LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - White-armored storm troopers, robed Jedi knights and bun-haired Princess Leia look-alikes roamed the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the “Star Wars” film phenomenon.
The sprawling event, billed as the world’s biggest “Star Wars” party, opened to the general public as thousands of fans young and old shopped for memorabilia, posed for photographs and generally immersed themselves in ways of “the Force.”
“This can be one-stop shopping for fans to experience everything they would want in the ‘Star Wars’ world,” said John Singh, a spokesman for “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’ production company, Lucasfilm, a sponsor of the event.
Special activities included “Star Wars” laser tag, “Slave Leia” belly-dancing lessons, a storm trooper Olympics, R2-D2 android racing, a costume workshop and an appearance by Carrie Fisher, who starred as Princess Leia.
The U.S. Postal Service on Friday used the event to dedicate its first stamps commemorating the 30th anniversary of the movie that revolutionized special-effects filmmaking.
Promoters said 20,000 tickets were sold in advance, and they expected at least another 10,000 admissions over the Memorial Day weekend.
One of them, Rob Howes, 35, of Anaheim, California, said he was 6 years old when the original “Star Wars” film opened in 1977, and recalls being “blown away.”
“I was a very impressionable young man when ‘Star Wars’ came out, and it just grabbed me and didn’t let go,” said Howes, dressed as a Rebel Hoth fighter pilot in an orange suit, as he gobbled down a tuna-fish sandwich.
From the other side of the Empire marched Evan Greenwood, 28, of Hugoton, Kansas, plying the halls in a helmeted, robot-like storm trooper uniform, complete with hydration pack and a 12-volt pump to circulate cooling water under the suit.
“It’s probably 120 degrees (49 C) in here,” he said, identifying himself as a member of a worldwide fan club known as the Storm Troopers 501st Legion, named for an actual unit of Darth Vader’s forces in the original film.
“We marched up the steps with Darth as he slaughtered the Jedi,” Greenwood said as he paused to remove his helmet.
Bob Gordon, 45, of Weeki Wachee, Florida, north of Tampa, was in more of a hurry, visibly perspiring in his brown Jedi robe as he rushed to enter his 9-year-old daughter, Jennifer, in the costume contest.
She was dressed as one of the more obscure “Star Wars” characters from the first movie, the bounty hunter Aurra Sing.
“You only see her on screen for about five seconds, but she’s in about 10 (‘Star Wars’) books,” he said.
Other young fans lined up at the convention’s Jedi Training Academy, where they took turns engaging in one-on-one light saber duels with a very authentic-looking Darth Vader, and received guidance from a Jedi master.
“Just keep smiling at him, it really upsets him,” the instructor told one enthusiastic pupil.
Back at the food court, in a real-life scene almost as bizarre as the memorable alien bar in the first “Star Wars,” a non-costumed couple from suburban Dallas sat with their 9-year-old son and his friend, both dressed as Siths.
She dabbed their foreheads with black shoe polish as they finished lunch.
“They need a touch-up after eating,” she said.