Star Wars Day at Victoria Gardens

 

On Saturday, May 25, 2019, I had the pleasure of attending Star Wars Day at the Paul Biane Library located at Victoria Gardens Mall in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, California.  Events also took place inside the Lewis Family Cultural Center Playhouse, connected to the Library, and along the Main Street of the mall. This was by far, one of my favorite Star Wars Day Celebrations that I have attended over the years and I was excited that the cornucopia of activities and visual stimuli left me with a plethora of emotions.

For those in attendance, it was a time to celebrate, united by family, friends and children, taking pictures, sharing photo-ops, seeing cosplayers on parade, sitting and listening to guest panels, buying merchandise from vendors, listening to story time, hearing fun music performed by special guests, receiving artist sketches, winning raffles and other fantastic occurrences such as a lightsaber guild performing lightsaber duels, and seeing collectors vintage action figures. Although I missed the opening parade, I was able to see the armored Stormtroopers, Rebel Soldiers, Jedi, Sith, and Mandalorians. Seeing custom built radio controlled droids was also a fun sight, and I was able to have my picture taken with my friend Lisa, who was fantastically dressed in a beautiful hat, matching purse and outfit celebrating Artoo Deetoo (R2-D2).

My friend, Allen Callaci, who is the Literacy Librarian, and a published author, spearheads this event, and can attest to popular turnout that helps keep the library a dynamic and pivotal outreach to the community. This is one event he proudly loves to share with people every year. I have had the privilege to know Allen Callaci since 2007, since he first invited me to attend the Inland Sci-Fi group that meets on the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 pm at the Biane Library. I have not been as active, but Allen continues to give an open invitation and keep me in the loop. (Shameless Plug: Infinite Dominions, Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30 pm “Something Wicked This Way Comes” Ray Bradbury.)

I think what connects us is our love of Science Fiction and Star Wars, and much more. Allen has been much more than a friend to me, he is also a mentor, and has encouraged me to pursue librarianship, a dream I hope to see fulfilled in just a couple of years. Since Star Wars Day, I have asked Allen Callaci his thoughts about this annual event:

KM: What is your official library title?

AC: Literacy Librarian. I oversee the Adult and Children’s literacy programs at the Rancho Cucamonga Library.

KM: How many years of Star Wars Day (SWD) have there been?

AC: SWD started back in 2007 To give you and idea of how long ago that was I used MySpace to contact the 501st and other Star Wars costuming groups. The event was born out of desperation. I had never done a library program in my life but there was not other Full-time staff available to cover the library’s Family Saturday story time which fell on the Memorial Day Holiday. The Children’s librarian at the time, Heather Cousin, felt bad about throwing a novice like me into conducting a Children’s story time so she let me choose whatever theme I wanted. As a lifelong Star Wars nerd since childhood I jumped on the opportunity to do a Star Wars program. We put up a small Star Wars display at the library and next thing we know we have 200 at the library for our event. Our director, Michele Perera had to race over to the library on her day off to contain the crowds.

KM: That is amazing.

AC: since those humble beginnings we have featured such guests as Gary Whitta (Screenwriter Rogue One), Kyle Newman (director of Fanboys) and Billy Dee Williams.

KM: How many people attended Star Wars Day this year?

AC: The attendance for this year’s event was 5,000+. We are fortunate enough to be located within an outdoor mall which gives us enough space to contain the crowd.

KM: I was at Star Wars Day this year, and there was an enormous turnout. In addition to having special guests, what else took place?

AC: Besides our special guests the event now features a 100+ character procession, Darth Vader story time, Star Wars crafts and even once featured a Jar Jar Binks dunk tank.

KM: I remember the Jar Jar Binks dunk tank. That was a warm year. That might also be when I had the honor of drawing a huge C-3PO head with chalk in the court yard (where the stage was this year). Who are some of the people who have contributed? How many volunteers?

AC: The event really takes a village to pull off Star Wars Day every year as it continues to expand across the galaxy that is the Inland Empire.

KM: Yes, it does take a village. I saw just how many people contributed. It is astounding.

AC: The entire Library staff works tirelessly as a unit for 6+ months, the library Star Wars planning committee which works closely alongside the Victoria Gardens Mall to coordinate for months (the Victoria Gardens Mall also makes a sizable contribution to help advertise and finance the event), Shawn Crosby who is our Master of Ceremonies, we usually have 40+ volunteers help us run and local community vendors like 4Color Fantasies Comic Shop and the local minor league baseball team the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes who do a Star Wars themed game and fireworks show in conjunction with our event groups such as the California Vintage Star Wars Collectors Club who bring a fantastic display of vintage Star Wars toys…and of course we would have no event whatsoever without the 501st, Rebel Legion, Saber Guild and Mandalorian Mercs costuming groups.

KM: I loved seeing the vintage Star Wars toys. I still have much of my own collection, and have considered signing up with this group. One of my side projects is to photograph all of my vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia and integrate them into a nice archival photo book. I enjoyed having my picture with the several of the costumed characters. Before I forget, is there anyone else you wanted to mention?

AC: Another name I need to mention is the library’s former tech librarian Adam Tuckerman who was the copilot in the formative years of Star Wars Day and helped shape it into what it has become.

KM: I remember Adam. I also remember when you both dressed as Jedi. I want to ask you what two things made this year special?

AC: So many great moments each year at the event. The ones that always most special to me are the more personal moments whether that be a family of four tracking me down to say thanks for putting this on as they are a low income family who can not afford to take their children to Disneyland or a blind tween who had been listening to R2-D2 for years through the movies but was now able to put his hands on R2-D2 and know the actual shape of R2. My other favorite moment was having the Cantina Band close out our event with an energizing performance.

KM: I enjoyed seeing the Saber Guild. I would say that was my favorite part of the event as was seeing the Cantina Band break into Dub-step. It was energizing wasn’t it? I only have a couple more questions for you. How was your experience on the panel with Julie Dolan and Daniel Logan?

AC: Co-hosting this year’s panels with Shawn Crosby which featured such great folks as Julie Dolan (voice of Princess Leia in Star Wars Rebels), Kevin Thompson (Ewok, Return of the Jedi), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett – Attack of the Clones), and authors Michael Kogge and Daniel Key Moran was my inner 10 year-old’s dream come true.

KM: I was able to see Julie Dolan and Daniel Logan. I enjoyed hearing them share their experiences. A new blogger friend of mine, JenMarie (Twitter)(@acrossthestars) had her picture taken with Daniel Logan wearing a new watch that was donated to him. Kudos on that photo-op JenMarie (I whisper proudly).

KM: Allen, what are your plans for next year’s Star Wars Day event?

AC: Next year marks the 40th anniversary of my favorite Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, so I am hoping to do something along those lines.

KM: I am excited. Please let me know how I can help or contribute. The Empire Strikes Back is also my favorite of the original trilogy. I was 10 years old, and excited about the music, the story, the duel on Bespin, seeing Yoda for the first time. I learned how to imitate Frank Oz’s rendition of Yoda, as probably many other young boys at the time. It really marked the point in which I was all in for Star Wars, even though Star Wars had me from the start.

KM: Last question, Allen. What is the most important takeaway and what makes this event successful?

AC: I think the event has evolved into what it has become because it is a labor of love and that is the secret to anything.

KM: True. Thank you Allen, for taking time to respond to my questions and for doing such a marvelous, passionate and heart-felt job this year. I think you outdid yourself. Also, Thank you for taking time to sign your book for me. May the Force Be With You. For those that don’t know, Allen Callaci is the author of his non-fiction work, Heart Like a Starfish. Illustrated by Amy Maloof. His book can be enjoyed from the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, or you can purchase it online, and at http://www.pelekinesis.com (ISBN: 978-1-938349-35-5).

Closing:

Allen Callaci, Literacy Librarian can be reached for inquiries about literacy programs or future Star Wars Day events through the Rancho Cucamonga Library Services via telephone: (909) 477-2720 x3909.

Kirk A. McConnell is a creative artist, photographer, and writer. You will most likely see him roaming around Rancho Cucamonga and visiting 4Color Fantasies, one of his favorite comic book stores. If you encounter Kirk, you might be so lucky as to get a free sketch if you ask him on one of his less shy days. Kirk doesn’t bite. He’s actually friendly and loves talking Star Wars and Comics with people.

Dear Reader, Thank you for taking the time to read this bloggerview, I hope to share with you again sometime. –KM.

One comment

  1. Great article. I never knew all this happened annually in my backyard. Sounds like a labor of love, but well worth it to bring joy to all the Star Wars fans in the IE.

    Like

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