A Force for good

  • By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
  • Saturday, March 5, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

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.

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