The Grand Re-Opening of Rancho Obi-Wan
This is a story from a few different perspectives. Rebelscum's Shane Turgeon and Chris Wyman along with site owner Philip Wise were on hand for all the festivities. Philip shot a great gallery of the new self-guided tour throughout the facility prior to the event which made for some nice clean shots. Click here to view this spectacular photo shoot!
Update: Philip has added a gallery of photos of Rancho Obi-Wan taken prior to all the guests arriving, and some of the guests. Hopefully this will give you some idea of the scale of the museum. Philip's Gallery.
If the quality of the actual invitation was any indication as to how professional and well planned the event was to be, I knew we were in for a treat. Here's a detailed looked at what arrived in the mail:
I departed from Orlando 5:53am on Saturday morning, arrived in San Francisco at 9:49am and hit the ground running meeting up with fellow teammate Shane Turgeon and big time collector Luis Villagomez. The three of us rode out to Petaluma together arriving at noon. We checked in to our hotel, grabbed some lunch and headed off to what was most certainly going to be the highlight of our weekend.
There were shuttles picking up guests at select locations around Petaluma beginning at 3:45pm. We were on the first shuttle out and on our way to the event.
Upon our arrival to Rancho Obi-Wan we were greeted by Steve Sansweet, Anne Neumann, the Rancho Staff and members from the 501st Legion which included Captain Rex, Commander Cody and a Gamorrean Guard! Gathered just outside under a small tent, we waited to check our coats, bags, etc. and grab our name tags and a program guide. Up the stairs we went into Steve’s office where the evening commenced.
The tour began in the hallway leading from the offices to the Museum Front Bay. Steve played a wonderful new audio track of James Arnold Taylor welcoming all to Rancho Obi-Wan in true Obi-Wan Kenobi fashion.
We were taken past the new Library on the left...
...and the Poster Room and Ephemera Room on the right.
Then it was down the stairs into the Museum Front Bay which can only be described as the biggest treasure a Star Wars collector could imagine. At the bottom of the steps stands a life-size Darth Vader with ignited lightsaber guarding a room that’s filled with row after row of collectibles from all over the world stacked with care and displayed perfectly. There is also a life-size Cantina Band, Stormtrooper, Darth Maul, Boba Fett & Han in Carbonite. It would probably take a person at least a week to really have a detailed look at what’s there, but a quick glance shows that all of the items are carefully organized by collection and type. At the end of this very long room in the Museum Back Bay sits a large glass cabinet that houses the Gentle Giant mini-bust and Master Replicas lightsaber collections, the recent AT-AT Walker Star Wars Blu-ray display, a life-size Battle Droid and so much more. There are literally 160 photos of this room alone! For a look at the full Museum Front & Back Bay gallery, please click here.
Looking a little further past that, we came to the Curtain Room which houses several authentic movie props, some studio scale models, a bronze Darth Vader statue by Lawrence Noble and some original story boards from the films along with many other gems.
It’s then up another set of stairs and into the Tantive IV Corridor. The entry way to this room is lined with several life size busts from Sideshow Collectibles.
At the end of this hallway is another set of doors that slide open revealing the new Museum Addition which is chocked full of Star Wars goodness. To our immediate right sat a life-size C-3PO and Anakin Skywalker. To our immediate left was a life-size Dejarik Table and R2-D2.
A little further up and to the left is the Arcade with no less than ten fully operational games.
Just ahead and to the right is the official Rancho General Store which offers a variety of items for sale.
At the very end of the room is the Art Gallery with tons of original and limited edition art work along with all of the Darth Vader helmets that were claimed in last year’s “The Vader Project” charity auction as well as the Stormtrooper helmets from the "TK Helmet Project" and the giant ten foot tall Darth Vader head from the New York Toys "R" Us store that was "free" except for the $5,000 shipping charges.
There was a large pavilion set up outside with tables, chairs, mounds of tasty food and drinks.
At 5:01pm, it was back to the life-size Darth Vader for the official grand re-opening of Rancho Obi-Wan complete with the cutting of the ribbon (via a lightsaber of course). Pictured below are Steve and Tom 'Mayor of Star Wars Town' Schaefer attempting to cut through the ribbon.
At 5:30pm, it was time for the raffles to begin for some really cool pieces that included vintage and modern era collectibles.
Steve was giving tours to each group that arrived which kept him busy for much of the evening. Amongst all of the touring though, he did make time for a few special events.
At 7:30pm, there were a few welcoming speeches given and it was announced that Rancho Obi-Wan was incorporated as a non-profit organization and would begin hosting events, tours and even weddings! James Arnold Taylor was also made an honorary member of the 501st Legion and Star Wars artist Brian Rood presented Steve with the original artwork for a special patch that was made to commemorate the re-opening of Rancho Obi-Wan.
At 8:00pm, inside the Museum Addition, a small section that had been closed off with a large black curtain was revealed. Not one, but two cakes were waiting for us! The first was an exact replica of the Star Wars 1 year Anniversary birthday cake complete with action figures. The second was a beautiful Rancho Obi-Wan logo. Guests were given ample time to snap photos and then, we ate some cake!
Given the nature of this party, it was only natural for everyone to grab photos with each other as we all marveled at the greatest Star Wars collection in the world. For example:
The seven hour event lasted until 11:00pm. At that time, everyone made their way down to the coat and bag check and picked up a special goody bag which included the exclusive Rancho Obi-Wan gold coin, an Episode I advanced screening ticket from 1999, a 501st trading card, an Episode V patch, an Episode V pencil, an Episode I Kellogg's "The Power of the Myth" sticker, and the exclusive Rancho Obi-Wan patch to celebrate the grand re-opening. A most sincere and thoughtful gesture! Everyone boarded the shuttles back to the parking lot locations and then drove back to the hotels. When all was said and done, it truly was the perfect night. Steve, Anne and all of the other hard working individuals that were part of the team have done such an amazing job with Rancho Obi-Wan and it was an honor to be a part of such a wonderful evening. Thank you for including me in this memorable occasion!
It was a quick 24 hour trip to California, especially given the six hour flight from Florida, but it was totally worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Although, next time, I think I'll plan to stay for a bit longer!
In closing, here are a few shots of the exterior of Rancho Obi-Wan. You'd never know what's inside these walls if you were just passing by.
I left for San Francisco on Thursday with a loose idea in my head of what to expect from Steve Sansweet's grand museum re-opening gala and how I was going to formulate the story I'd write for Rebelscum highlighting the experience. Having been to the museum a few times before, I knew roughly what to expect and I figured I'd write about some of my favourite vintage pieces and discuss how amazing the museum is – amazing in scope and in that it doesn't matter what niche areas of Star Wars you're into, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Well, as I say, that was my plan.
While there are certainly some amazing vintage pieces I inevitably drool over each and every visit and while it's overwhelmingly true that the meticulously displayed and monumental museum offers something for everyone - from the uninitiated to the casual fan and for the most hardcore of uber-serious niche collectors - upon arrival at the event, it was clear that for me, at least, this party was about to represent something larger, simpler and much more important than the celebration of a lifetime of collecting Star Wars memorabilia...
The afternoon of Saturday November 5th, 2011 was a cold and rainy one. When Luis Villagomez, Chris Wyman and I arrived to shuttle pick up location for the Rancho Obi-Wan party in Petaluma we were greeted by many good friends from all over the world, several of whom we'd spent the previous few days with in the city, and all of whom were huddled beneath a bus shelter far too small to keep all of us dry of the dreary downpour. However, we weren't out in the wet for long and soon the shuttle was whisking us away to the iron wrought gates of the magnificent Rancho Obi-Wan.
Upon arrival we were queued under a tent and greeted with hugs and handshakes from Steve, Anne Neumann and their fantastic Rancho Obi-Wan volunteer team as we all checked in. The chilly rain falling from dark grey skies overhead seemed to have little to no effect on the ever-growing enthusiasm of the ever-growing crowd all here to celebrate with Steve.
After crowding about in Steve's office for twenty minutes or so, catching up with friends most hadn't seen since Celebration V, we were ready to embark on the first tour of the night! The framed posters, library and flat file rooms passed us by along the opening hallway and were but impressive precursors to what lay behind the door at the end of the hall; that wonderful museum filled to the brim with more Star Wars than one could possibly imagine – and to quote Han Solo, "I can imagine quite a bit!"
A lot of work had been done in the past couple of years since my last visit. Vader and the Modal Nodes still greeted us all but beyond these stoic keepers of the museum were brand new shelves lining the corridor – shelves lined with an incredible assortment of rare vintage toys, prop replicas, modern exclusives, foreign items and fan made goodies. Behind these shelves lay a seemingly endless expanse of yet more shelves where the rest of the collection archives are held. A few more changes were ahead as well – the familiar arcade and art rooms had been replaced with a magazine storage area and an incredible display room showcasing an array of props, prototypes, prop replicas, and unbelievable fan made ships and vehicles respectively. Also in the former art room was a red velvet curtain. And who in their right mind can resist the temptations of a red velvet curtain?!
Thankfully we didn't have to wait long to see what lay behind. Steve continued with his tour, pulling back the curtains and revealing the familiar corridor of the Tantive IV. A quick wave of Steve's hand convinced the Stormtroopers that we weren't the party guests they were looking for and the blast doors were slowly opened to reveal what we were all here to celebrate – the opening of the new 3000 square foot addition to Rancho Obi-Wan!
And what a reveal it was! All attention was immediately drawn to the enormous Darth Vader head ominously gazing at us from the opposite wall – a gaze that once greeted shoppers at the Times Square FAO Schwartz store in New York City. Ominous gaze or not, it didn't take long for all of us to soon break Vader's hold and find a myriad of items there to take our attention. The mannequins to our right, the arcade to our left, the Rancho Obi-Wan store further to our right, the Blu-Ray prop from this year's SDCC further to our left and, my personal favourite, the art area dead ahead.
There really is so much cool stuff to see and far too much to describe and even comprehend as belonging to just one man at Rancho Obi-Wan. But as I said earlier, this story isn't about the all the cool things held within the walls of Rancho Obi-Wan (chicken souls notwithstanding). As more and more people arrived over the course of the evening, and as I looked around and watched and listened to everyone in attendance, it became so clear that the greatest influence Star Wars has had on all of our lives is, quite simply, each other.
Some of the most important people in my life I've met through this community and although we're often unable to see each other for years at a time, when we do see each other, it's like nothing else in the world matters. Steve's event brought so many of us together again for what is arguably, the world's greatest family reunion (but one filled with people you actually know and are excited to see - unlike those other, traditional family reunions). We spent the evening sharing in one another's highs and lows; laughing, loving, shaking hands, hugging, crying, sharing ideas, and helping make each other's dreams come true. Star Wars was the catalyst, the bond that brought us together in the first place, but all of this has grown so much bigger than movies and toys and costumes.
Steve Sansweet's legacy is not that he's amassed the world's largest collection of Star Wars memorabilia. It's not that he's written 16 books. It's not that he's worked for Lucasfilm and helped make them the company that they became during his tenure there. Steve Sansweet's true legacy lies in the fact that he was the one who brought so many of us together in the first place – through his books, his articles, his work with the Celebration events, or simply by making a few introductions. There were nearly 200 people at the Rancho Obi-Wan party and most in attendance have likely been directly or indirectly influenced by one another over the years and all of us who were there have Steve to thank for that.
The party at Rancho Obi-Wan was, in my opinion, far less of a celebration of the collection or the museum but of the fact that friendship is the driving force of everything we do and when we all work together, the possibilities are endless in what we can achieve. I'm honoured to have been invited to this party by Steve and I'm certainly glad I was able to attend and catch up with so many good friends in the process. I wish nothing but continued success for the new direction that Steve et al are about to embark upon with Rancho Obi-Wan. Indeed, the future really is inspired by the force of imagination.