Stefan Delahay needed three bags to carry the $470 of merchandise he purchased Thursday afternoon at Paisley Park for Celebration 2023, honoring Prince.
A couple Prince hoodies, four or five T-shirts, a tamboracca (a tambourine-like instrument), two live CDs and two concert cassettes (he doesn't even have a cassette player, they're just collectible tapes, he said).
"It's a good thing we drove," said Delahay, 50, a Detroit record store owner who made the trip as part of a weeklong vacation with his wife.
Delahay attended Celebration 2000 when Prince performed for seven nights at Paisley Park with opening acts including Maceo Parker, Victor Wooten and Norah Jones.
"That was amazing," said Delahay, his eyes brighter than the "1999" Prince T-shirt he was wearing Thursday.
Celebration 2023 is a four-day affair featuring concerts by Stokley, Sounds of Blackness and Shelby J., an interview with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chaka Khan, panel discussions with the likes of hip-hop hero Chuck D and experiences with previously unreleased Prince recordings and concert footage. This is the fifth Celebration since he died in 2016.
Thursday's opening day was only for 300 or so VIP ticketholders, who paid $1,141 each for the weekend immersion into all things Prince. First-day activities included a 45-minute listening session of unreleased songs, a 45-minute clip of a 1986 Prince & the Revolution concert in Japan and an unguided tour of some of the Paisley Park museum.
"I never saw him live and I have been living in a state of regret," said Lureece Lewis, 53, of Atlanta.
She doesn't disguise her fandom. She painted Prince's glyph, song titles and other Purple salutes on her jean jacket. And, of course, she sported Prince earrings and purple lipstick.
Lewis loved the video of Prince's concert on Sept. 9, 1986, in Yokohama.
"To see him in action is amazing," she said.
However, Laura Tiebert, co-author of the book "The Rise of Prince," was disappointed that the film was shown on a vinyl-like curtain, not a proper movie screen, and the video resolution was distorted.
"Was this the show [after which] Prince fired the Revolution?" she asked, knowing she was correct. "We [fans] know more than the people who are presenting."
Attending her third Celebration, Tiebert, 58, formerly of Chanhassen and now living in Phoenix, was waiting to be wowed at Paisley Park this time.
"I'm having a hard time mustering an emotional response," she said over a vegan lunch of Prince's favorites. "Prince's standard was extremely high. So far what I've seen doesn't meet it. I'm hopeful. I'm grateful they're doing it."
Less experienced fans were more excited.
Gisela Schmitz, 54, of Dusseldorf, Germany, became a Prince fan just 2 ½ years ago after watching two documentaries.
"When I saw the building [Paisley Park], I was really touched," she said on her first visit to Minnesota. "To be with some people with the same purpose is new; I don't have that in Germany. The people [here] have a valuable connection because of Prince.
"I need to come back here on my own [guided] tour. The new music was impressive."
Among the random unreleased tunes were a slow, bass-heavy version of "7" (the theme song of this year's Celebration) and a 2002 ballad called either "All the King's Horses" (the label on the tape) or "All the King's Men" (the label on the tape box) with the payoff line "They couldn't put the two of us back together again."
The consensus on the most fascinating selection was "Don't Play with Love," recorded June 6, 1985, featuring Prince's father, John L. Nelson, on piano and the star on falsetto vocals. There is banter between the two musicians as they're creating. "Say hello to love," Prince sings, "it's what we live for."
Paisley Park officials have made some changes for this year's Celebration — including single-day tickets for the first time and an aggressive social media campaign — to reach a broader and younger audience. Prince's core audience is people ages 45 to 65, 70% of whom are women, according to Tiebert's Facebook group of more than 300,000 followers.
At 24, Alena Saldivar of Austin, Texas, is one of the younger Celebration-goers for the second consecutive year.
"I'm impressed with everything I've seen. It's about all eras [of Prince]. They have something for everybody," she said in the lunch line under a big purple tent. "Last year was so amazing. I'll go every year and return for the rest of my life."