Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 2
In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!
I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.
I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).
Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For our bus trip on the second day of the We’re Going Back event, we would find ourselves traveling far away from the Los Angeles area.
Heading north, and then taking a left onto California State Route 126, we soon found ourselves in some desert terrain, punctuated by small areas of farmland. Where were we heading to? The Old West? The Hilldale Housing Development?
Nope. We were heading to Fillmore, California. Today, the sleepy little town of 15,000, had opened its doors to us Future fans, and would become Hill Valley, California!
For the day’s event, Fillmore had closed off part of the street around its Town Hall, where panther statues and a clock were placed, similar to the ones in Hill Valley in the film. A Welcome to Hill Valley sign had also been set up, and posters calling for the re-election of Mayor Goldie Wilson were everywhere. Even the official Back to the Future band known as The Flux Capacitors, played throughout the day on the Town Hall’s steps.
Several shops also displayed BTTF-related signage. A corner store hung a Cafe 80’s sign out front, the local antique store became Blast From The Past, and even the local movie theater got into the act (as seen on the left).
Upon arriving, many of us made a beeline for the theater, which was premiering the Kickstarter-funded documentary, Back in Time. The film gained national attention when it quickly reached its goal, showing that there was definitely a fanbase that wanted to see it.
Though there is plenty of material the filmmakers had to work with (they even got sit-down time with Steven Spielberg!), I couldn’t help but feel the film’s final product was a little muddled. Its structure seemed to be at odds with itself, as it tried to find a balance about the making of the Back to the Future films, as well as those who were inspired by the films, and where that fandom led them.
Upon exiting the screening, we were each given special newspapers, inspired by those that had been seen during the course of the film’s trilogy. Those of us who attended the second screening, mainly received newspapers related to Doc Brown’s mansion being destroyed in 1962 (if you watch the beginning of the first film, you can see the same headline, framed on Doc’s bedroom wall).
Returning to the central area around the Town Hall, all manner of fans could be seen.
It was fun to see the amount of people that had dressed in costume for the event, including several that were very uncommon. There was a 1955 Biff Tannen with his henchman 3-D in tow, Griff Tannen and his hoverboard gang, “cowboy” Marty with Clara Clayton, and even Red the Bum from the first two films (“crazy drunk driver”)!
There were also some familiar faces when it came to stars of the film. For the first time since Back to the Future Part II, Griff Tannen’s gang members (played by Ricky Dean Logan, Jason Scott Lee, and Darlene Vogel), reunited for pictures and autographs.
There were also appearances by Matt Clark (who played Chester the bartender in Back to the Future Part III), and Al White (who played the father of the family living in the McFly’s home, in 1985-A Hill Valley, in Part II).
In the behind-the-scenes realm, I was surprised when a man in a salt-and-pepper beard complimented me on my 2015 Doc Brown costume. It turned out, this was ‘Dangerous’ Bob Widin, who had been the property master on all three of the films!
Bob was like those Uncles with a million stories to tell, and pretty soon, he was telling about how they tried to make Doc Browns’ 2015 metal glasses see-through (but failed), as well as how they constructed the 2015 barcode license plate for the Time Machine!
There were also a number of tented stands had been set up with all manner of items for sale. One was selling limited-edition reproductions of Marty McFly’s skateboard from the first film (re-issued exclusively for the We’re Going Back event!).
One stand was run by BTTF.com‘s founder, Stephen Clark. Stephen has been a one-man force-of-nature at his site, and has sometimes been called upon to write up product material related to the films. It was nice to finally meet the man behind the site.
I also managed to meet author Caseen Gaines again, who I had met some months earlier in Chicago, when he was promoting his book, We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy. Caseen had read my book review, and I felt honored that he liked what I had to say.
Also on hand, were Terry and Oliver Holler. I had heard of them for years, and had gotten the chance to meet them in April of this year. Just like then, I appeared before them as 2015 Doc Brown!
The two were continuing to raise funds for Michael J Fox’s Parkinsons Foundation, and had found a once-in-a-lifetime way of doing it.
Their DeLorean Time Machine had been converted to ride on railroad tracks, and for a $50 donation, you could ride the rails too! First, you’d get a picture of you leaping from the Time Machine as a Diesel Engine (the same one that destroyed the DeLorean in Part III!) was about to pulverize you. Then, you’d back up in front of an older steam engine, and re-enact the scene where Marty sticks the Hoverboard out of the side of the DeLorean!
Of course, there weren’t just trains around. There were several regular DeLoreans, and quite a few Time Machines. A Toyota 4×4 that looked just like Marty’s from the film was parked nearby, and even the special 2015 Toyota Tacoma some of us had seen on Hollywood Blvd the night before, had made it out
One of the biggest vehicular surprises, was the appearance of Part II’s 2015 Hill Valley Police Car! For years, the only pictures many of us had seen of it, was of it sitting in a field, looking like it would fall apart at any moment. Apparently, the owner of the vehicle fixed it up, and brought it, along with another custom car that was seen in 2015 Hill Valley as well. Word was, the Police Car would be auctioned off in the future, at a later date.
Speaking of auctions, the company Screenused.com, was planning one themed around the films, that Saturday (October 24th). In the old Fillmore Bank Building, several of the props from the auction were on display, and some could even be brought out for a closer look. I will admit, one of the funniest moments, was seeing this couple dressed as Seamus and Maggie McFly (with baby William!), discussing the Pizza Hut hydrated pizza wrapper with a Screenused representative.
While many of us were enjoying the festivities, there was some concern over a special newsstand release by USA Today
that we wondered about.
Those of us who attended the Part II screening the day before had gotten an exclusive “Gang Jailed” edition (limited to only 1,000 copies printed!). The October 22nd, 2015 issue of USA Today with the “Youth Jailed” headline, was officially streeting the day we were up in Fillmore, to newsstands across the country!
However, I and many were unable to find a copy before the buses rolled out that morning (Not even a Starbucks on Hollywood Blvd at 7:30 am had them!), and none of the smaller stores in Fillmore carried USA Today. Online, there was word of some bojo’s, who were buying whole reams of the newspapers at various locations, leaving none for anyone else! After being shut out of the Pepsi Perfect loop the previous day, many of us wondered if we’d be left out of this nationwide promotion as well
Fortunately, luck came in the form of our fearless leader of the We’re Going Back event: Joe Walser. That afternoon, Joe and his family could be found at the tailgate of a Budget Rent-a-Truck along Fillmore’s main street, handing out USA Today papers to each person! Class act all the way, that Joe!
Of course, for those of us who purchased the day’s event package, there was one event we were mainly looking forward to: hoverboarding!
Hoverboarding had been held previously in 2010, and here, it was increased three-fold for the larger group in attendance.
Three Champion cranes had been set up in the town’s park area. By giving up one of your wristband tabs, you’d be strapped into a harness, and once lifted in the air, the crane would swing you in one direction, before sending you back the other way.
This was the same method used in making the boards fly when they filmed Part II, though not quite as cumbersome (the harnesses weren’t as elaborate as in the film).
My worst fear was that I’d be completely off-balance, as skateboards and rollerskates have never agreed with me. However, after a few seconds on the board, I was surprised how easy it was to balance on it!
As dusk fell on Fillmore, we made our way to several food trucks for dinner, and then to the town square, to watch Back to the Future Part III.
Unlike the other films in the series, this was only the second time I had seen Part III on a big-screen. It was definitely an experience, to take in what everyone’s reactions were, and I heard probably more whooping and applause than I can recall when I saw it on a Summer day in 1990 with my Dad…and yes, it was still painful to see the Time Machine pulverized by the Diesel (death) train.
As the screening wrapped up, many of us did the polite thing, and helped to fold-and-stack the numerous chairs that were provided for the event. Then, it was a short walk back to the buses, and the return trip to Los Angeles.
On the ride back, I and several of my new “Friends in Time,” talked about the day’s experience, as well as the films themselves. The talking on the buses in the late-night glow of the moon and stars, put me in mind of my high school days. Several of our high school marching band competitions had a similar after-event feel, and it was a moment in which I found a happy medium between nostalgia, and fandom.
By the time we got back to our drop-off location, we were all ready to get to sleep, and prepare for the next day’s adventure.
Come back soon for the chronicling of Day 3 of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. We’ll travel back in time to visit Doc Brown’s former mansion, the street where Biff, Lorraine, AND George lived, as well as travel back to 1985 to check out a familiar Burger King, Hill Valley High School…and finally, Marty McFly’s home.