SM PIER ¬ó Hundreds of Princess Leias and Luke Skywalkers will convene with Darth Vaders and rebel pilots on the Santa Monica Pier this Saturday.
Don¬ít fret ¬ó this is not an intergalactic war. This is Course of the Force, a unique five-day relay complete with lightsabers and Jabba the Hutt¬ís floating sail barge resting on a flatbed truck.
Proceeds from the event, which is held in partnership with Lucasfilm, Ltd., Nerdist Industries and Octagon, will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and 400 lightsaber wielding participants are expected.
It will commence with the gathering of a multitude of ¬ìStar Wars¬î and sci-fi characters at a ¬ìConival¬î just above the beach, and end in San Diego on July 11, the day before the beginning of the comic book convention Comic-Con, a sort of holy grail of sci-fi culture.
This is the first time that any event of this kind has occurred, organizers said, and the best comparison would be an Olympic torch relay.
¬ìIt’s going to be this traveling mass of fun with people dressing up in costumes,¬î Peter Levin, CEO of Nerdist Industries and creator and executive director of Course of the Force, said.
Levin, a Santa Monica native, conceived the event and reached out to Lucasfilm and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was greatly motivated by his passion for ¬ìStar Wars,¬î Comic-Con and all things sci-fi, which is exhibited by his and his family¬ís inspired costuming for the event: Levin, his wife Gia, his 6-year-old son Grayden and his two bulldogs Gigi and Lily will be dressed as Boba Fett, Princess Leia, Anakin Skywalker and Ewoks, respectively.
¬ìWell I’m going to my 18th Comic-Con this year and it was before last year¬ís Comic-Con that the idea popped into my brain,¬î Levin said. ¬ìHow do we extend the Comic-Con experience? Let’s create the yellow brick road on the way to Oz.¬î
Levin will be accompanied down this road by his high school friend and fellow Santa Monica native Glyn Milburn. Milburn, a former NFL player, will be attending the event with his 6-year-old son Aaron, both clad in TIE fighter pilot outfits.
¬ìGlyn and I went to [Santa Monica High School] together, so the fact that we¬íre starting this at the pier where I took my oceanography class at 7:30 a.m. during high school is really just icing on the cake,¬î Levin said. ¬ìPart of what we¬íre doing is getting celebrities and athletes who come from these areas to participate, and as someone who grew up with Glyn, I know how much he means to Santa Monica and he was such a great role model, going off to Stanford and having such a great career with the NFL, so he was a natural fit for this event.¬î
Milburn was also on the board of the Ronald McDonald House Charities and participated in many events with them and the Special Olympics. His charitable work as well as his love of ¬ìStar Wars¬î motivated him to participate in the event.
¬ìI¬ím a huge ¬ëStar Wars¬í fan and I remember watching it in theaters at the end of the ¬í70s as a young kid,¬î Milburn said. ¬ìI¬ím passionate about fitness, and for me it was a no-brainer to be able to run part of a course with my son. Peter and I have been friends since high school so it¬ís great to do something with him and to help contribute to a worthy cause as well.¬î
George Lucas, creator of ¬ìStar Wars,¬î and his company Lucasfilm, Ltd. were already connected to Make-A-Wish before this event was conceived, Adam Harris, director of marketing and communications for Octagon, said. The comfort level with that foundation made it the natural choice as the charity benefited by the event.
¬ìWhen you have such a kid-friendly event filled with imagery and fun, it seemed like the right charity for us to align with,¬î Levin said.
The course will kick off with a ¬ìConival,¬î a free public festival starting at 10 a.m. with entertainment and activities available until 1 p.m., after which the first leg of the relay begins and ends at Redondo Beach. There will be music and plenty of food. Sponsors include Otter Pops, Hyundai and eBay, which will have a booth promoting their charity auction of limited edition autographed ¬ìStar Wars¬î items and collectibles, and many others.
The course is 100 miles long, and will be run in quarter-mile legs by individual participants. The segments are laid out along the road from Santa Monica going onto Pacific Coast Highway, and participants will be accompanied by a replica of Jabba the Hutt¬ís sail barge. The sail barge vehicle will go down the road as a broadcast booth with the host of the event, Chris Hardwick of Nerdist Industries, sitting on top and RVs wrapped in Course of the Force decorations completing this large traveling caravan of sci-fi wonder.
People are encouraged to come to the free ¬ìConival¬î on Saturday, especially if they come in Chubaka or Han Solo garb.