Bartlett, IL
July 2, 2006
Story by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)

 

THE TOUGHEST MISSION YET
Parades are one of the main things troopers of the Midwest Garrison participate in, and I have been in several myself. The first outing in my sandtrooper armor involved the Racine Holiday parade in Wisconsin, then the Little Friends parade in Naperville, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Naperville, and lastly Geneva’s Swedish Days parade. Out of all the things I have participated in so far since becoming a member of the MWG, I have to say that I’ve had the most fun marching in these parades. Being able to interact with all the children and adults who grew up with Star Wars excites me quite a bit, because I know how excited I used to be when I was the one sitting on the side of the parade watching these Star Wars costumers march on by. Now I’m able to do the same for all the onlookers.

All of these parades that I had done so far were fairly short in length, and for the most part were pretty easy to make it from start to finish with no worries whatsoever. Sure, the parade that I marched in last week (Swedish Days) was the longest one I took part in, but it would be no comparison to what I was about to endure at Bartlett’s 4th of July parade. This parade, some have said, was just over four miles in length, which is by far the longest trooping event for me yet. Walking that in shorts, a t-shirt and gym shoes is no problem, but when you’re wearing full sandtrooper armor, a backpack and a BFG (big freaking gun) it really adds up on you.

GREAT TURNOUT
It was going to be a rough day, as the temperature was just shy of 90 degrees with almost 100% humidity. There was hardly any breeze in the air, and occasional showers continued throughout most of the morning. In all honesty the weather wasn’t that bad on me, but it would prove to be a major nuisance later on in the day (more on this in a bit).

I suited up in the library’s parking lot with a few other members of the garrison, and then we got a shuttle ride over to the staging area. Upon arrival we saw the big truck with the 501st Legion banner on top of it, and on the grill of this truck was a dead Jawa that looked priceless. I couldn’t pass this up so I had to stop to have a photo of me with this disgusting little creature. It was the highlight of my day. Behind that truck was another truck that had a long trailer that would become our entry’s float. It was already decked out and ready for departure and it looked great! There are so many new faces there, that I only recognized a handful of them.

The amount of stormtroopers there was phenomenal. I was the only true sandtrooper there that was dirtied up, but there were other troopers who sported the glorious pauldron over their right shoulders. Kathy even had her pauldron decked out with a 4th of July look. Other members that made it in the parade consisted of the following: Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Emperor’s royal guard, biker scout, tusken raiders, two Han Solos, another Mandalorian warrior, Imperial officers and some Jedi. If I had to guess I think we had somewhere between 20-30 members in this parade, which was the largest amount of people in any of the parades I trooped in.

THE PARADE BEGINS
Shortly after 1300 hours the parade kicked off, and it would be only a short while before we would start our long march through downtown Bartlett. As we turned around the first corner you could see lots of people on the sides of the street getting ready to be blown away by our presence. The loud Star Wars music that was screaming out of the speakers that were attached to the top of the first truck definitely set the mood. Marching just behind the first truck, I had my BFG locked and loaded, and was ready to really make our presence felt by putting fear and intimidation into these civilians.

It must have been only ten minutes into the parade when I started experiencing some trouble with my armor. One of my thigh pieces started malfunctioning on me, as the glue holding the Velcro to the plastic armor started failing due to the heat and humidity. I thought it wasn’t much of anything to really worry about, so when we slowed down to a stop I reattached to the two ends together and all should be well. At least that’s what I thought. A few minutes later I experienced trouble on that same piece again, and it also happened to my other thigh piece. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I was falling apart! Throughout the majority of this parade I had to keep reattaching those ends together, so that they wouldn’t come completely off my leg.

Things kept getting worse for me. As we were more than halfway done with our parade, one of my snaps holding my thigh pieces broke. The glue holding one of the metal snaps to the black elastic nylon strap failed, sending my right thigh piece to the ground. Now it was time to panic! I stopped in my place (thankfully we were all at a stand still because of the Jesse White Tumblers in front of us), lowered my big gun vertically against my chest, and began inspecting the damage. Seconds later the gun fell and slammed into the pavement, breaking it into two separate pieces! I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I gave one of the other troopers my gun for them to carry for the rest of the parade, while I held up the right thigh piece with my right hand. And, just to make sure the thigh pieces wouldn’t continue falling apart, I had one of the helpers tape up those pieces. It looked tacky but was only going to be a quick solution to the problem.

THE PARADE WAS OVER
The end of the parade couldn’t come quick enough, but what seemed like eternity was just ten minutes at most. If my armor didn’t fall apart on me like it had done, I could have easily gone a lot longer than the four miles that it took. The heat and humidity wasn’t bothering me that much, but my armor sure didn’t like it one bit. As soon as the parade was over I started my way back to my car to get back into street clothes. Once that was complete, it was time to hang out with everyone from the garrison. We ate brats, burgers, hot dogs and so much more, and I had a great time enjoying some of the summer afternoon with these fine individuals.

Now that the parade and day is over, it’s time to start fixing my armor.

PHOTO GALLERY
To see the photo gallery containing 32 photos click here.