeing it roll out on stage was really impressive! He rolled about, circled R2-D2 a couple times, stopped, moved his head about while stopped, and then wandered around a bit before leaving the stage again.
The most popular explanation for how it works, and the first one i came up with, was magnets to keep the head centered on the body. And at least one person has modified a Sphero bot to do the same trick. But a Mashable article put forward an argument that the head may actually just be balancing on the body using a set of wheels: http://mashable.com/2015/04/16/star-wars-bb8-technology/
In any case presumably we'll find out for sure pretty soon one way or the other.
So after that they showed the second trailer for The Force Awakens, which everyone had been waiting for. As i had planned i shut my eyes when they did. I couldn't really even hear much except for Luke's "the Force is strong in my family" spiel because everyone else in the hall was yelling and cheering too much after that. When it was done they asked if they should show it a second time, which of course got a huge cheer, so i closed my eyes again. This time the cheering was a _little_ more restrained and i could hear a lot more, in particular the line from Han that everyone has been getting emotional about online.
That was the last big event of the panel and they kicked us out pretty soon after that. We decided we'd rather go back to the hotel room and shower and nap for awhile instead of go straight back into the convention center, and as we walked back that decision was verified by the huge line of people waiting to get in. (We weren't sure at the time but we were told later that everyone who made it to the initial panel was prevented from going straight into the convention center and had to go outside to wait in line.) The line stretched past the Hilton, around the corner, and was still going when we diverged to go to our hotel. A quick guestimate puts the line at least 1500-2000' long. I have no idea why they thought it was necessary to make everyone wait in line, but they eventually gave up on the idea and just opened all the doors.
On the plus side we noticed huge set of food trucks along the way, including two of my favorites, Barcelona on the Go and Spudrunners.
But in any case we got back to the hotel room and showered and napped, and woke up in time to make it to one of the final panels of the day, about the use of mythology and tropes in the the Star Wars universe. Among many other things they made attempts to justify the existence of both JarJar and Midiclorians that were intellectually interesting but that i don't really buy on a practical level.
After the panel we met up with some of Avalyn's friends and went to dinner at a place a couple blocks down the street called "Fire & Ice", which was basically a mongolian grill style arrangement but with a wider selection of stuff to grill, plus a salad bar. (I guess that was the "Ice" part.)
Afterward we went back to the hotel room and slept even more.