Tuesday, September 22, 2009

501ST LEGION~ IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MEMBERS by Denise Vasquez ©2009


ALL MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE COPYRIGHT 2008/2009 BY DENISE VASQUEZ. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



I’ve been writing a series of interviews about members of the 501st called “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MEMBERS” here in my “Art & Soul” blog since June 14, 2009...

I got the idea of starting this series after speaking with 501st Legion founder Albin Johnson in Japan during Star Wars Celebration Japan...

Hearing Albin's story, and learning about how the 501st came to be, really touched a place close to home for me, and deep in my heart...

I’ve been interviewing 501st members worldwide since then, sharing & promoting their stories. The series has been receiving a wonderful, positive response from members, fans, and friends all over the world! I’m very proud of all of the hard
work I’ve put into building something unique & special for the 501st & it’s members!

Let me introduce you to some wonderful members of the 501st who were kind enough to take a moment to share their stories...

TRACY WILSON

How did you find out about the 501st?

It was around 2005 or so, when I was doing an online search for Star Wars pictures. One of the links that showed up was the 501st Legion. I had never heard of the 501st until that very moment, and to me it was like striking gold. This was one of the coolest things I'd ever come across in a long time, and I made every effort to find out more abot this group.


What inspired you to want to join?

First, it was just the fact of owning stormtrooper armor. Granted, when I first saw Star Wars in 1977, I cheered for the good guys when the Death Star blew up. But actually owning a costume similar to those in the movies seemed like a very cool thing. Once I read more information about the charity side of the 501st, this inspired me

even more to want to join.


Which Garrison are you a part of?

I am a part of Star Garrison, Arkansas Squad.


When did you join? How long have you been a member?

I was officially accepted in 2006, and January will mark my fourth year. And it just gets better and better!


How did you decide on your costume?

There's just something about a stormtrooper. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's a cool-factor, and

maybe a slight hint of intimidation there as well when it comes to this particular character. Granted, they couldn't hit anything... but being in the white, shiny armor seems to draw a lot of attention no matter where you are. Besides, at the time it was the cheapest costume I could afford.


Where did you get your costume? Did you make yours?

I was very fortunate when it came to acquiring my costume. This goes back to the day when I was online, looking up information. Once I found out the requirements to join the 501st, I made several frantic calls of friends and co-workers. asking them if they knew anyone who had a stormtrooper costume. After it seemed I had ran out of options, the last call lead to one person. I called him up, and we talked for about two hours. I then came out and asked him if he'd be willing to sell his armor. We negotiated a price, met up a few days later and now.... the rest is history. Of course, he wasn't a Legion Member and the price was a lot less than what they cost. Of course, I had

to make sure my wife was okay with this, and she said that this would be my Christmas present.


Where have you traveled to participate in 501st events?

Majority of the events I've attended are locally such as Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Conway and Hot Springs. I've also attened two events in Jonesboro, which is a two hour trip from Little Rock. Hopefully, we will be able to do more events in Arkansas that are spread out.


Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?

Dallas, Texas for an annual Con called All-Con. This is a yearly convetion hosted by Star Garrison. This is the one Con I always try to make!


What’s your fondest 501st memory?

Trooping All-Con. To me, this is always like a family reunion. I get to troop a great con with some really awesome people! My second fondest memory would be the first time I had the armor on. This was December 2005 for our local Toys for Tots drive. I wasn't official yet, but it was an event I wanted to do with two members- Henry and Julia McDonald- that I had talked to over the phone but had yet to meet. Doing a parking lot change for the first time, and donning the armor for the first time was quite and experience to say the least! Not to mention, that

almost every step I took, a piece of armor would come apart or fall off completely.

Thankfully, Julia had a lot of duct tape handy that day!


What’s your favorite thing about being a 501st member?

Belonging to a wonderful group of people who share the same interests, love of Star Wars and giving back to the community. It's an amazing experience, and everyone treats you like family.


What’s the day like for you as a 501st member preparing for an event?

Even though each and every event is different, I am always excited to put on the armor and do an event. Maybe a little nervous still, hoping that everything goes right and if there are any armor malfunctions, it's minimal. Other than making sure everything is in order before the event starts, I do my best to take care of those in costume- making sure they're okay and if they

need a break.


Does the 501st have ranks or positions? Do you have duties you have to adhere to during events?


Our command structure is comprised of elected persons, voted into each position. It varies from Legion Commanding Officer, Detachment leaders, merchandise officers... all the way down to garrison and squad levels. At this time, I am the current squad leader for Arkansas, which covers handling events on our local level and making sure things run as smooth as possible.


Any upcoming events?

September 26th- North Pulaski Community Fest

Boo at the Zoo, Little Rock- which usually occurs in the last weeks of October.

November 13th-15th: Little Rock GameCon

March 12-14th- Allcon in Dallas, TX



Anything else you would like to add?

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my brothers and sisters in the 501st. Regardless of where we come from or what we do, we take care of each other like family. From Albin down to my garrison and squad mates, and to all our Honorary Members and Friends of the Legion- I have enjoyed the ride so far and I look forward to many more years to come. For the Empire!

Thank you Denise, for your time and this interview.



BJ POWER



How did you find out about the 501st?

I met some 501st members at Celebration 2. I thought it was cool but had not been chomped on by the costume bug at that point in time. It was the line party for Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith when I met a local 501st member who was in charge of starting up our local fanforce. From that point I had a group of fellow Star Wars junkies to hang out with and one thing led to another. I traded in my Jedi, well not really, I joined Rebel Legion with it after a lot of work, and got my first 501st costume, a female Tusken Raider.



What inspired you to want to join?

Mostly all the stuff you saw the Legion involved with, like Make A Wish, Children's hospitals... that sort of thing. But, also they were a great group of fans and I just wanted to be a part of it.


Which Garrison are you a part of?

Star Garrison


When did you join? How long have you been a member?

I joined the Legion in the Spring of 2007 and have been a member since.


How did you decide on your costume?

My first costume was because I found a female tusken mask and really liked the idea of being a Sand Person. Then I went on to get my first armor kit... and then several other costumes. Most noteably my Gamorrean Guard. There are very few Gamorrean Guard's in the Legion and I'm the only female... I just really thought they were cool and wanted

something unique.


Where did you get your costume? Did you make yours?

I made my Tusken robes, not the mask. I assembled my Storm Trooper kits. The Gamorrean I bought complete. It's an old costume and I got it from Amsterdam. The folks who owned it before me don't know where they got it. But, I've made a lot of modifications on it.


Where have you traveled to participate in 501st events?

Texas, Tennessee, California.


Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?

California for Celebration IV.


What’s your fondest 501st memory?

Trooping for a Make a Wish event where the little boy was getting a wish granting party. It's those moments that make

it more than just having a good time. We do have a great time, don't get me wrong... but, it's little moments like that when you can make a difference in a family's life at times when they are going through something more difficult than I can imagine. It's making their time more memorable.


What’s your favorite thing about being a 501st member?

Being able to be apart of moments like I mentioned above... and hanging out with the greatest bunch of fans you'll ever meet.


What’s the day like for you as a 501st member preparing for an event?

The day is normal as any other... but, for me... it's the getting into the costume that's the hard part as often I'm doing that in a parking lot... That and making sure you get the battery out of the charger and actually into the camera.


Does the 501st have ranks or positions? Do you have duties you have to adhere to during events?

There are rank and positions like garrison and squad leaders. And during events it's not so much duties, it really

depends on the event.


Any upcoming events?

Yes, our squad will be appearing at the Little Rock Zoo for their annual trick or treat event, Boo at the Zoo. Then in November we'll be trooping the Little Rock Game Con and hopefully we'll have team for the Susan Komen Race for the Cure.


Anything else you would like to add?

I'm just glad somebody's looking at the female perspective... 501st is a lot of fun to belong to. At big conventions you can't find a better bunch of folks to hang out with. And there are so many opportunities to help out your local

community. You never know just how much your appearance in a costume can mean to a family. It's really humbling sometimes.



The Force Will Be With You, Always.



Barbie Usison Arbues


How did you find out about the 501st?

Every year since it started I have been a volunteer at the Oakland Holiday Parade. This was the first time I ever saw life size stormtroopers and realized there was a place for people like my husband ;)



What inspired you to want to join?

To be honest, my husband made me join. No really, I always attended events with him and one day he said, if you’re going to be here you might as well get dressed up and get credit for going.



Which Garrison are you a part of?

I am a member of the GGG or Golden Gate Garrison.



When did you join? How long have you been a member?

I officially became a member late 2006, but have been hanging around the GGG as a handler/ unofficial photographer since 2004... so technically you can say I’ve been around for 5years.



Where did you get your costume? Did you make yours?

Another member helped me make my first costume since I have no sewing skills at all… and now I somehow own 4.


Where have you traveled to participate in 501st events?

The farthest I have traveled and participated has been San Diego Comic Con.



Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?

The guess the farthest I’ve traveled would be SDCC, but I did get to watch all the troopers march live in the Pasadena Rose Parade.. at 7 o’clock in the morning.. in the cold.. but it sure was awesome!



What’s your fondest 501st memory?

One of my most interesting events was one I wasn’t even in costume for. A few years back, the GGG was invited to help promote SW at a Raider’s game. I was 4 ½ months pregnant and was given the task of protecting the stormtroopers from overzealous fans, it was crazy but in the end I got to watch the game from the sidelines next to the Raiderettes. It was quite an experience.



What’s your favorite thing about being a 501st member?

I must say it’s for the kids. I attend all kind of events but my favorites include parades and those that benefit the numerous charities in our area.



What’s the day like for you as a 501st member preparing for an event?

Once again, being honest, I do nothing. My husband (TK1697) does all the prep work for me. He goes through my armor and makes sure nothing is broken and makes repairs for me as needed. On the day of an event, I am usually the navigation system and am responsible for getting us there on time and in one piece.



Does the 501st have ranks or positions? Do you have duties you have to adhere to during events?

Yes the 501st does have positions both at the local and international level; however I like to keep things simple and just enjoy myself… however I have been known to plan a few awesome parties in my time.



Anything else you would like to add?

Sorry this is kinda of late, life’s been pretty hectic lately but things are starting to fall back into place… pretty soon I hope to be back in armor and out with my fellow troopers.


Better late than never Barbie! Stay tuned for more wonderful interviews with 501st members!

No comments:

Post a Comment