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!

It Only Seems Like 6 Months…9 Years Later at Rancho Obi-Wan

Anne & kitty Claire February 15, 2006
Anne & kitty Claire February 15, 2006

By Anne Neumann

February 3rd will be the ninth anniversary of my arrival at Rancho Obi-Wan. I remember the day with incredible clarity. I had started out from Austin, Texas on February 1st in my Honda Insight Hybrid full of clothes, computer equipment and my cat Claire. I drove by myself 12 hours a day through El Paso, Phoenix, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to finally land at Rancho late in the evening on the third day. I was welcomed like I was family, shown to my temporary room…and promptly fell ill for three days.

When I emerged from travails of travel and illness I made myself familiar with the property and what was then really more of a warehouse than the museum it would become. There was a room below the library that I intended to make my personal area for my expected six-month stay, but it was filled with the latest “incoming” Revenge of the Sith merchandise—M&Ms, Hasbro cases, potato chip bags, packing material, cardboard boxes, displays, duplicates…piles and more piles. The hallway upstairs was lined with similar stuff, all ready to be placed on already groaning shelves, in the appropriate spots of course.

  
“My” room when I first arrived February 3, 2006

Steve was working for Lucasfilm at its Letterman Digital Arts Center headquarters in San Francisco at the time and I remember calling him during that first week to tell him that I was going to be “ruthless” in my cleanup. I think he was a little wary. But by the second week I had flattened and piled empty boxes into a stack seven feet tall, there were bags upon bags of packing material, my new room was empty and all the new Star Wars items were upstairs in the hallway.

Having settled myself and my cat in the now empty room, I set to work on the museum. I picked up some items from the hallway pile and walked into the front bay. And I stood there in the middle of the mountains of collectibles with no clue what to do. “Where does all this stuff go?”, I thought. I must have walked round and round and round all the shelves and nooks and spaces scores of times trying to figure out where everything went. It was completely overwhelming.

Art Gallery circa 2006
Art Gallery circa 2006

Fast forward nine years. The entire museum has been transformed as much as I have been personally. I thought I would be heading back to Texas in six months, but here I still am. I have a husband, Stew, who is also dedicated to Rancho Obi-Wan’s success. I have three wonderful cats (sweet Claire passed a year after I arrived, almost 20 years old), eight chickens, a freshly planted orchard and the support of Steve and our still fledgling nonprofit, Rancho Obi-Wan Inc.

Rancho Obi-Wan's Art Gallery
Rancho Obi-Wan’s Art Gallery 2015

Steve and I formed a friendship around trying to manage the world’s largest Star Wars collection nine years ago. Today we are partners in an amazing organization that is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages. When I arrived, the collection was simply a bunch of stuff needing organization. Today, the museum attracts more than a thousand visitors a year, even more annual members and numerous sponsors and supporters. This week Steve led two tours for 4th and 5th grade students who were learning about inventions. We just hosted ABC News filming a show about the most influential movies of all time, and we are hard at work on our very special exhibit at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.

The ability to transform one’s passion into a career that in turn fosters passion in others has been the most rewarding result of the journey from my home in Texas to California, intent on completing a “temporary” project. Never in my wildest dreams…. So when “they” say follow your dreams, “they” aren’t kidding. Just do it and see what can happen!

It May Be Small, But My Star Wars Collection Is Filled With Love!

By Anne Neumann

Tomart's Guide to Star Wars CollectiblesWhen I first read Steve Sansweet’s Tomart’s Guide to Star Wars Collectibles around 1999 I knew that I wanted to own every Star Wars thing ever made. Of course that was impossible. I really enjoyed writing a database to track all the things that I had collected, so I decided what I really wanted was to catalog every Star Wars thing ever made. And Steve had it all, right?

After eight years at Rancho Obi-Wan I know that it’s impossible to own every piece of Star Wars merchandise. Even though Steve calls himself a completist, to him that means that he’s interested in every aspect of Star Wars collecting. These days he’s happy to have one example of a type of item, not every variation. There’s just too much stuff!

Working with the largest Star Wars memorabilia collection in the world every day and interacting with so many fans and collectors over the years has now changed my own collecting interest to “how to collect small.” Not everyone can have a Rancho Obi-Wan—and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. So how can you have a Star Wars collection, keep its size manageable, within budget, still challenge yourself and have a sense of satisfaction?

I’d like to begin sharing stories about small collections and suggestions for focusing your own collection. I’ll start with my own. Besides about ten tubs of trading cards in my Mother’s barn back in Texas, my collection now consists of just three Star Wars items. They all have special meaning to me and I hope to add more in the future. But they basically look like the same item.

They are three Yoda figures-to-paint from 1980. They were made by Craft Master for The Empire Strikes Back. Each figurine was painted by a special friend when they were kids and given to me as a token of friendship and to share a love for Star Wars.

My first Yoda came from Tracy Kelly. She was my number one volunteer and backup at Official Pix for many years and eventually took my place there as volunteer coordinator. My second Yoda came from Brian Wachhaus, a friend for 15 years who I met at the Austin Fan Force—the first local club I joined. The third came from Fon Davis who donated his enormous action figure collection to Rancho Obi-Wan to auction as a show of support during our first year.

Craft Master Paint Up Yoda
Craft Master Paint Up Yoda
Anne's Painted Yoda Collection
Anne’s Painted Yoda Collection

The Yoda figurines embody the passion and love of each painter, produced with the spark that ignited a lifetime of devotion to Star Wars and fandom. For me, these three small items are equal to rooms of merchandise. Check them out the next time you tour Rancho Obi-Wan.

Anne cooks with Joey Fatone on My Family Recipe Rocks at Rancho Obi-Wan
Anne cooks with Joey Fatone on My Family Recipe Rocks


Anne Neumann is vice president and general manager of Rancho Obi-Wan. She arrived with a plan to catalog the entire collection in six months and then return to her native Texas. That was eight years ago. Anne has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin. She received specialized training in database design and database-driven web site implementation. Anne managed volunteers for Star Wars licensee Official Pix for seven years, was the main photographer on Steve Sansweet’s book Star Wars: 1000 Collectibles; she wrote the database and managed the technology that allowed Steve to write Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection. A relentless organizer and event planner, after nearly a decade at Rancho Anne can claim to be at least minimally proficient in construction management, design, photography—and box lifting.

Rancho Obi-Wan Adopts New Chickens

chickens

Many of you may know that Petaluma, California was once the “World’s Egg Basket.” More eggs were produced here than anywhere else between 1890 and 1970 or so.  The egg incubator was invented in Petaluma and the temperate weather and soil provided ideal conditions for raising large flocks.  It was also inexpensive to start a farm.  For about $3,000 in the early 1900’s you could have acreage, a house, a hen house, a horse and wagon, and of course, chickens.

Rancho Obi-Wan was once one of these small egg farms owned by the Fishman family. At it’s peak in the 1920’s it had three enormous hen houses and 20,000 chickens.  And the neighbors across the street had 20,000 chickens and the neighbors down the street had 20,000 chickens and… that’s a lot of chickens.  The Great Depression caused many of these small businesses to close.  But the final blow to the family farm was technology. Chickens scratching in the dirt for bugs and seeds gave way to machines and cages and conveyor belts.

The 20,000 chickens have been replaced by 300,000+ pieces of Star Wars memorabilia at Rancho Obi-Wan, but we manage a small flock of backyard chickens to show visitors. Last week we brought in five new adolescent hens.  We’ve named four of the gals and now we want suggestions from the Star Wars community to name the fifth.  We will pick our favorite name at Noon Pacific time on Friday and send a Rancho Obi-Wan T-shirt to the winner! Please post your suggestions on our Facebook page and have fun!