Saturday 2nd November was the date, 4pm the time, Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, California was the place and the event, a party celebrating the inauguration of Rancho Obi-Wan and Steve Sansweet as the official owner of the worlds largest Star Wars collection. But this was no ordinary party. The cover fee, which all went towards the continued upkeep of Rancho, included a magnificent swag bag filled to the brim with exclusive items. Event specific patches, challenge coins, t-shirts, heck even the bag itself, all the more unique as there were only 250 produced to accomodate the maximum guest list amount. Yes, if you wanted to be at the hub of all things Star Wars on the 2nd November, Petaluma was definitely the place to be.
I was fortunate enough to be there, both as a guest of Steve and the Rancho Obi-Wan gang for the week andalso as a helper at the party itself, and after a trip from Turkey via a brief stop-over in the UK on the way, I was sure I’d be too dog-tired to enjoy. But it’s amazing what a place like Rancho Obi-Wan can do to fatigue as all my aches and tiredness dissolved as the taxi approached the gates of Rancho Obi-Wan and Bob Canning was there to greet me into the yard. I said a few hello’s to familiar faces, swapped my t-shirt for a World Record Night blue staff tee and went straight upstairs onto the hall that led into the museum itself.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to see before the museum. The toilet is brimming with Star Wars related collectibles – toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, handwash, tissues from all around the world fill the shelves as all the while a Boba Fett/Sarlacc Pit painted toilet seat looks down. On the landing right outside the loo are three glass cases filled with vintage figures and the 1995 wave of Hasbro 3 3/4’s, as a huge French Return of the Jedi poster looks across the stairs, opposite an equally impressive The Empire Strikes Back poster. It’s almost too much to take in, as right beside Steve and Bob’s office is an alcove packed with Obi-Wan related busts, custom action figures and ephemera. I had been dizzy with tiredness a few minutes before, now I was giddy with geeky glee as I moved down the hall, past the library and the trading card room where the silent auction would be held to the main door that opened up into the museum.
Any Star Wars fan worth his or her salt will have seen the photo’s and be well aware of the impact opening that door can have, as walking down the carbon freezing chamber inspired stairs and onto the main floor there’s a cornucopia of galactic goodies at every blink. To my left there’s the Modal Nodes, which I’d seen before in person at the much missed FAO Schwartz toy store in Las Vegas, next to a wall of Star Wars inspired guitars. To my right, a full-sized Boba Fett, Darth Maul (in far better shape than my battle damaged piece) and right on front of me the most iconic figure of all, the Darth Vader costume, on a pedestal with the World Record party logo balanced by his foot. And pinpointing off into the distance, tall rows of product holding you-name-it: classic Kenner action figures and sets, prototypes, dolls, toy cars, mock-ups, coins. The list goes on, and it seemed that every time I walked past the display had changed and there was something new to focus on (either that or Anne Neumann is even busier than we thought!) I was there to assist but I had to take a walk, try and soak it all in as it was my first visit and I wanted to get a sense of geography and an idea of where everything lived.
Randy Martinez and Denise Vasquez were treating us to their unique brand of cool as they played together on a small raised platform in what is currently the top hall and guests mingled freely. My good pals (excuse the namedrop) Darren Hayes and Richard Cullen were there, as was Michonne Bourriague (aka Aurra Sing from The Phantom Menace, Phillip Wise and wife Ann, Gus Lopez and Duncan Jenkins who I’d gotten to know well at Dave Tree’s Farthest From 3 event last year and a swathe of familiar faces from fellow websites and podcasts (including our old buddy Adam Lamping, now writing for Rebel Scum). There was not only someone to chat with at every turn and of course something cool to marvel at, but the food…oh boy, the food was delicious and I even allowed myself a beer (I hardly drink these days) and a cupcake or three as the night wore on.
The Rancho gang had organised a number of activities for the night including a bounty hunt, whereby contestants had to locate 13 trading cards in a chase through the museum that ended on a full set of cards, a silent auction assisted by James, a live auction hosted by Tracey and Anne, a truncated performance of Talking With Myself by James Arnold Taylor, all the while the party being documented by photographer Victoria Webb.
But that wasn’t all. The man in the hat Dave Filoni arrived at the party, bringing with him fellow The Clone Wars alumni’s Tom Kane (who I found out afterwards was very generously signing for free), my very first My Star Wars guest in the Star Wars Insider the wonderful Catherine Taber and Lucasfilm’s fantastic Tracy Cannobio, who everyone should follow on Twitter. They all mixed with the guests and chatted, enjoying the party atmosphere and soaking up the awesome.
The two auctions were a blistering success, raising a huge amount towards the upkeep of Rancho. Steve explained, and it bares repeating, that all items in the museum are paid for either by Steve himself, traded with fellow collectors or donated. None of the money raised on the night, or in past or future events, goes towards buying toys. The funds are to pay for such things as the insurance (which costs thousands a year), keeping the lights on and adding extentions to the museum (there are plans to extend and add new buildings which are proceeding right now). A worry of Rancho Obi-Wan is any negative perception that funds are raised to buy toys – I can tell you categorically that they are not.
The team at Rancho Obi-Wan should be very proud of not only the event, or the honour of being inducted into the Guinness Book of Records, but for the contribution they make to Star Wars fandom and to Petaluma itself (Rancho Obi-Wan is officially one of the Ten Best Things To Do In Petaluma, and having visited for a week I can confirm that’s quite the accolade). I admit, I’m biased but I can’t recommend a trip out to visit this magnificent museum enough and the next time there’s such an event or party, regardless of the distance I have to travel, I’ll make my best effort to be there. I’ll see you in the queue for the cupcakes.
For more of our event coverage click here.