Kids are mostly used to thinking of "Star Wars" happening a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but on Saturday, Stormtroopers and Jawas will overrun the Rosemount Steeple Center. And according to Mike Fessler, the characters at the town's first "Star Wars" Extravaganza should be pretty convincing.
"We get into it," said Fessler, a volunteer with the 501st Legion's Central Garrison, a regional unit of an international Star Wars costuming group.
"All of the costumes have to be movie-quality replicas," he said. "None of us are running around in a costume we bought at Target."
Fessler, a lifelong fan of the saga, dresses as a Stormtrooper and a biker scout, and like other volunteers, he made the costumes himself and had them evaluated by a committee before bringing the characters to life.
As a result, when kids see them, he said, "they run up, give us high-fives, give us hugs."
"They are going to knock those kids' socks off," said Jo Gilbertson, a volunteer with Friends of the Robert Trail Library. "It's going to be so exciting."
Gilbertson's organization collaborated with library staff and the Rosemount Area Arts Council to put on the celebration of the popular adventure series — complete with light saber battles, "Wookiee Cookies" and activities such as Death Star bowling and origami Yoda. They have been planning it for a year. "It's a big event," she said.
Kids will have a chance to play original "Star Wars" video games designed by students at Dakota County Area Learning School in Rosemount, an alternative learning center for nine area school districts.
"Most gamers enjoy 'Star Wars,' " said Dale Engman, the school's video game development instructor. "Most of them are big time into 'Star Wars.' "
Senior Mitchell Smisek of Hastings collaborated with classmate Jared Johnson to win the contest to have his game featured at the event. He described his game as "a scrolling space shooter game where you control a 'Star Wars' X-wing fighter and shoot down TIE fighters."
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I've been a fan of 'Star Wars' all my life."
His game will be featured on a main computer, and other top contenders will be set up on laptops for play.
Kids can also compete in a spelling bee and trivia contest. They can do "Star Wars" thumb doodles, build Lego starships or create a droid with cardboard tubes, nuts, bolts, pins and other metallic doodads.
Other events are planned leading up to Saturday. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., the Robert Trail Library has scheduled a session on drawing "Star Wars" characters for ages 8-16 with professional cartoonist Craig MacIntosh.
They also have organized a "Star Wars" library scavenger hunt from Monday to Saturday, and participants will receive "Han Rolo" treats at the end.
At Saturday's big event, kids are welcome to bring in their Legos or action figures for a display table and, if they do, will be entered into a drawing for a new Lego model.
Kathy Kleckner, Robert Trail's children's librarian, said staff members also plan to display a library of "Star Wars" books — "which is a lot," Kleckner said. "It's amazing how popular these books still are. We have to replace them frequently."
Organizers hope to make this an annual event and don't imagine they'll have much trouble sustaining interest.
"It maintains its popularity," Gilbertson said. "We will have adults coming in costume. People are fans for life."
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.