Set out in amidst the farms of Petaluma, California and hidden amongst fields of grass is a modest all-American house with a well-kept lawn, a welcoming porch, and of course a custom white metal gate with a familiar face subtly and tastefully punched in it. It is the face of a weathered Jedi Master, and the house is home of Steve Sansweet. It is also the home of Rancho Obi-Wan. It is a magical place where everyone are equal, and all our friends.
Whether you've already had the good fortune to see the museum for yourself or not, there is little doubt this is not the first time you've heard of Rancho Obi-Wan and the wonders beyond its gate. But for the sake of argument, we'll just say it the home of the world's largest Star Wars collection. And what a collection it is.
The first time I came to visit was in September, 2001. Only days after the events in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Needless to say, this hung over our heads, as it did for so many, but the first day of this three day trip took some of the weight off of us and provided a much needed escape from what we were all feeling. Even though all that happened ten days earlier never left our thoughts, some of the tension was certainly released. And that's the power of Rancho Obi-Wan. Once you enter the museum there is no room for anything save fun and adventure. Steve's passion for Star Wars overrides any emotion you bring in with you and you find yourself letting go of all that is not good in your life. While Star Wars Celebrations are great to surround yourself with likeminded people, it is still an event at least partially centered on commerce. Rancho Obi-Wan has nothing at all to do with buying or selling (save for all the buying Steve does to keep the collection current)
Even after a second visit to Rancho Obi-Wan (in 2005 I think) I am left wondering what other treasures are tucked away (very neatly by collection manager Anne Neumann no doubt) in a section I haven't yet made it over to. I'm willing to bet that only she and Steve have seen everything in there, and I'm not even sure I'd put money on that wager...
The point is, after months of work, they were able to put together a travelling show version of the museum. Even though it didn't even come close to illustrating the enormity of the collection, it did very accurately display its diversity. Everyone that walked through the mini ROW was treated to a display that showcased almost every genre of Star Wars collecting. From prop recreations like the life-size Yoda puppet from The Empire Strikes Back, to crew apparel and gifts, to all forms of original art, to prototype and production toys, and of course a heavy serving of Steve's favourite Star Wars collectibles: the fan made one of a kind creations. And everyone felt the magic of the converted chicken coop in Petaluma, making it the coolest part of the event.
The Celebration VI display was fully marked with descriptive tags providing both witty commentary and historical facts on all the items shown. And the pavilion was always manned by Steve Sansweet, his partner Bob Canning, Anne Neumann, or her mother Susan Rogers, so there was always someone there that had more information about the collection, the museum itself, and the newly created membership packages.