Imperial Forces Invade Nebraska Town

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December 23rd, 2015

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Members of the 501st Central Garrison parade through downtown Ashland, Nebraska. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

The small town of Ashland, just west of Omaha, was invaded by some interstellar travelers over the weekend. Thankfully, the force was with KVNO News’ Ryan Robertson, who was able to escape the imperial fleet, and file this report.


A few days ago in a galaxy—or town–not all that far away, 30 members of the 501st Legion paraded together in a site not seen in this part of the galaxy before, and may never again.

 

501st Central Garrison members dressed as Boba Fett, Storm Troopers, and other Star Wars characters paraded in front of several hundred people. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

501st Central Garrison members dressed as Boba Fett, Storm Troopers, and other Star Wars characters paraded in front of several hundred people. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Storm Troopers, hog-like aliens, even The Dark Lord of the Sith made the journey to Ashland, a small town in between Lincoln and Omaha with apparent intergalactic connections. The Imperial troops weren’t searching for rebel forces however, so they were generally welcomed by the native inhabitants.

The 501st Legion is an international Star Wars costuming organization dedicated to celebrating all things Star Wars.

The 30 members marching in Ashland were part of the Central Garrison, the local chapter of the 501st, representing Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.

The Central Garrison’s annual banquet was held at nearby Mahoney State Park this year, so members thought why not give local Star Wars fans a chance to some of their favorite characters?

Liam Breiter and his mother, Amy, were among the fans who came from out of town to see the parade.

“We really liked Darth Vader,” Amy Brieter said, “and we got to fist bump Boba Fett!”

Jim Austerman is a member of the Central Garrison. He lives in and owns six different Star Wars costumes. For the festivities in Ashland, Austerman came dressed as a biker scout (a storm trooper variant that first appeared in the movie Return of the Jedi).

“I love seeing the kids. That’s the best part,” Austerman said, “You’re walking down the street and smiling and laughing and having a good time. You give them a fist bump and it makes their day and makes mine as well.”

A "Storm Trooper" stands motionless while a young fan waits for his picture to be taken. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

A “Storm Trooper” stands motionless while a young fan waits for his picture to be taken. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

When the parade was over, the 30 Central Garrison members retreated to the Ashland Public Library for a meet and greet with fans. It wasn’t exactly a hive of scum and villainy, but a good place to see a droid, if that’s what you’re looking for.

One smaller, rambunctious droid that answered to “R2D2” was even caught reading a book.

Several hundred people lined up to take pictures with their favorite characters from the Star Wars Universe, including Jawas, Sand People, Storm Troopers, Scout Troopers, Snow Troopers, Imperial officers, and of course the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader.

“We had a big turn-out, about 100 times bigger than we thought it was going to be,” Christopher Bradley said. He was the man under the Vader helmet.

KVNO News' Ryan Robertson (left) with the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, played by Christopher Bradley of Gretna. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

KVNO News’ Ryan Robertson (left) with the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, played by Christopher Bradley of Gretna. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Bradley lives in Gretna, but said he never knew there were so many Star Wars fans living so close to him, fans of all ages.

“You think we’re here for the kids, but a lot of the dads love Darth Vader too,” Bradley said, “Give them a good show and they love meeting us and we love meeting them. That’s the fun part of it.”

Bradley is most likely correct. Most of the dads in the crowd were just as excited, if not more so, than their kids. Some said it was great to see their childhood heroes interacting with their children.

And while reporters are told to maintain a level of distance to every story, I must confess; after my interview with Bradley, I asked him to put the Darth Vader helmet back on. Because how could I, a dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fan, pass up the chance to take a selfie with Darth Vader?

 

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