Winfield, IL
February 25, 2006
Story by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)
Photos by Abe's Family


A couple of weeks ago I was looking through the forums at the Midwest Garrison's website, trying to figure out what events I would like to cover in the near future, when I came across a thread that jumped out right in front of me.  The thread stated the following in its subject heading: "IL - Winfield - Sat, Feb. 25th BDAY Request."  What really stood out in that is the how this birthday party would be in the small town of Winfield, where I just so happened to be born and raised there.  I thought to myself, "Now how in the world could I possibly pass up someone's birthday party where I spent the majority of my life?"  I had to reply to that thread.  Within minutes of reading that thread I had signed up to volunteer my services, to participate in this boy who would be turning five years old.  What was this kid's name?  His name is Abe.

Time flew and it was already Saturday morning.  I packed up all my armor in my new container my wife had gotten me for Christmas, and loaded it up my Subaru Forester to make way toward Winfield.  I was very much looking forward to this birthday party, because I knew just how much fun it was going to end up being.  We already had an itinerary from Abe's mother, Jill, which was going to end up being something like this...

11:30 - 11:45 Kids arrive.
11:45 - 12:00 Kids make light sabers
12:00 ish - 12:20 Pizza
12:20 - 12:30 Asteroid game. Kids find hidden tin foil balls with toys inside.
12:30 - 12:40 Pinata
12:40 - 12:55 Cake and ice cream
12:55 - 1:10 Opening presents
1:10 - 1:30 Lightsaber wars, posing with characters for photos, watching Star Wars, OR play "Stormtrooper Says, Darth Vader Says, etc. Any variation of Simon Says

It seemed like there was going to be an awful lot of activities planned for such a short period of time, but with it planned out so well in advance there was no way that we could possibly lose track of what was going to take place.

I arrived at their neighbor's house around 11:00am, which was a half hour before all the kids were going to start showing up.  I got my gear all unpacked, suited up, and was ready in about ten minutes or so.  The guy who was dressing up as Darth Vader (Jerry I believe was his name) was having some problems getting his helmet on, but once he was fully suited up he looked like he was ready to conquer the galaxy!  It was almost 11:30 so we made our way across the street to where the party would take place, and just as we walked up their driveway we were spotted by Abe and his family.

They came outside and were very excited to see us all suited up in our armor.  There were a total of four of us who were dressed up for the event: two sandtroopers, one stormtrooper and of course Darth Vader.  Abe came outside to take some early photos with us, and I had to let him hold my smaller blaster since he didn't have one in his hands.  As we were taking pictures in front of his house, his friends were getting dropped off by their parents, and you could tell just by looking at them that they were excited to see real characters from Star Wars at his party.  I knew right then and there that this was one of the main reasons why I wanted to be part of the Midwest Garrison, to put smiles on children's faces and to add some incredible memories to their childhood.

Once all of Abe's friends showed up it was time to get the party started.  It started off with pictures with us, followed by the making of lightsabers.  I think the parents had purchased those foam noodles that you can play with in swimming pools, and what the kids did was wrap electrical tape on the ends to make the handle of the lightsaber.  After they all had their own lightsabers it was time to beat us up.  We were getting whacked left and right from these kids, but it was of course all in good fun.  Occasionally I would grab the lightsaber out of their hands and whack them a couple times.  You can't mess around with a sandtrooper!

The party the progressed with eating some pizza, cake and ice cream, getting candy out of a pinata, searching for silver tinfoil balls that were to represent asteroids (which had toys and prizes inside), and best of all was the march down the street in their neighborhood.  These kids had their very own parade, and I can only imagine how much fun those children had with that.  Darth Vader lead the parade followed by all the kids, with the troopers supporting the rear.  It was good to get back outside because I was getting a little bit warm in my armor, but it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating.  The end of the parade led us to Abe's backyard, where the kids played on his swing set and we made sure all was in order.  A couple group pictures were taken of us just before going back inside the house.

It was finally time for Abe to open up all his presents.  The gameplan at this point in time was to have each child have their pictures taken with us, after Abe opened up their presents.  That was a lot of fun and I'm sure they all enjoyed it as much as we did.  When the presents were all opened up it meant the party was coming to a close.  Those two hours flew by so fast!  I couldn't believe that it was already 1:30, and it was time to say goodbye to all the young ones.

I'm sure Abe will remember this day for the rest of his life, but he's not the only one who had fun today.  Four grown-up men dressed up in very expensive Star Wars costumes had just as much fun today as him and his friends did.  That's one great thing about being a Star Wars fan, and that there's no age limit to enjoy something so great.

To see the photo gallery containing 94 photos click here.