Movie buffs prepare for the Rose Parade

Anchorage residents to travel to Pasadena for New Year's event

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A pair of Anchorage residents will help George Lucas celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Star Wars" at the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

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Rebecca Lewis and Joe Kerley IV will wear movie costumes they made and march with other characters from the movie series.

"I'm not really that big of a geek," said Lewis, as she stood in her Elmendorf Air Force Base living room clutching a Tusken Raider mask. "Really!"

She pulled pieces out of a storage box and held them up: A loose white outer-garment, snap-on shoulder plates and a shiny helmet that fogs up her glasses.

Lewis will dress as an Imperial Officer while Kerley, 26, is a Clone Trooper. Both are members of the Aurora Borealis garrison, the local chapter of a worldwide "Star Wars" costuming group called the 501st Legion.

John Singh, director of publicity for Lucasfilm Ltd., said the parade's 200 Stormtroopers and 24 Imperial Officers were chosen from more than 700 applicants, who submitted videos of themselves marching in full regalia.

Lewis keeps her framed Rose Parade acceptance letter propped up by her computer.

"It's a complete and total honor," she said.

Both Kerley and Lewis are fans of the "Star Wars" films but say creating the costumes got them hooked.

Three years ago Lewis and husband Michael, an Air Force aircraft mechanic, were stationed in Idaho and dressed as Stormtroopers for Halloween. Then they stumbled upon the 501st Legion and later marched in their first parade, which raised money to fight hemophilia.

The crowd couldn't get enough of them.

"The people were freaking out," she said. "They were going gaga. My husband was like, 'This is the coolest thing.'"

To gain acceptance into the legion, participants must have movie-quality costumes based on an evil "Star Wars" character. Lewis and her husband initially made Tusken Raider costumes for themselves and Jawas, small scavengers with hooded faces and yellow eyes, for daughter Phoebe, 6, and son Carter, 4.

Her husband was transferred to Alaska last year. Lewis sees her family's "Star Wars" participation as a way of spending time together while giving back to the community through charity events.

"It brings a sense of joy to me that I might not normally be able to get," she said. "And that's not a bad thing."

Kerley took his wife, Natalie, on their first date to see "The Phantom Menace." Charity events are a good excuse to dress up, he said.

He can't wait to hang out with other "suit freaks" at the Rose Parade and show off his detailed Clone Trooper costume work. He figures he's spent more than $3,000 so far, and his helmet is his pride. Tiny fans imbedded in the plastic keep his head cool. A microphone and amplifier setup adds static to his speech, just like in the movie.

Kerley is meticulous about making his outfits accurate down to every last scratch and chip of paint.

Suits typically are worn for about two hours, although Kerley has been in his up to six. For the Rose Bowl Parade, they'll be marching 5.5 miles, the longest Kerley has ever walked in costume.

"It's a death march," he said with a laugh. "But I've got good boots, see?" He kicked up a red leather foot. "I made 'em from Reebok basketball shoes."

Kerley and Lewis flew to southern California at Lucasfilms' expense on Wednesday for three days of drill practice before today's parade.

"Oh man, I'm ready," Kerley said. "I just hope I don't trample any kids."

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