Visiting Rancho Obi-Wan is like coming home for Star Wars nerds. There's really no other way to put it. Located in Northern California, Rancho Obi-Wan began as the private collection of Star Wars super-fan Steve Sansweet and has turned into the world's largest museum of Star Wars collectibles and ephemera.
For the last few Star Wars Celebrations, Sansweet has brought a piece of his collection to the exhibition hall, showing off just a taste of what his museum holds. For Star Wars Celebration: Chicago, he curated a fascinating exhibit that took three different looks at Star Wars.
"It's the 20th anniversary of Star Wars Celebration," Sansweet told SYFY WIRE. "And instead of celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, which is more of a year-long celebration, this seemed to be the perfect place and time to celebrate the fact that this massive amount of fans have come together thirteen times around the world and shared a sense of community."
The Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit takes up an impressive amount of floor space and large glass display cases, which feature all manner of items illustrative of each of these 13 Celebrations. From souvenir guides and exclusive bits of merchandise and giveaways that had been sold and handed out over the last twenty years to some truly unique items. Even a Jar Jar Binks whoopie cushion. "That's one of my favorite pieces, actually," Sansweet says. "They actually had the temerity to make them."
Sansweet pointed to a giant board full of patches that stands over six feet high and claimed it as one of his favorite pieces of Celebration merchandise, saying, "It shows that a lot of fans make their own swag for Celebration."
Each patch on the board is fan made to commemorate different aspects of Celebration from a number of different fan organizations such as the 501st and Rebel Legions.
But that's not all Sansweet brought. Next to the celebration of Celebration, Sansweet assembled a case full of merchandise that spans 40 years of Star Wars merch that was made for the women in Star Wars fandom. The case included everything from vintage Princess Leia dress-up sets and Queen Amidala make-up kits to plush Ewoks and Leia dolls.
"I think a lot of people think female fandom is new to Star Wars and we wanted to show that way back in 1977 the female fans were buying Star Wars items and enjoyed Star Wars," Sansweet says. "I think the exhibit shows a lot of the vintage stuff made for girls back then and there were a lot of girls into it, even then."
The Rancho Obi-Wan display also held 45 helmets from the history of Star Wars. "The range from the very first Don Post Stormtrooper helmet in 1977 to some of the more recent fan-made and licensed helmets," Sansweet explained. "They just have a beautiful look when they're all together."
And we agree. Our favorites include the centerpiece, a screen-used Darth Vader helmet from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and the Ralph McQuarrie Vader concept.
For any fan visiting Star Wars Celebration, Rancho Obi-Wan is a must-visit destination. Though it's just the tiniest taste of Sansweet's collection, it will make you thirsty to visit the real thing, and that's something every Star Wars fan needs to see for themselves.
For fans at Star Wars Celebration, Rancho Obi-Wan is in the front-right corner of the exhibition hall, booth 5516. For those who want to plan their own visit to the museum, get more details at www.ranchoobiwan.org.