Star Wars fans channel 'The Force' for a good cause
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 07/03/12 - 05:34 PM | 6366 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A stormtrooper and Tusken Raider demonstrate how the official Hasbro Ultimate FX lightsaber will be passed off to each runner in the Course of the Force relay.
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Star Wars fans will march in full force to San Diego for the mothership of all comic book, sci-fi and pop culture conventions on July 11. The inaugural Course of the Force relay will take hundreds of lightsaber-wielding participants donned in their best Star Wars-themed costumes on an epic journey from Santa Monica to San Diego for the 43rd annual Comic-Con International — the largest comic book and pop culture event in the nation.

The Olympic torch-style relay run will begin at the Santa Monica Pier on July 7 and end at Balboa Theatre, just in time for Comic-Con’s preview night on July 11. During the five-day relay, participants will run in brief quarter-mile segments, handing off the official Hasbro Ultimate FX Course of the Force lightsaber en route as each runner begins his or her leg of the journey along Southern California’s coastline.

Star Wars-themed “Conival” parties will entertain participants and spectators at different points along the course with stage performances, autograph sessions, merchandise giveaways and Star Wars character appearances.

A 25-foot-long replica of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge from “Return of the Jedi” will even serve as the relay’s lead vehicle, paving the way for runners on the course and serving as host Chris Hardwick’s anchor desk from which to announce his commentary of the relay.

Not only does the race build momentum to participants’ arrival at the mecca for sci-fi and comic book gurus, but Course of the Force organizers — including Lucasfilm Ltd., Nerdist Industries and Octagon — also aim to make a difference by raising funds for the local Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“We knew that if we were going to do this event, we had to do it for the right reasons,” said Octagon spokesperson Adam Harris. “That’s where we got involved with Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern California to come up with this concept — to bring awareness to them, raise some money for them, get the kids involved and make some wishes come true with this event.”

The initial concept for Course of the Force quite literally conked Nerdist Industries’ CEO Peter Levin in the head one day late last year.

“His son happened to be playing with a lightsaber. One thing led to another, and his son hit him in the head, which got him thinking about the idea,” said Harris of the concept’s humble beginnings. “It was just an idea from him playing around with his kid, but it somehow evolved into this really cool, really big event.”

Once internationally renowned entertainment giant Lucasfilm Ltd. got involved, the event started to take shape.

“It just kind of snowballed. Before you knew it, it was the real deal,” Harris said. “It came together to really serve as a natural lead up to San Diego Comic-Con, which has become such a huge attraction, but doesn’t have any kind of major event that serves as a lead up to it.”

Spectators are invited to follow The Force along the course, which will pass through La Jolla and Pacific Beach on July 10, or gather at Crystal Pier to welcome runners for the evening.

“We will be a moving target. We’re working closely with California Highway Patrol in all of the cities to ensure that everything goes on safely. We will have police escorts and we’re going to be working with traffic so we minimize disruption,” he said. “It’s not quite like a marathon. We don’t want to cause a logjam with people hanging out in the streets.”

The Force is expected to arrive at Crystal Pier at about 5:30 p.m. on July 10 and will take off again at 9 a.m. on July 11. Spectators are invited to greet the runners as they arrive at the pier, dress in Star Wars garb, and take advantage of photo opportunities with celebrity runners and Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge.

“If you happen to go out for a morning stroll at the pier, don’t be alarmed if you see storm troopers and Darth Vaders,” warned Harris.

For more information about the relay and related events, visit www.courseoftheforce.com.
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