Take a Walk on the Dark Side

Take a Walk on the Dark Side

Members of Garrison Carida, local chapter of the 501st Legion, discuss costuming and giving back at Steel City Con.

Members of Garrison Carida, local chapter of the 501st Legion, discuss costuming and giving back at Steel City Con.

One of the best parts of going to comic book conventions is finding like-minded people who share a passion for your particular fandom, whether it be comic books, manga, television show or movie. I’ve found it’s much easier to strike up conversations with fellow convention-goers than most people I come across in everyday life. Ever since the Millennium Falcon first soared through a Galaxy far, far away and onto movie screens, fans have been captivated by the “Star Wars” universe. With “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” slated for a December release, interest in the series is at an all-time high.
Going to various cons, we’ve seen our share of mediocre “Star Wars” cosplay, but one group always stands out with their commitment to the fandom and attention to detail. The 501st Legion has members all over the world and ensures costumes’ authenticity through strict guidelines to guarantee every weapon and rivet are screen accurate. We recently had the chance to attend a panel at Steel City Con hosted by members of the Garrison Carida Imperial Academy, the local chapter of the 501st Legion with members in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

FullSizeRender-2The 501st Legion is the world’s premiere charity-focused “Star Wars” costuming organization. Garrison Carida was formed in 2002 and currently has more than 170 members. Not only does Garrison Carida strive for spot-on costume accuracy, the group also combines their love for “Star Wars” with the desire to give back to their communities. The group has volunteered with many charitable organizations including the Special Olympics, Walk for Autism, Cystic Fibrosis Walk, Hoops Family and Children’s Hospital and Relays for Life.

Because of the 501st Legion’s commitment to accuracy, members of the group are often asked to participate in official Lucasfilm events such as movie premieres, toy launches and other special events. One Garrison member was one of a few dozen who received the build kit for the new Stormtroopers’ armor featured in “The Force Awakens.” Garrison Guard Jason Romanoff, one of the group’s founding members, said although he’s had the chance to meet various celebrities, appear on the “Today Show” and visit the vault at the Skywalker Ranch, the most rewarding part of “trooping” has been giving back to the community. He said his favorite memory was presenting a custom 501st Stormtrooper helmet to a young Make-A-Wish recipient in Pennsylvania.

Members say they’ve really become family and often get together for “armor parties” to put together costumes. In order to stay active, members must “troop” — or participate in an event — once a year. In 2011, West Virginia members organized to form Squad Corellia, in order to provide more localized, and personal service to the citizens of West Virginia.

For more information on Garrison Carida and the 501st Legion, visit www.501stgarrisoncarida.com or email info@501st.com. For those aspiring padawans not wishing to join the Imperial forces, visit www.RebelLegion.com.

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