By now you will have read James Burns’ look at the lead up to Rancho Obi-Wan’s second Annual Gala, as we traveled across the Whale Pond from the UK to Petaluma to help owner Steve Sansweet, manager and VP Anne Neumann, and the Rancho team get ready for the event on Saturday, September 20. I’ll take up the story as we move forward to 4 p.m., as the guests start to arrive, pulling up, and signing in, checking in coats and bags, collecting their passes, and entering the museum. For those who’ve had the pleasure of visiting before, it’s a welcome return. For the first-timers it’s a mind-blowing experience that one, two, or a hundred visits won’t diminish.
The primary goal of these galas — apart from having a great time in one of the planet’s key Star Wars locations — is to raise money for Rancho Obi-Wan, which is a non-profit organization. Front and center of the festivities are two auctions; the live auction hosted by Steve himself in the Art Gallery and the silent auction in the Ephemera Room, which for this event was run by myself, James, and local fan and Rancho supporter Lucas. After carefully laying out the items and bidding sheets it was 4 p.m. and time to start the auction. For those of you who don’t know, a silent auction is similar to eBay, where you raise your bid until the clock runs out. With a plethora of items on offer — from signed copies of The Insider to exclusive Clone Wars crew items, newly released Itty Bitty’s to vintage Japanese lightsabers — we knew the room would be popular. I’ll admit to bidding on more than a few items and, as the evening progressed, the room got busier and busier as folks pitched in with their silent bids.
The plan for the gala is laid out well in advance, but like a carafe of spice wine, things are fluid and so the welcome ceremony that was set for 5:01 p.m. shifts back an hour, giving guests the opportunity to browse the museum and take a photo with Rancho’s newest permanent house guest, Jabba the Hutt. Kindly donated to Rancho by the New England Garrison of the 501st, one of the special treats afforded to the guests in attendance is the chance to have their photo taken with the mighty Jabba (and Salacious Crumb, of course). And as an added bonus Rancho friend Carl Cunningham pitches in and puppeteers Crumb, adding an extra element to an already magnificent event.
Out in the main room the numbers were swelling, and as the very pleasant weather drew people outside to chat, the function room began to dish out some excellent grub. The resident belly dancer gave some very Twi’lek-like performances as the music played. The Bounty Hunt, a search for hidden trading cards, took visitors right around the museum with such clues as “Rock. PAPER. Scissors” (next to the paper sculpture), “I’ll trample you if you approach me with a stick!” (by the Bantha Pinata) and “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?” (next to Tilly the Tauntaun). The balloon pop and bean bag toss games also began; $5 a throw for the bean bag toss or $20 per balloon for the balloon pop gave competitors the chance to walk away with some very cool prizes. This resulted in my finest moment of the night, as I handed over $30 and planted six out of six shots into the hole (the hole being the superlaser on a large wooden Death Star). All great fun and most importantly adding minute by minute to the total amount raised on the night.
6 p.m. arrived and with it came the opening ceremony and a very special unveiling. As Steve thanked the attendees for coming — some from as far away as Norway — he revealed the newest addition to the museum. The Obi-Wan Kenobi costume that James Arnold Taylor wore numerous times for Disney events, accompanied by audio recorded especially for the event by James. It was very cool and looks just perfect next to Lord Vader.
One of the true treasures of events like this is not only seeing folks you met at previous events but getting to meet people you interact with on social media. And joining these friends both old and new were visitors from Lucasfilm including Matt Martin, Pablo Hidalgo, and Pete Vilmur, mixing with guests and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the gala. They chatted with fellow attendees and marveled at wave after wave of Star Wars treasures that washed over us all.
The live auction kicked off at 7.30 p.m. with master of ceremonies, Steve Sansweet, overseeing the proceedings, ably assisted by Duncan Jenkins, Guz Lopez, and others. I even threw in a couple of bids and walked away with two items, much to my surprise. Watching this room of Star Wars fans and super collectors bid, raise, and heckle each other was a lot of fun. And let’s not forget the cupcakes. They were offered to guests at 8.30 p.m. and lasted about as long as a puddle during a Tatooine heatwave.
Steve again addressed the crowd, thanking them for their generosity during the auction and reminding people to come again next year on Saturday, October 24, when Rancho Obi-Wan will hold their 3rd gala, the Galaween (cool name, must remember that). With Episode VII just a few weeks away where better to visit than the home of Star wars merchandise?
9.30pm and the end of the Silent Auction approached. Me, Lucas and James has taken it in turns to man the room, tidying the sheets as folks filled in their bids and as 9.30pm chimed in the room was heaving. By the auctions end everything had been snapped up and a lot of folks left happy with some amazing treasures. But then, if you can’t find amazing Star Wars goodies at Rancho Obi-Wan, where will you find it?
With the majority of scheduled events now concluded, the evening continued as conversations buzzed and the final few bean bag prizes and balloon pops were dealt out. Food was finished and drinks chugged as the gala came to an end. The bus arrived, goodbyes were said, and even at this late hour we were spotting folks we’d not yet spoken to including Rancho competition winner Jeff Long, who I had a brief but very interesting chat with.
If you’ve never visited Rancho Obi-Wan, then make your plans, and if you are in the area next October, then buy your tickets for the Galaween and join in the fun. I promise you won’t regret it.
Michael J. Wistock