This weekend I participated in my first troop with the 501st Florida Garrison - Tampa Bay Squad. We were at the last regular season for the Tampa Bay Storm. I got to say I was nervous being the guy in the unconventional costume around a bunch of seasoned troopers. But after meeting everyone and having a fellow trooper Jason help me out, I felt right in place. With us was Darth Vader, ANH Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Ep. III Anakin Skywalker, Jango Fett, an Imperial Officer, a 501st Clone Trooper, a Sandtrooper, a Snowtrooper and a handfull of TK Stormtroopers. We had a meet and greet on the plaza before the game, though because of the heat (over 95*) they kept myself and fellow furball Chewbacca inside as much as possible. We made our appearances in front the stadium on the plaza, through the hallways by the ticket gates and even in the Suite level where they had us positioned for the whole stadium to see.
The costume held up quite well. I was able to stay in costume for over an hour with the head on, which is something I had not attempted yet. It is more of a mind over matter situation, when you are in character you tend to not think about yourself, especially when kids are coming up and hugging you. I have always said to do something like this you have to have a little bit of an "Evel Knievel" gene in you. Putting your body on the line to give the fans what they want. My only regret is I did not bring my camel pack. The 501st handlers did a great job of providing us ice and water when away from the crowds, but there was that long stint that if I had some water then I could probably of been much more comfortable inside, I really started to feel the effects of the heat at the end. The fan in the back was also a big help, and I got some tips on how to improve it from fellow legionnaires.
For being in a big costume for the first time in years it felt good, but this time there was something more. This time there was a overwhelming feeling that I was part of something bigger. Before my costume was mine, as an individual. This time I was there in front of thousands of people, representing Star Wars. Watching people flock with cameras and wanting their pictures taken is a great feeling, and knowing that we do it many times to promote a great cause is an even better feeling. To stand next to legendary screen characters like Darth Vader, Princess Leia & Chewbacca was a childhood dream. To be recognized as one of them 12 months ago wasn't even in my thought process. And here I am, a member of the 501st. I would recommend this to anyone!