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Fans celebrate Star Wars at Seminole gathering

SEMINOLE — About 60 Star Wars fans, ages 6 to 49, adorned in costumes ranging from Jedi to Princess Leia, gathered in Seminole Saturday night for the Star Wars Grand Florida Alliance's final event of 2010.

The free event at Emerald City Comics, Games & Toys featured actor Orli Shoshan, who played Shaak Ti in the Star Wars prequels. It also included food, drinks and a costume contest.

But while the actor was a celebrity attraction, it was a night for Floridians who are fanatics of the science fiction phenomenon.

Towering over everyone at 8 feet 2 inches, Largo resident Jeremy Naylor seemed like a strong contender for the costume contest.

"I've been brainwashed from the beginning," said Naylor, who took off his Wampa mask to explain his love of Star Wars since he was 2 and to take a water break from the furry costume. Naylor said the drywall-stilt-based costume took seven months to make and required lots of research because the Wampa (which resembles a tall polar bear) is only shown in quick clips in the movies.

Naylor and some fans came to dress up and socialize with other Star Wars enthusiasts. Others traveled from across the state specifically to capture Shoshan's autograph.

Among the autograph seekers was Jeff Foreback from Lakeland who added Shoshan's signature to his poster of Star Wars autographs. So far, he has 75.

William Dowudom's poster isn't quite as complete. The 20-year-old Winter Haven resident, who was dressed as a "regular old Jedi," said he has 10 signatures and was hoping that Shoshan's autograph would bring him closer to his goal of 50.

Shoshan was not in costume but she said the makeup for Shaak Ti, which included glue and latex, took four hours.

"People like to meet the person behind the mask," said Shoshan, pushing her long black hair behind her ears.

"Even though it's not a big role in the movie, it's unique," said Shoshan, whose character appeared in Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones. "I'm proud to be a part of this universe."

The organization that hosted the event hopes to expand that universe.

"It started with 10 people meeting in the mall," said co-founder Chris Wyman. The group now has more than 450 members.

Campbell Evans, another co-founder, said that the organization's activities include building light sabers and watching Star Wars movies.

The winner of the child costume contest was Ronan Howard and the adult winner was his father, Doug Howard, who was dressed as a Tusken Raider.

"The kids get a kick out of it and that's all I care about," the elder Howard said. He seemed surprised when he was announced as the winner. "Why not the Wampa?"

Fans celebrate Star Wars at Seminole gathering 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 5:27pm]
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