How Star Wars, and illness, changed my life

By Wes Middleton
WP_20160315_017I was born after the release of Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, which, for all intents and purposes, means that I’ve been a Star Wars fan my entire life. I still have my late grandfather’s original VHS copies of the trilogy, which I would watch every time I was home sick from school, and I had to stay home a lot. That wasn’t because I preferred Star Wars to going to school (well, at least that wasn’t my motivation); rather, it was due to having had asthma since I was two years old. As a young child, it was pretty severe, so there were a lot of sick days.

While asthma is undeniably a terrible disease, and certainly my couple of near-death experiences aren’t anything I’d want to relive, I’m actually grateful for the ways that the situation changed my life for the better. During one of my early hospital stays, a family friend brought me my first two comic books, which I still own and cherish: Punisher and Ghost Rider. I read them over and over until I knew every panel. That one event set me on a path to comic book fanaticism an I haven’t strayed since. In addition, there were those sick days spent resting on the couch watching Star Wars. Of course little boys want to run around, but when the doctors’ orders are simply to rest, this was the best way to go about it, because I could, and did, lay there for hours watching and re-watching the original trilogy. I was a kid who needed an escape, and I couldn’t dream of a better one.

My love of the franchise only grew. Now, as an (arguable) adult, a room in my house is dedicated to Star Wars art, I’m a proud member of the 501st Legion’s Golden Gate Garrison, I have a growing number of Star Wars tattoos, and I’ve been featured in both Star Wars Insider and on starwars.com. So it was when a longtime friend and fellow fanboy asked if I wanted to volunteer at a place called Rancho Obi-Wan for its grand opening, I had to say yes. After all, he told me that it was the world’s largest privately-owned Star Wars collection. That was five years ago, and even now, after having returned so many times, I’m still swept away by the same awe I experienced the first time I beheld the wonderland that is Rancho Obi-Wan. For a Star Wars fan, it is a place beyond words.

I’ve loved reading since I can remember. As that love grew, so too did my desire to write. I now have several comic book projects in the works, I’ve helped start a writer’s group at Brian’s Comics in downtown Petaluma, and write comic book reviews for whysoblu.com. I’ll be working closely with Rancho Obi-Wan in an effort to maintain the blog and social media outlets with the help of Steve Sansweet, Anne Neumann, and Consetta Parker. The museum, of course, houses memorabilia, but as important it’s the home of stories, passion, and inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind place that needs to be shared with the world, and I am excited to do just that.

Star Wars represents so much to so many. It’s more than the merchandise, it’s more than the community, and it’s more than the film franchise itself–although it is very much all of those things as well. Star Wars is inspiring, and it’s expansive beyond belief. People from all walks of life with all types of ambitions can find a home under the Star Wars umbrella, and Rancho Obi-Wan captures that massive potential. Within its hallowed halls one can find so much history, so much love, and so much creativity. It was being in a place like that that drove me to volunteer time and again, and that continues to drive me every day to create and to contribute.

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A Great Year to Celebrate a Decade at ROW

By Anne Neumann
VP, General Manager

Last year I wrote a blog celebrating my ninth year here at Rancho Obi-Wan. All of a sudden another year has swept past and now I’ve been here a full decade! And what a year it was! With the anticipation and build-up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rancho Obi-Wan had more than a few irons in the fire.

Throughout the year we hosted more than 100 tours of the museum that included friendly folks from Lucasfilm, Disney, retailers and licensees, Forbes, ABC News, Agence France-Presse, CBS Evening News, KNTV, MTime China, B Magazine Korea, Santa Cruz Skateboards, Space Channel Canada, NHK Japan and five local schools. We contributed tours as prizes for local charities to auction off. And Steve gave scores of interviews to both U.S. and worldwide media.

We participated in at least one large project every month in 2015, some of which you might have missed:

Hasbro’s page-a-day retailer photo calendar counting down from May the 4th to September 4th’s “Force Friday”–that magical day when the new toys were available worldwide.

Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. Robert Xavier Burden’s immense “20th Century Space Opera” became the backdrop for the 900 square foot space as Steve performed the marriage ceremony of John and Melisa Graeber. The exhibit was filled with art and other fan-made items.
Photo by Victoria Webb Photography

Steve and I authored our first self-published book: Inspired by the Force: Star Wars Fan Artifacts & Art. Current members of Rancho Obi-Wan can purchase it in the member-only store.

For the second year, we participated in our hometown Petaluma’s Butter & Egg Days parade along with members of the 50st Legion and other costumers.

“May the 4th be with you!” Local brewery Lagunitas hosted a small, but very popular, fundraiser for us. Come see us again this year on Tuesday, May the 3rd (May the 4th “The Prequel”) for a silent auction, kids’ costume contest and more!
Photo by Victoria Webb Photography

Kraft Star Wars Macaroni and Cheese commercial. Rancho Obi-Wan provided the set dressing and hero prop for the commercial and subsequent website.

PlayStation Battlefront and Toys “R” Us commercials.

September 4th Force Friday! Steve was at Toys “R” Us in New York City for the big event along with special displays of vintage collectibles from the ROW vaults.
Photo via TheWookieeGunner.com

Rancho Obi-Wan’s 3rd annual fundraiser “Galaween” celebrated Star Wars and Halloween! And the following month we hosted a tour and party for tattoo artists from all over the world.
Photo by Victoria Webb Photography

The Target & Star Wars Galactic Experience at LA Live (across from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles) featured a dome just for Rancho Obi-Wan treasures, titled “Galactic History”.

IMG_1064wDecember 18th, 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially opened in the U.S.! For the record, Steve and I love the movie. What a fantastic time to be a Star Wars fan. Star Wars fandom is more ubiquitous than ever before. We love seeing the diversity of fans coming to visit the museum and it only reinforces our own love of this community.

We’ve been working on an exciting series of events for this year, both here at Rancho and elsewhere, and we can’t wait to start sharing them with you. Thanks for your continuing support of our goal to inspire through the Force of imagination!

Thank You All…and We’re Going Fishin’ for a Spell!

The year’s not even half over, but already this has been an amazing one for Star Wars fans everywhere…and for Rancho Obi-Wan too.

We’ve published our first book, “Inspired by the Force: Star Wars Fan Artifacts & Art.” It’s available through our member store.

From April 16-19, we participated in the largest Star Wars Celebration event ever in Anaheim, California and had a record of about 6,000 fans come through The Rancho Obi-Wan Experience, our exhibition focused on fan-made art and artifacts showing the inspiration of The Force. We hosted the public debut of the world’s largest Star Wars oil painting, the magnificent 8-foot by 15-foot The 20th Century Space Opera by Robert Xavier Burden, and we have prints of the Light Side and Dark Side panels available exclusively in our member store.

We had four tours in a row following Celebration, all around 20 people each and mostly fans from outside the U.S. (and other U.S. states) who had attended Celebration.

And we celebrated May the 4th in style with a fundraiser at the Lagunitas TapRoom and Beer Sanctuary in Petaluma with a capacity turnout of about 350 Star Wars fans of every age. We were aided by our “red-shirt” volunteers, and costumed members of the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion and Mandalorian Mercs. Thanks to them, the great folks at Lagunitas, and everyone who attended.

And now we’re going to take a bit of a breather as we shut down for a few weeks to re-energize ourselves, refresh the museum, and get ready for the lead-up to the Dec. 18th premiere of the much-awaited next Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Tours start again Friday June 19th. Hope to see you then!

Rancho 2015 Membership Kit Will be Shipping Soon

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The Rancho Obi-Wan 2015 Membership Kit is in its final stages of production and will start shipping soon to new members and current members as they renew.

This year’s patch and membership card art are based on a painting by the talented Daniel Bergren, which was done expressly for Rancho Obi-Wan for a fundraising auction. In addition to the patch and hand-signed membership card, the kit contains a letter from Rancho chairman Steve Sansweet and the second in a series of costume designer John Mollo’s historic sketches that led to the final costume worn by Alec Guinness in Star Wars.

The Mollo sketch in this year’s kits is dated January 8, 1976, just a short time after Mollo had been hired. As the description on the back of the collectible card notes, the artist had changed the costume’s look from that of a more military-style outfit to a full length kimono-style robe with sash. The Japanese word for a kimono sash is obi. Mollo won an Academy Award for his work on the film.


In addition to the 2015 patch, as has become tradition, Rancho Obi-Wan will offer an exclusive Celebration Anaheim patch for sale to members only. The patch is based on a beautiful black and white pencil sketch of Obi-Wan by gifted artist Keven Reinke, also done specifically for a Rancho fundraiser. Both patches were designed by Curt Hanks. The Celebration patch will be included in the price of new membership kits purchased and personalized at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim April 16-19 at the Rancho Obi-Wan booth. They also will be available for sale to existing members. The Celebration patches are limited and will not be remade.

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Finally, all renewing members will receive the exclusive 2015 Member pin. This year the pin is silver following gold and copper pins in previous years.

Become a member today and receive the 2015 Membership kit as thank you gift for your donation. Renewing members will also receive the special silver pin. In addition to being able to order the Celebration exclusive patch (pre-order begins in March), members will be able to enter the Rancho Obi-Wan Experience booth through a special “lightspeed” entrance.