Manhattan, IL
September 4, 2006
Story and Photos by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)


Manhattan? Manhattan, as in New York? No, that's not the Manhattan I would be spending a good portion of my day today. It's a small town located near Kankakee, Illinois with approximately 4,500 citizens, and as I approached it in my Subaru Forester I got that small "hometown" feeling. It reminded me of the town my father was born and raised in, Paris (IL), as they are both small farm towns in the lower portion of Illinois. You couldn't have asked for better parade-marching weather, as it was in the very low 70s with overcast skies. It had rained a little bit earlier in the morning, but the rain wasn't falling by 1000 hours.

The initial game plan was to meet up at a friend's house that was right near to where the parade was going to start. It would be the prime location to get suited up, since it would be so close to the start of the parade. The first two members of the Midwest Garrison to show up were Fitz and myself. He would be a clean white stormtrooper, and I would be the dirty sandtrooper. Other members that showed up were Kevin (Boba Fett), Rich (Darth Vader), Jerry (Tusken Raider), Aimee (Biker Scout) and Kevin's son (TIE pilot; sorry, I can't remember your first name).

It was a good amount of troopers for only have two weeks to prepare for this. I met up with the two local residents who had requested our service, Tim and Kim, at one of our previous events (Brookfield Zoo's "Zoo Stars" parade). They had mentioned to me that they were going to be marching in their town's Labor Day parade, and was hoping that we could participate in it. I told her that I would be able to do it, but wasn't so sure how many MWG members would be available for it. Surprisingly we had a total of seven, which was way more than I thought could do it. It only took all of us about 20-30 minutes to get ready, and before we knew it we were all outside ready to start marching.

It seemed to be a long wait for the parade to start, but it wasn't too bad since it was very comfortable weather and was nice to hang out with other MWG members before it actually started.

Since the town wasn't all that big, I was thinking to myself that it was going to be a small turnout. I thought the parade would be over and done with in about ten minutes, and I thought there weren't going to be many people watching us. Boy, was I wrong.

Just as in other parades I've marched in when the cities were known to be small in size, the city all came out to watch this special Labor Day parade. Everywhere you looked people of all ages were waiting to see the parade march past them. Most of the people were screaming, "Look, there's Darth Vader!" Most of the people knew who we were, and it's great to know that young and old are so familiar with the Star Wars universe. They might not have known who all of us were, but each and every one of them sure knew who Darth Vader was. There was no doubt about that.

It was a fun time and if anyone in the town of Manhattan needs our services again, I'd be more than willing to drive an hour to provide my services.

To see the photo gallery containing 33 photos click here.