By Anthony Breznican
July 10, 2015 at 06:10 PM EDT

It’s tempting to say the line to enter Comic-Con’s Hall H snaked along the waterfront in San Diego, but no serpent would actually contort itself that way.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens making a presentation Friday at the world’s most popular sci-fi festival, passions were especially high to get a seat in the 6,100 seat auditorium, with approximately 5,000 already waiting 24 hours before. Add to that appearances by Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, and fans were practically beside themselves — although that would’ve just made the line longer.

The queue began along one side of Plaza Park, where a pop-up amusement park featuring bounce houses and other attractions kept fans screaming and giggling, while those awaiting access to the convention center the next day kept stoic vigil.

At the front of the line was Joell McNew, 48, of Austin, Texas, and her 16-year-old daughter, Savannah Sullivan. “I came here at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. They made me leave the line, and then I came back at 8 p.m. Wednesday,” says McNew from beneath a Texas Longhorns ballcap and sunglasses, her cheeks pinched with red from two days standing in the Southern California sunshine.

“I love Game of Thrones, she loves Walking Dead, and everyone loves Star Wars,” McNew says, gesturing to her daughter. “It’s win-win. It’s American. Everybody’s got to love Star Wars.”

The hard part: “Sleeping last night. I MacGyvered a plastic tarp [into a tent] because it started raining. And sleeping on the concrete. And I’m sunburned.”

Their place in line was marked with this chalk scrawl.

The upside, apart from knowing they’ll get up close and personal with their favorite actors and storytellers: “You make a bunch of cool friends from all over the world,” McNew says. “It’s a community and everyone is sharing the same excitement and gratitude for the stars being humble, and enjoying being present while they’re here.”

At the other end of the park, the line breaks and stretches back in the other direction along the water. It extends all along the marina until breaking off again and zigzagging through a peninsula behind the convention center, where about 2,000 people wait. Then the line begins again at the boardwalk and continues on for several city blocks. (Here’s a rough highlight of the line’s path.)

In the middle of it all sat Karen Lane, 35, and Jennifer Sitgreaves, 36, both from Knoxville, Tennessee, who ran through the rules Comic-Con places on these marathon wait-sessions.

“You can’t bring any tents,” Lane says. “You can have chairs and a sleeping mat, but nothing larger than that. It gets a little hot. You’re sitting out here and you can’t really cover up. You can put a hat on and everything, but you’ve still got to hold down the fort.”

Comic-Con provides some relief, including bathrooms, and has instituted a system of wristbands that serve as tickets to the presentation. Fans who’ve been lined up for days know they’re guaranteed one, but several thousands more gathered Thursday as the sun went down to see if they’d get lucky. Once you get a wristband, you are guaranteed access to the hall, so the only reason to keep waiting is to grab an open seat at the front. Most people go back to their hotels for a good night’s sleep after they get their band and return to the curlicue line the next morning.

Those who don’t get a band merely learned once again: Do, or do not — there is no try.

Here’s a look at the epic wait Star Wars created on Thursday night.

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