Star Wars Celebration I: An Oral History

With tickets for Star Wars Celebration Japan now on sale, we wanted to take a look back at the very first Star Wars Celebration, which opened 25 years ago in Denver, Colorado. The following article was originally published in the 2019 Star Wars Celebration guide, and is presented here for the first time on with minor updates. 
For 25 years, Star Wars fans have gathered around the world to celebrate their love of the saga, forge new friendships over shared interests, and stand in awe among the creators, actors, and artists they admire. To celebrate the anniversary of the very first (and soaking wet) Star Wars Celebration in Denver, Colorado in 1999, we take a look back across the years with event producers, collectors, and fans.

Costumed fans gather in a rare sunny moment during Star Wars Celebration I.

Steve Sansweet (Former Lucasfilm Head of Fan Relations): The first Celebration was meant to be a one-of-a-kind event. It was something that came up in the late summer of 1998 when my then-boss, who was at that time director of marketing, Jim Ward, said, “We want to have something for the fans. We want to have a fan fest in five cities on the same weekend.” And I said, “Uh… That would be a challenge.” Instead of saying, “That would be impossible,” which is what I really meant. I talked to Dan Madsen who was the owner of FANtastic Media, which ran the Official Star Wars Fan Club and also was publisher of Star Wars Insider.

Dan Madsen (Former Head of the Official Star Wars Fan Club): The first Star Wars Celebration was a labor of love, created by fans, for fans — it is as simple as that. My company and I had already been discussing this idea, so it was welcomed with great enthusiasm. We didn’t have a long time to plan….No one knew what to expect and the anticipation for new Star Wars movies was at a fever pitch.
Steve Sansweet: That was sort of the nexus of Celebration, doing something that we could have for fans prior to the opening of Episode I to let them know that we wanted to give something back to them and sort of give them a peek under the curtain before the general public. We had no idea whether this would be something that would attract fans at all, let alone how many. At that point nobody knew how successful Episode I was going to be and so part of it was fan appreciation, part of it was marketing for Episode I.
Dan Madsen: We decided upon Denver, Colorado as the city to host the event since it was the fan club’s headquarters and our 100-plus employees (all who were massive Star Wars fans) were based there.
Steve Sansweet: Unfortunately, the main convention center had already been booked, so they came up with the Wings over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, which was on a former Air Force base. We had an X-wing fighter that had been built for a promotional tour in Europe that we were going to bring and there were some smaller rooms inside the Air and Space Museum that we could use for small panels and viewing video content. But the only way we could accommodate a lot of people, several thousand people, was with tents.
Dan Madsen: We had the life-size X-wing fighter flown out from California a month in advance. I still remember its trip on the back of a flatbed truck to the Celebration site and the amazed looks and finger-pointing from Denver residents watching a full-size X-wing fly down the street!

Anthony Daniels and Dan Madsen rehearse on stage the evening before Star Wars Celebration I opened to the public.

We had two stages, the main one hosted by Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) for the stars and a second stage, hosted by my Insider Assistant Editor Scott Chernoff for the behind-the-scenes talent. The stage show was really brought to life by Anthony who produced almost every aspect of it. About a week before the event Steve Sansweet also flew out and he worked with Anthony and me to put together the finishing touches to the show. Anthony and Steve were essential to that first Celebration.
Steve Sansweet: Ten days before Celebration I, the tragic shootings at Columbine High School took place, only about 10-12 miles away from the convention site. There was a real possibility that Celebration was going to be canceled.

Dan Madsen works with a team setting up a Jabba’s Palace set piece the evening before Star Wars Celebration I opened to the public.

Dan Madsen: Lucasfilm called and said, after much soul-searching and deliberation they had decided to cancel Star Wars Celebration. They felt that the city of Denver and Star Wars fans would not feel like celebrating after such a horrible, tragic event. And they had every reason to feel that way. However, as a lifelong resident of Denver and a Star Wars fan, I was adamant that what the city of Denver needed more than anything was a bit of a reprieve from all the grieving. Denver needed Celebration to happen.
Steve Sansweet: We had donation boxes. We raised about $30,000 for the families of the victims of Columbine. Fans were very generous.

Fans get to experience Star Wars Episode I: Racer in the main hall.

A view of the crowd in the main tent.

Dan Madsen: But one of our biggest concerns, many months prior, was weather. I can tell you, we crossed our fingers and hoped that we would have sunny, warm days – something that can change in a minute in Colorado. As luck would have it, the weekend of Celebration, the heavens opened up and we had one of the worst rain storms in 100 years.
Steve Sansweet: The main thing was rain. And more rain. The area where we had the tents got flooded and muddy.

Anthony Daniels and Dan Madsen share the main stage on the third and final day of the event.

Dan Madsen: There were puddles of water everywhere, muddy areas and to add to that there were leaks in some of our tents. As producer Rick McCallum said to me, “It was Woodstock for Star Wars fans!” Anthony Daniels helped there, too, as he went out in the rain with an umbrella to those standing in line to get in and entertained them for quite some time. Anthony was Celebration I’s hero! We were horrified at the weather, and did everything we could to make the fans comfortable, but there were just certain times when fans had to stand in the rain. Enter Anthony – who, without any prodding, went out and met the fans, asked them where they were from, met them one-on-one and gave them what might be one of their most special memories from the event.
Matt Tolosa (Fan, Longtime Attendee): I remember first seeing the big hangar and tents outside at the site, and the rains and people standing in winding lines. Jedi were holding up their robes to prevent them from getting mud all over them. Then, a stranger squeezed himself under our umbrella, and I heard a familiar voice, and it turned out it was Anthony Daniels! I wish I had taken a picture!
Duncan Jenkins (Star Wars Fan, Author, and Collector): Gus Lopez, a fellow collector and co-author with me, called Steve Sansweet when he heard about the show (about a month out) and asked him if there was going to be any collecting presentations. So Steve tasked Gus with putting together a “collecting track.”
Gus Lopez (Star Wars Fan, Author, and Collector): So with just a few weeks’ notice, I scrambled to put together some speakers and panelists and organized the first Star Wars Celebration Collecting Track. The venue had several outdoor tents and one building, and the collecting panels were scheduled for a small tent with open sides so people standing outside in the rain could listen. We were effectively outdoors with a microphone and speakers while other attendees standing outside waiting for other panels listened to our presentations. There was no announced schedule. We didn’t have slides or video projection so people brought actual rare collectibles to show to the small audience. Sometimes people would come into our panel room to change their babies’ diapers since there was so much space and seating.

The LEGO builders set up shop in a small tent at Star Wars Celebration I.

Duncan JenkinsMy wife and I drove out there from Kansas City. It was cold and rainy. The main area that housed all the licensees was the only permanent building and the Fire Marshal was strictly limiting the number of people who could enter. There were long lines to get in and you had to wait for someone to leave before the next group could enter. Since it was warm and dry inside there were very long gaps between people exiting.
The dealer tent had some amazing items. Many unique items were for sale there. Unfortunately, the tent leaked and items were getting ruined as water dripped on them or little rivers on the mud floor soaked them.

A close-up of Anakin’s Podracer prop.

Steve Sansweet: It was a mess. We had walkie-talkies and no sooner did we get one thing fixed than I would hear, “Steve, it’s raining in Tent 2 over in the corner.” I eventually shut off the walkie-talkie so I could do some of the programming. We had two stages going for celebrities. We had Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker) and Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker). We had a special evening program, the Jar Jar Jam with Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), who had a band.

Matt Tolosa: I remember Ahmed Best rapping on stage, and Ray Park (Darth Maul) breakdancing. Then we ran into producer Rick McCallum. Fans ran up to him asking about the film, and the sequel (with rumors of clones), some even requested to be in it, having twin siblings!
Dale Tolosa (Fan, Longtime Attendee): It felt more like a mini high school dance with no jocks, just a bunch of nerds all wanting to hang out and have a good time. This was the first time we congregated on a massive scale for a whole event solely devoted to Star Wars. I felt at home.
The 501st and Rebel Legions were in their infancy, yet still I felt in awe the first time I saw people were wearing legit X-wing pilot and stormtrooper costumes. My brother Matt and I would eventually get inspired to join.
Steve Sansweet: Despite the rain… despite all the problems, people really loved it and people are now proud to say “I survived Celebration I.”

The last photo taken at Celebration I.

Dan Madsen: One of the legacies of Celebration I is that the life-size X-wing that Lucasfilm sent out for the event has been graciously given permanently to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum to display alongside their real-life World War II fighter planes. When you walk in the door, it’s the first thing you see (and I’m told by museum staff the most popular)…it is even signed now by Harrison Ford, who appeared there for a fundraiser.
Star Wars Celebration Japan is set for April 18-20, 2025. Get your tickets now and stay tuned to and for the latest news.


不想錯過? 請追蹤FB專頁!    
前一頁 後一頁