Love for ‘Star Wars’ a powerful force for Mid-Ohio Valley fan base
MARIETTA — Multiple generations of fans from the original trilogy, millenials who grew up with the prequels and now their children will all come together this weekend for the ninth installment of an intergalactic series that has won the hearts and minds of millions over the last 40 years.
As “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opened in theaters across the country Marietta fans came together in costume to see the return of beloved characters and the development of newer ones.
“I thought it was beautifully made and I think there were bold choices with the characters,” said Shane Farley, 30, of Marietta, who runs a heavily followed Youtube channel full-time called Blind Wave. “I think this movie will entertain fans not only of the old trilogy but the prequels and the newer movies as well, it ties all of those together.”
The epic franchise is one that has a following so dedicated that organizations like the 501st Legion, Mandalorian Mercs, Rebel Legion and Outer Rim Collective have grown to membership in the tens of thousands.
Members of the 501st and Mandalorian Mercs were at the Odyssey 7 theater in Marietta Thursday night and the 501st again made an appearance at the Regal Cinema in at Grand Central Mall in Vienna Friday.
“We do this for the sheer joy you see on people’s faces,” said Jay Parsons, of Mineral Wells.
Parsons was dressed as a sandtrooper, with his gear exactly as sandtroopers appear in the movies.
“We show up at all kinds of charity events and hospitals too,” he said.
Anthony Wilson and his son Kadin, 8, of Marietta were also dressed in full gear with the troop — Anthony as an imperial officer and Kadin as a Jawa.
“I love Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 and BB-8 the most because they’re the main droids and he’s the main Jedi,” said Kadin. “And because we (dress up) together.”
“It’s always good to see the pure love of fans,” added Anthony. “But more, especially when we visit a hospital it’s seeing the parents’ faces when their kids forget about their pains for a second and are excited, that’s when you see the relief and love in the parents’ eyes.”
The Wilsons even met new friends out of the fandom when they came across members of the Madalorian Mercs, Sarah and Jesse Williamson, of Williamstown.
“That’s what’s so great about this, you make new friends because it’s something you love,” said Sarah. “You’ll be driving down the street and see a flag and it’s so obviously Star Wars that you want to know who it is.”
For the Higgs family it’s an excitement that the whole gang can enjoy together.
“It’s very much a family affair,” said Amy Higgs, of Parkersburg, who was dressed as Boba Fet. “We say the family that troops together stays together.”
Likewise Lane Huffman, 8, of Marietta, couldn’t wait until his whole family could see the movie together, though they’ll wait until his birthday next week.
“I like General Grievous,” he said as his mother explained that three generations of family were into the series equally.
That’s what Farley hopes to create with his son and daughter, the family memories of standing in line, going to see the movies together and finding the moral lessons and courageous characters to model.
“My kids are still in the discovery stage, but as a parent I hope that my son gets those moral lessons out of it and sees that even after failure there is redemption,” he explained. “And I hope my daughter sees the strong female characters and builds off of that to become strong in her own ways.”
Farley, alongside his partners with Blind Wave, Eric Whiteley, 30, of Marietta, Rick Martin, 29, of Marietta, Calvin Grubb, 25, of Marietta, and Aaron Elliott, 28, of Devola, were even joined by several fans of their Youtube channel to hold a private showing of the movie in Marietta Friday.
“I think this series has created really a community of people who you can be friends with no matter their background because you have something in common with a love of Star Wars,” said Elliott. “That’s how we grew our fanbase, out of our love of Star Wars and our commentary that always kept things positive.”
They call their fans their friends, and even have a few staying overnight with them through the weekend to “geek out.”
“It was at a dark time in my life that I happened to find Blind Wave and they were something that I could look forward to-their weekly show. To this day I credit Blind Wave with why I’m still alive,” said Kevin DiSalvo, 31, of Michigan. “It created a group of friends to watch my favorite shows and hear reactions to my favorite movies with.”
Whiteley said their channel, and the ability to work full time off of profits from ad revenue on Youtube, was successful originally due to the Star Wars series.
“And within two seconds of posting our two-hour review today, it already had 19 views,” he said. “Star Wars is a modern mythology, it’s timeless and no matter when you became a fan it allows you to connect multi-generationally with people across the world.”