Disney World has been holding Star Wars Weekends -- on which, for four consecutive weekends, Disney World turns from the happiest place on Earth to the geekiest place on Earth -- annually since 2003. I attended Star Wars Weekend the first weekend of 2015, to soak up some geeks rays while simultaneously trying to repel the blazing hot light of the Florida sun. Here's what I saw.
Star Wars Weekend's inaugural event is a motorcade with the usual cast of characters ...
Some stormtrooopers who look like they've just executed Order 66.
Some familiar faces ...
And best of all, Ian McDiarmid, aka Sith Lord extraordinaire Emperor Palpatine, in the flesh.
He's force-lightninging me. Life achievement unlocked.
But that was just the beginning. Other events included:
Jedi Training Academy, in which padawans can learn to combat the Dark Side under the instruction of those trained in the ways of the Force.
Witty repartee from stormtroopers, who guarded the main stage.
A half-hour recap of season one of Star Wars: Rebels (also known as a place to watch Star Wars in a cool theater during the worst of the Florida heat) preps us for the upcoming Season 2.
Getting your groove on with the sophisticated stylings of DJ Lobot.
A trivia contest for younglings.
There are also lectures that change annually. When I attended in 2013, Ray Park gave a wu-shu demonstration. This year, we attended "Obi-Wan and Beyond," given by James Arnold Taylor, who voiced Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Taylor was a treat for the ears. Come for the Obi-Wan; stay for the spot-on impersonation of Marty McFly (it's no wonder that Taylor occasionally works as the vocal equivalent of Michael J. Fox's stunt double).
So why attend Star Wars Weekend?
It's not just because you can randomly encounter Facebook friends in the flesh. (Hi, cosplayer Reanna Remick, who spotted me in a crowd after only knowing me through photos. Great eye!)
You can meet and take photos with the characters you love, like Queen Amidala and Shaak Ti.
And the characters you love to hate. (This little girl held out her stuffed moose to Darth Maul. He sneered at her offering. Because he's evil.)
Asajj Ventress is less than pleased at this youngling's failure to cower appropriately.
There are also special Star Wars-themed yummies, like this Han Solo popcorn box.
A chocolate and peanut-butter cupcake, with edible Darth Vader topping. (Photo by Rachel Barber.)
Star Wars-themed alcoholic drinks.
The glow cube in action. This cocktail, featuring a Death Star cube amid a bunch of floating rocks, is called the "Alderaan." Too soon?
The lights on the toy change when you press a button on the bottom. (These would have been a gift for a friend, but forget him.)
A Boba Fett drinking mug reminds us a little too much of the "chilled monkey brains" scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
This restaurant-turned-cantina was made awesome with Star Wars decor. For example, here's a Matrix-like Han Solo table topper.
Some wall fixtures obviously came from the remnants of a dismantled TIE fighter.
It's also a place to get fabulous Star Wars merchandise. One fan told me that while he spent $250, he witnessed someone spend $2,500.
Merch includes a bunch of Yodas. Or is that a council of Yodas? (It's certainly not a pride of Yodas.)
And these fun Star Wars headphones.
Some of this merchandise is exclusive to Star Wars Weekend, like these Dooney & Bourke leather purses.
Importantly, Star Wars Weekend is the only place in the world where you can get yourself turned into a Star Wars character through 3-D printing.
Let's not forget the fabulous artwork.
I bought the X-Wing, because I'm geeky.
But there are reasons NOT to attend as well.
There are crowds.
Although the food is remarkably good, the prices at Disney World -- not just at Star Wars Weekend, but year-round -- can be a little hard to swallow.
And then there's the weather. The miserable, face-melting Florida weather.
But you can still get Star Wars satisfaction at Disney World, even if you attend during the less crowded, less humid times of the year.
You can ride Star Tours, a fantastically fun Star Wars adventure with multiple scenarios.
Pins add a geeky touch to every outfit. PRO TIP: Buy an inexpensive pin. If you see an employee wearing a pin you really want, he or she has to trade with you.
Mickey Mouse ears mashup with Star Wars.
A facepainting booth offers Darth Maul as one of its many options.
You can also build your own droid--and place it in its own packaging.
But unlike another gathering of Star Wars fans, say, the convention Star Wars Celebration, at Star Wars Weekends, you can also visit Disney World.
And the Magic Kingdom.
And more EPCOT.
And Animal Kingdom.
To wrap it up, there are two important reasons that Star Wars fans should attend Star Wars Weekend:
The most important reason is the fans ...
Who brought their best braids.
And attitudes. For example, this fan dressed up as Luke Skywalker, wig and all, to get his photo taken with R2-D2.
And the second most important reason of all? They were right. It seems the Dark Side has cookies after all.
(Photos by Carol Pinchefsky and Peter Wainwright. Thanks to Iris Sloman, Rachel Barber and Paul Meagher.)