The 501st Legion visits a really cool museum in Garden City, Long Island called the Cradle of Aviation.
Saturday, June 18th, 2011
If you’ve been following me at all, you probably know that I’m a Star Wars geek, and that I go to local events dressed in a Star Wars costume. Just check my photo albums here or on Facebook to see visual proof. You could also read any of my numerous blogs by clicking “501st” or “Star Wars” over there on the right under Categories=====>
The short version (for me anyway) to get you up to speed, is that I am a member of a group called the 501st Legion. The 501st is a group of geeks like myself who like Star Wars to the point of spending the time and money of creating professional quality costumes of the “bad guy” characters in the movie. (I also belong to the Rebel Legion which covers the costumes of the “good guys”. This particular event, I was a TIE Pilot “bad guy”, so I’ll focus on the 501st angle).
I realize there is a tendency to think of people who costume as loner freaks, but most of the people I’ve met doing this are sane and productive members of society – We have moms, dads, cops, firemen, lawyers, teachers, programmers, musicians, writers, artists, etc within our ranks. If we weren’t wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, you probably wouldn’t be able to pick us out of a crowd. LOL
One of my favorite quotes lately is “Just because my hobby is different than yours, doesn’t mean my hobby is any dumber than your hobby.” Plus our hobby has an outlet that helps make the world a better place. A large portion of the events we attend are charity events, and our costumed groups have helped raise well into the millions of dollars for various charities. And we bring LOTS of smiles to the kids who come out to our events and see characters magically come off the screen into their world. It’s a really cool feeling being part of this.
One thing that I should mention here is that it isn’t just Star Wars costuming groups that enjoy these benefits, but most costumers, be it Star Trek, Superheroes, Disney princesses, etc. (People who know my “wannabe marketing genius” mind are laughing right now because they know what’s coming next)
I am currently working on a new book that will hopefully be finished in early 2012. It will be all about the various costumers out there – How they got into it, Why they do it How they got their cool costumes,What their families and friends think, Cool stories while costumed, and everything in between. So basically I am looking to hear from any costumers who are willing to tell their story for inclusion in the book. So if you are a costumer, and have a cool story, email me at email@example.com and let me know. You can be any type of costumer (including anime, re-enactors, mascots, gorilla-grams, etc) – the only exclusion is that the book will be relatively family-friendly, so I probably won’t be using any adult-themed stories. Nothing against it personally, but as wise costumer Amber Love wrote in her Amber Unmasked blog, “there’s a time and place for everything.” :)
Ok, sorry for that tangent, back on target about the Cradle of Aviation event.
The Cradle of Aviation is a really cool museum on Museum Row in Garden City, Long Island. They’ve got a whole lotta exhibits on the history of flight – with a slant towards Long Island’s involvement in it. Grumman Corporation was a HUGE contributor of exhibits to the museum and there is some really cool stuff there like flight simulators, lunar landers, space suits, planes of all types, etc. It even has a Fire Dept museum and historic carousel on the property – See the pics below for a taste of it.. HIGHLY recommended by your pal James…
Lets just put it this way, Even tho I was born and raised in the Bronx, I normally refuse going to Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island because of the hellish traffic. When I managed the RiffSurfers band, one of the clauses in my contract was that I would never have to attend one of their shows if it was in those boroughs. (yes, seriously). However, the chance to do a troop at this museum after seeing their website got me off my ass, into a car early on a Saturday, and into the Forbidden Zone of NYC’s outer boroughs. That’s how cool it seemed – AND I WASN’T DISAPPOINTED…
Side Note: The 501st Legion is broken into garrisons based on location. I belong to the NorthEast Remnant (NER) Garrison which is based out of Jersey. Next door in New York City is the Empire City Garrison (ECG). We are two separate groups in the 501st Legion, but we regularly troop together and have a pretty good relationship.
Chris Feehan of the Empire City Garrison had the great idea to approach the museum and set up a trooping event. Because of the size and absolute coolness of the troop, he invited us over in the NorthEast Remnant. Even though Wizard World Philadelphia was the same weekend, and many of our members were booked for months to go there, we had a pretty decent NER showing. Overall between the ECG & NER, we had almost 30 troopers in attendance which is a really impressive showing (also showing just how cool the Cradle of Aviation is)
Traffic wasn’t that bad getting there, and Jackie & I pulled in to the Cradle’s lot 5 minutes late (of course). First thing we saw was Chris’s “StormTrooper Car” parked in front with a bunch of people around it taking pictures of it. So we knew we were in the right place…
We walked inside and the museum’s awesome event coordinator Seamus met us, thanked us, and showed us where we were changing. We went in, changed and went to the gathering point which was a section overlooking the main lobby.
There are times trooping where I wish I was in the audience instead of being a character… One of these times is the moment when we started looking down into the lobby from the 2nd floor, and the first few people noticed about 20-30 of us looking down at them in full Star Wars costumes. Seeing the crowd’s reaction looking up at us with their eyes as wide as saucers, and mouths open before they thought to reach for their cameras was priceless… If I was a kid and saw that, I probably would’ve passed out from excitement LOL (If I can find one of those photos online, I’ll put it up here)
We went over to the elevator to take us down to the lobby and packed in. I was the last in, so I was the first one out when the doors open. Apparently nobody expected the Empire to use the elevator to come downstairs. The people waiting for the elevator almost crapped their pants when the doors opened and a bunch of StormTroopers, Biker Scouts, a TIE Pilot (me), Imperial Crew (Jackie) and Darth Vader were standing there. Classic moment of the day LOL
We went out and started mingling and taking pictures with the crowd. And it was really fun. The kids loved us, and so did their geekish Dads who were instantly transported back to being kids themselves. I know this from experience… The first time I saw a group of Star Wars characters in person back at the Franklin Institute in 2008 for a huge Star Wars event, I was a 10 year old kid seeing Star Wars for the first time. Its kinda cool that now I can help create that same feeling in people now.
There were lots of people there that day, so we spent a lot of the day posing for pictures. There was also a really cool “Shoot a Trooper” game where some members in armor got shot with Nerf guns in exchange for a donation to a local charity. As the crowd thinned out a bit, many of the characters went around the museum using the exhibits as really cool photo opps (see below for some of the cool shots Jackie & I snagged)
We did this for about 3-4 hours and then Jackie & I changed into our civvies and explored the museum as regular people. And as I said earlier, the museum was really cool.
Eventually we got tired, and decided to head home. We said our goodbyes to everyone still there. Many of us strangers at the beginning of the day, and now good friends. Trooping has the some really great benefits.
The drive home was the only bad part of the day. Remember earlier when I said I hated going into the Forbidden Zone? This is exactly why… Being we had a decent commute into Long Island thanks to my GPS (with “traffic avoidance” technology), I figured we’d follow its directions home. So we followed it – RIGHT INTO MANHATTAN and it’s nightmarish Williamsburg Bridge.
And that was only the beginning, the GPS took us down Broome Street the entire width of Manhattan. If you aren’t from NYC, picture the worst traffic jam you’ve been in (including escaping from a flood) and multiply that by 4 – and that’s just everyday NYC traffic.. Nothing abnormal about it – taking two & a half hours to go 20 blocks is a regular day in Manhattan. There is really nothing worse than seeing every single block’s traffic light along the way changing at least 15-20 times before you got thru it.
It was pure hell. After it was all over, I told Jackie that if I had started complaining about it while stuck in that traffic, I would have completely lost my mind – ending with me ripping off my clothes and running down the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy butt-naked. When I got home, I just sat in my quiet backyard in town staring at the non-urban scene of trees, chipmunks, and bluejays. Needless to say I am still not talking to my “Traffic Avoidance” GPS model. Never again will I follow it that blindly…
Other than that nightmare commute, I don’t regret going to the Cradle of Aviation troop – The day was really fun and it felt like we really made a lot of people happy that day. Made some new friends, got some great pictures and memories, and even got a NYC traffic story that I will be telling well into my 80’s LOL
Major props goes out to Chris Feehan and the Empire City Garrison for finding this event, and for inviting us out to it.
Hope there are plenty more troops like this in the future! Thanks again!
Three pictures that sum up my day
Thats me and the missus – Thanks to Bonnie Feliciano for the shot!
Ok, here’s two great videos from the day
And here’s the full set of pictures – Click to view them larger.