In a galaxy not too far away, Comox Valley artist Andy Everson recently found himself near a light sabre battle in the middle of the street.
But he didn’t blink an eye.
Neither did the thousands of other attendees who recently attended the Star Wars Celebration last week in Anaheim, Calif.
“Probably a third of the people were in some sort of costume, but I would say almost 100 per cent everybody had something Star Wars on – T-shirts and hats. I’d be walking to the convention centre, and it would be a sea of Star Wars geeks that would kind of convene together in this one place,” he explained. “It’s pretty amazing.”
The Northwest Coast artist and passionate Star Wars fan admits the celebration had been on his radar for quite some time, and it provided an opportunity not only to showcase some of his art, but to celebrate his passion too.
“For me, it’s been a lifelong thing, and my interest has kind of waxed and waned over the years with things that happen in life. I recently kind of became reacquainted with Star Wars, kind of obsessed in some respects, by doing some mash-ups with native art and Star Wars and the artwork that I’ve been creating,” he said.
Once Everson began combining his passion for the original trilogy and his art, he began looking into obtaining storm trooper helmets, and wanted to paint one with First Nation designs.
“…I really was intent on painting one up, and then I decided I can probably get an extra one for myself to wear,” he added.
At the convention, Everson said not everyone knew the design, and some people thought his art was Polynesian.
“With so many people dressing up, you don’t stand out as much as if I was walking around in Comox or Courtenay or Vancouver. Down there you kind of blend in with everyone else.”
Everson quickly came across a group called the 5-0-1st Legion – the biggest worldwide costume organization in the world.
With thousands of members, the group centres around their passion for the movies and giving back to their respective communities.
“We try to align any of our appearances with a charity, and those charities change from geographic location. Everything that we do, we actually have this motto: ‘bad guys doing good’,” he said.
Although the legion is composed strictly of the bad characters from the Star Wars universe – including Darth Vader and the storm troopers – members perform outreach visits at various hospitals and events.
While in Anaheim, Everson joined ‘a troop,’ and visited a nine-year-old boy who is terminally ill.
“They brought him to the Star Wars celebration because he was a big fan, and we did a special ceremony for him, and presented him with a certificate and a medal, and then the Rebel Legion – our sister organization from the good side – they presented him with a medal. They had Han Solo and Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker and everyone there,” he explained.
“Doing those kinds of things makes you feel good about what you’re doing; you’re not just dressing up in a costume, you’re actually giving back, in this case, to a little boy with a big wide smile the whole time. To affect someone’s life like that has a lot of meaning for us.”
While he admits the convention was a bit overwhelming but did live up to his expectations, Everson is already thinking ahead to next year’s celebration in London, England.