The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Saturday, March 5, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Dark side or light, ‘Star Wars’ enthusiasts a Force for good

Dressed as bad guys, local 'Star Wars' fans help charities

  • Kyle Ciminski (right) of Oak Harbor, dressed as Imperial officer Lt. Yorn, laughs with a Stormtrooper on Friday at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Kyle Ciminski (right) of Oak Harbor, dressed as Imperial officer Lt. Yorn, laughs with a Stormtrooper on Friday at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. They and other members of the 501st Legion Garrison Titan have a booth at the convention and took photographs with visitors.

  • James Winston (right)) of Marysville, dressed as Lobo from "The D.C. Universe," and Jay Gould, also from Marysville, as Deadpool a.k.a Wade Wilson fro...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    James Winston (right)) of Marysville, dressed as Lobo from "The D.C. Universe," and Jay Gould, also from Marysville, as Deadpool a.k.a Wade Wilson from "Marvel Comics," wait in line at a Subway restaurant in the Seattle Convention Center during the Emerald City Comicon on Friday. Attending the Comicon is a yearly tradition for them.

  • Alyssa Fann (far right in red) and Mackenzie Fritts, in green, both of Everett, take a break from the Emerald City Comicon as Sam Everly and Molly Met...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Alyssa Fann (far right in red) and Mackenzie Fritts, in green, both of Everett, take a break from the Emerald City Comicon as Sam Everly and Molly Metheny (far left) of Seattle, watch people in the upstairs lobby of the Seattle Convention Center Friday. Fann was dressed as Scarlet, from "X-Men," and Fritts as Marvel Girl from "X-Men."

  • Caitlin Collins (left), 17, of Seattle, makes a face at friend Cai Redmond as she glues the sideburns of Cai's wing onto her face Friday during the Em...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Caitlin Collins (left), 17, of Seattle, makes a face at friend Cai Redmond as she glues the sideburns of Cai's wing onto her face Friday during the Emerald City Comicon at the Seattle Convention Center. Caitlin was dressed as Conrad from "Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name," and Cai was dressed as Hanna, from the same comic.

  • Kyle Ciminski of Oak Harbor, dressed as an Imperial officer, pretends to be strangled by Darth Vader at the Emerald City Comicon on Friday.

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    Kyle Ciminski of Oak Harbor, dressed as an Imperial officer, pretends to be strangled by Darth Vader at the Emerald City Comicon on Friday.

Of course, there are Sith Lords.
And Sandpeople.
And at least one woman even goes as a Jawa.
Most members of the 501st Legion sport Stormtrooper armor, ready for the deserts of Tatooine, for the woods of Endor or for the icy cold of planet Hoth.
In Snohomish and Island counties, the local squad is called Garrison Titan, a group of "Star Wars" enthusiasts who dress in costume to promote their interest in the saga and collect donations for charities.
Kyle Ciminski, 24, of Oak Harbor goes as an Imperial officer. It took him a year to complete his favorite costume, complete with English riding boots, a black polyester gabardine uniform tailored in Hong Kong, aluminum belt buckles and boxes and a rank bar with blue NASA control buttons. He placed several requests on the group's website before he got lucky enough to find someone who was willing to sell two 1950s dosimeters -- aluminum instruments that measure radiation -- for just $35 each.
"Where you're going to find these things, you just don't know," said Ciminski, who joined the 501st Legion three years ago.
The costume is "a sweat box," Ciminski said. But it's worth wearing to promote the all-volunteer organization, share his love of "Star Wars" and raise money for local charities, including his favorite, the Wounded Warrior Project.
All costumes members of the 501st Legion wear must be handmade and in keeping with the films, said Chuck Foltz of Lake Stevens. He joined Garrison Titan in April 2008 after making his own Imperial officer uniform.
"Being an older guy, the idea of being in plastic armor didn't suit me at all so I decided to go with a soft-sided costume," said Foltz, 64.
Going to conventions and Star Wars-related events is fun, he said, but he enjoys visiting children in hospitals the most.
"If visiting a kid in the hospital was the only thing I could do during the year, I'd pass on all the other," he said.
Foltz is also a member of the Rebel Legion, a group that dresses in "good guy" "Star Wars" costumes. He was part of a small group of both light- and dark-side "Star Wars" characters that visited a 6-year-old boy at his parents' request last week at Seattle Children's Hospital.
They brought the boy a Stormtrooper helmet from members of the 501st Legion in Pennsylvania.
"It shows you how connected we are," Foltz said. "They're never going to see him, but they all signed it."
During that visit, Foltz dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Jedi who mentors Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force.
"Of course, Obi-Wan told him, 'The Force will be with you always,'" Foltz said.
Ciminski, dressed in his Imperial officer uniform, joined other members of the 501st Legion on Friday afternoon at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. A consistent line of people waited to get their photo taken with members in costume against a backdrop of the Death Star. A suggested donation of $5 per photo went toward the Children's Therapy Center in Kent.
Ciminski wasn't the most popular character posing for pictures. And he knew that.
"Being an Imperial officer, my people don't really like me that much. They see me as all upstanding and proper," he said. "(Darth Vader) is who they want. I do get a lot of picture requests of me being choked by (Vader). That's my biggest request."
It took some courage for 4-year-old Robbie Nelson of Olympia to get his photo taken with Darth Vader. The character wasn't his favorite, he said.
"I like Luke Skywalker," Robbie said. "I like that he has a blue lightsaber."
Ciminski was 5 when his father asked him if he wanted to see "Star Wars," "one of the most amazing movies ever made." He was entranced from the opening screen and the characters became like friends to him.
"It's definitely one of those things some people might consider to be a little nerdy," he said. "But it's fun and you end up reliving your childhood."

Join the Dark Side at Comicon
Members of the 501st Legion Garrison Titan will pose for photos dressed as Star Wars characters today and Sunday at the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. A $5 donation for photos will benefit the Children's Therapy Center in Kent. For more information on the group, go to www.garrisontitan.com and www.501st.com.
Also at Comicon, Herald TV writer Jackson Holtz is scheduled to moderate a panel at 1 p.m. Saturday on Fox TV's show "Fringe" featuring actors John Noble and Jasika Nicole.



Story tags » MoviesCharityVolunteer

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