Great Moments Behind-The-Scenes at Celebration


“This rancor will need to travel across Florida.”

At each and every Star Wars Celebration I find myself either saying or hearing phrases that sound completely out-of-this-galaxy.

“Can we get this landspeeder in the freight elevator?”

“We are going to build a Death Star and I want you to find out how much.”

Either they sound out-of-this-galaxy, or they sound completely impossible, as in “I just lost an entire marching band.”

Typically the responses sound much more in-galaxy than the original statements:
“We can’t get Darth Vader off the ground.”
“That is because the wind is coming too strongly from a direction that threatens to blow the Darth Vader hot-air balloon right into the ExCeL Convention Center and impale it on the roof.”

But we do not always sound as though we are on planet Earth:
“You can’t drive the shuttle Tydirium in the aisles right now.”
“Well if I can’t drive the Tydirium in the aisles right now, where can I park it so that I can charge it up? Then I’ll make another run at our objective later.”


For Celebration V in 2010, the Freeman team in Orlando surprised me with my own “shuttle Tydirium,” so I could fly around the huge convention center at high speed during the days we were building the show. I was beyond thrilled with my Tydirium, and raced happily from one project to the next until the aisles got so crowded that I had to artfully and slowly motor between the obstacles. Once the show opened to the public I could not drive my ship in the aisles at all, so plugged her in until the breakdown (post-show disassemble).

“This rancor will need to travel across Florida.”

The tens of thousands who attended Celebration VI in 2012, plus many thousands more online, saw the amazing Roxy the Rancor, who was created especially for the show and displayed by the 501st Legion. Pizzazz Scenic in Jacksonville, Florida, fashioned Roxy, and we needed to move her from the studio to the Convention Center in Orlando — and back again!

It was one of those moves for which I wish we could have posed her in an open vehicle, like a livestock truck. We could not, but I would have loved to have seen the faces along the highway if we had.

As for what else is going on in this picture of Roxy at Celebration VI, I have absolutely no idea. That’s a question for someone else.

“We are going to build a Death Star and I want you to find out how much.”
I said something just like this to David Iskra, who was working on the event team at the time of Celebration IV in Los Angeles. David looked blank for a moment while I enjoyed his reaction. “Mary finally lost it,” was written all over his face.


Then I explained it would be a replica Death Star, not something that could blow up planets. We would not need a White House petition, just some creative design. David (pictured) found a company that made a perfect, inflatable Death Star that is more than 20 feet in diameter. We’ve moved it all over the States and to Germany and London, as well. So far, all planets in the systems remain intact.

“It’s snowing on the fans camped outside the Convention Center.”
Rewind back to Celebration II in Indianapolis in April — yes April, springtime — of 2002. It’s the middle of the night, and fans are camped outside in long lines to try and ensure their place to see George Lucas the next morning in his first Celebration appearance. We stayed up late with our plans for wristbanding attendees and moving the queues in the morning. We wanted to handle the three seatings to see Mr. Lucas as fairly as possible.

My mobile rang.

“It’s snowing.”

For a moment I hoped it was someone calling me from my old home in Alaska with what would be stupidly inconsequential news. But no. Racing to a window I saw it was coming down. After much scrambling we finally got folks moved inside to wait — wet but much warmer — until morning.

“I just lost an entire marching band.”
For the Celebration IV Opening Ceremonies we had a real spectacle planned, which included the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band. The band arrived, we rehearsed…and then they disappeared.

Busy backstage with the last minute preparations for the show, which seemed to include a cast of thousands, I realized the band was not in its place. I grabbed the ever-patient David Iskra.

“David, the band is missing.”

David responded rationally. “Where did you last see them?”

“On the loading dock. I just looked all over the dock, and the band is not there.”

“Are you telling me you lost an entire marching band?”

“Yep. Please find them.”

David found them, or they reappeared as mysteriously as they disappeared. I never found out which. But they finally got in their places and we started the show.

“Can we get this landspeeder in the freight elevator?”
It’s a Celebration. Of course we have a landspeeder.

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