I’ve given my brother-in-law some grief on the blog because of his irrational fear of the suburbs and his misguided support of that other baseball team in Chicago. To be sure, he wins points for acting as a buffer for my brother and I against my sister’s various paranoia and cat stories, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that the guy once told me he thought Dennis Kucinich was the “level-headed, dynamic leader that could remake America into a thriving utopia.”
But now I might be able to overlook that flaw as well.
About two weeks ago I received an email from my sister. Patrick had been invited to a party at the Museum of Science and Industry to celebrate the opening of the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit and was wondering if I (or anyone else in my family) would be interested in attending. Heather had first brought this traveling exhibit to my attention about two months ago; so not only did I know all about it, but I was planning on taking Ian to see it as a father-son outing this winter. I mean really, the Museum of Science and Industry AND Star Wars – that is something I couldn’t skip.
While I was all set to take off a day of work so Ian and I could visit the exhibit during the week and away from the busy weekend hours, Patrick was now providing me an opportunity to view the exhibit as part of an exclusive invite-only group. We wouldn’t be able to spend time exploring the other parts of this great Chicago museum, but at least we could spend time in the Star Wars exhibit sans big crowds and lengthy lines.
Needless to say, Ian was excited about attending the event. A trip down into the city is always exciting, visiting one of the museums is always high on Ian’s to-do list, and the kid loves Star Wars about as much as I do. After watching the depressing defeat of the Bears at the hands of the visiting Detroit Lions, he and I jumped in the car and made the trip up I-55 to the Museum of Science and Industry.
From the invite I knew that event was going to be structured around the theme of a Halloween party. Kids were encouraged to wear costumes (though Ian opted to remain dressed in regular clothes). What I didn’t expect was how big the party would actually be. After letting us in to the main floor of the museum, we all made our way up to the space under the museum’s rotunda. For the event the museum had hired a dozen or so people to dress up as characters from the Star Wars movies. Some costumes were better than others, but it really made things fun to see Darth Vader or C-3PO just walking around. They also made for some great photo opportunities.
There were four spreads of food laid out. Mostly kid friendly to be sure (chicken fingers and mini-hot dogs wrapped in a tiny croissant), but they had lots of fruit, veggies, and some more tasteful wrap sandwiches for the grown-ups in the crowd.
There were a number of bartenders set up through-out the floor. All serving beer, wine, some mixed drinks, pop, milk, and juice boxes. Later there was a dessert. And there were plenty of tables and chairs spread about to accommodate everyone who was in attendance.
Ian loaded up his plate with chicken and mini-hot dogs, and after grabbing a couple of cups of Pepsi, settled into a table inside the MSI’s train exhibit area – the only non-Star Wars exhibit area that was open to the party. MSI has a famously large and meticulously detailed model train setup. And for a train lover like Ian, it made for the perfect setting to sit and eat before exploring the Star Wars exhibit. In fact, we almost – almost – spent as much time in the train exhibit as we did in the Star Wars exhibit.
As for the Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit, it was fantastic. There was a nice mix of models and props from all six of the Star Wars films along with great interactive sections were we could drive a hovercraft, design a city of the future, or build our own robot before programming it to accomplish a task. Ian loved the hands on sections of the exhibit. I gravitated to the models and props to marvel at the detail and craftsmanship. In fact, one of the more memorable moments of the night for me occurred while taking a photo of the huge Millennium Falcon model that was on display (the model was probably about four feet long by three feet wide). After shooting my picture, I couldn’t help but notice that even though there were kids everywhere in the exhibit, there weren’t a whole lot of youngsters over where the models were on display. In fact, at the Millennium Falcon model it was me and four other guys – all roughly my age – all staring at the ship behind the glass. You could tell we were all thinking the same thing, “That would look so cool hanging in my house.”
I mean really, it’s the Millennium Falcon. Easily the coolest spaceship ever.
Ian and I had a spectacular time looking at everything, building things, and looking at things again. It really was a great evening. Another memorable moment of the night happened when we were walking out of the exhibit for the first time. Ian and I had just spent about 40 minutes absorbing everything we could about Star Wars and was chattering away. We turn the corner and discover that the exit from the exhibit takes you through a well-stocked gift shop full of Star War paraphernalia.
Ian stops talking for a second, take a hard look at the shop area, turns to me and says excitedly, “And they even have a gift shop!!”
(Yes, I bought him something.)
Because of time constraints and a little bad planning, Ian and I did not get a chance to sit in the Millennium Falcon cockpit replica. I was a little disappointed at first, but when I realized how much fun I had had – both looking at all the Star Wars stuff and just hanging out with Ian – it really didn’t bother me anymore.
It was just a great evening from start to finish. While I know Ian and I would have enjoyed a regular visit to the MSI and the Star Wars exhibit, thanks to Patrick’s invitation the trip turned into a wonder experience.
If you are so inclined, I've got a bunch more photos of Ian and my trip to the Museum of Science & Industry's Star Wars exhibit in a Flickr set.