Naperville, IL
March 11, 2006
Story by Chris Rhoads (dustrho)
Photos by Various People


Back in late November last year I marched in Naperville's Little Friends Parade, and it was real crappy weather that day.  It was rainy, windy and very cold, but that wasn't going to stop us then.  The forecast for today was calling for high 50s low 60s, windy and thunderstorms, but the rain never showed up for our parade.  We were able to see some lightning off in the distance, but it was far enough away from us, so that it wouldn't put a damper on all the locals who were going to enjoy their mornings with a parade.  So, I guess you could say that since this was a parade to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, that we were quite lucky to have not gotten ourselves soaking wet.

I showed up in the Naperville North High School's parking lot around 9:00am, since that's when everyone was supposed to be there.  Well, there were only a few other people there, and they were almost all suited up in their outfits.  I was only about ten minutes into putting my armor together, when I cut my finger really bad and started bleeding.  It wasn't pretty, and stupid me didn't have any band-aids to put on it.  Luckily I was able to use some Kleenex and black electrical tape to make mends.  As the Jesse "the Body" Ventura once said in the movie Predator, "I ain't got time to bleed."

After getting all suited up finally, I was ready to start enjoying the moment.  It was the first time my buddy Jeff (aka Darth Berger) had seen me in my sandtrooper armor, so I was pretty excited about him finally being able to see me in it.  He got the opportunity to see me really enjoy myself, as I was helping direct traffic in the school's parking lot.  Some people were obviously enjoying themselves, while others must not have been too interested in Star Wars.  Too bad for them.

The time had come, and we started moving toward our section in the parking lot where we would be placed for the parade.  We had a spot somewhere in the 50s, as there were something like 80 or so different entries in the parade.  That's a whole lot of people in a parade if you ask me.  There were tons of people waiting for this thing to get started, and I was just as anxious as everyone else was.  Lots of people kept coming up to us asking to have their pictures taken with us, and of course I couldn't get enough of that.  I love having my picture taken with people, especially with kids because it's just great seeing the smiles on their faces when they see us.  I did have the opportunity of having my picture taken with the queen of the parade, but unfortunately I don't have a photo of that.  Hopefully I'll be able to get one in either the local newspaper or online somewhere.

Just before the parade was getting ready to start, we all got together to have a group picture taken of us.  I'm not sure where this came from or who it belongs to, but there was a very cool 501st/MWG banner that we were going to carry in the parade that was obviously designed for the St. Patrick's Day parade.  We all tried squeezing in as close to one another so that we could all get in the photo, while holding that banner, and the picture was then taken.  I couldn't wait to see that photo when I got home.

After hanging out in the parking lot for what seemed like an hour, it was FINALLY time to start moving.  I can tell you one thing that I was getting tired of just standing around, and it was great to finally start walking.  We all formed up with the Jedi and Rebels in the front, followed by stormtroopers, sandtroopers and Boba Fett, and then the TIE pilots and none other than Darth Vader in the rear.  I would have to guess there were about 25 of us there, which was an incredible amount of people for the parade.

One thing that was exciting for me, is that I knew my wife, son and our best friends (Jeff and his wife & son) were going to be standing on the sidewalk watching me march in the parade.  It was the first time Jeff and Julie had ever seen me in my armor before, and it was the first time Carrie had seen me doing anything with the MWG.  I couldn't wait to see the look on their faces when I would get close to them.

It was quite a long walk for us, as it was supposedly just under two miles in length from start to finish, and this would be the longest parade I've been involved in (out of a total of three including this one).  I have no problems with walking as I walk all the time, but I was having some difficulty marching in my armor today.  My diamond knee plate kept tucking underneath my thigh piece, so when I was walking it kept making this popping sound and it just felt uncomfortable for me.  I was also afraid that the piece was going to snap off my leg, and if it did I probably would never have even noticed until it would be too late to do anything about it.  It was also very windy and there were a couple moments I thought Princess Leia was going to fly away.  Now that would have been cool!

I was very impressed with the number of local residents that had made the event, and there were tons of children screaming for Darth Vader.  Rich (aka dad vader) must have been loving every single second when he heard them yelling his name.  I did hear some kids yelling for Boba Fett, as he was also a star celebrity in the parade (BTW that new gun of yours looked awesome!).  Lots of people kept asking the typical questions to me:

  • "Why are you so dirty?"
  • "Look at the dirty stormtrooper!"
  • "Who are you supposed to be?"
  • "Are you a good guy?"

As we had made our way down through the city of Naperville, when we were almost at our final destination spot (Centennial Beach), something surprisingly happened to me.  Something had hit my helmet not just one time but several times, each time making a very loud "thump" sound, and there were some kids who had thrown several pieces of hard candy at my helmet.  I turned around real quick and they had already taken off.  I couldn't believe that kids would think about throwing candy at someone in a costume like that, let alone actually throwing that at someone.  Totally disrespectful if you ask me.  Did that ruin my day though?  Hell no!  I had a blast marching with everyone, and it couldn't have turned out to be a nicer day than it was today.

Once we all met up at Centennial Beach, it was time to do a few more group shot photos, and then the parade was over.  I said my goodbyes to some of the crew, found my wife and son, and started heading back to my car.  On the way there I must have been stopped by at least five different people asking to have their picture taken with me.  I couldn't get enough of that, so of course I stopped so they could take my picture.  There were even very young kids following asking if they could touch my armor and guns.

It was a great day, and I'm so honored to belong to such an incredible organization as the Midwest Garrison of the 501st Legion.  Until next time... all hail Cobra!  Ooops, I mean long live the Empire!

To see the photo gallery containing 22 photos click here.