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Rexburg feels the Force during ‘May the 4th’ ‘Star Wars’ celebration

The Art of Nerding Out

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Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — The Force was with Upper Valley residents this weekend as the city of Rexburg celebrated “May the 4th” and all things “Star Wars.”

The two-day event took place at two different venues and included “Star Wars” LEGO displays, appearances by members of “Star Wars” costuming groups and screenings of “Star Wars” films.

The event is the brainchild of Rexburg Cultural Arts Director Jackie Rawlins.

“We’re always looking for things we can do for the community,” Rawlins told EastIdahoNews.com. “And ‘May the Force be with you’ is a big thing in this area.”

Now in its fourth year, “May the 4th” has previously featured an orchestral concert filled with “Star Wars” music and a Shakespeare play with a “Star Wars” twist. A light show and “Star Wars” LEGOs became part of the festivities last year and the event keeps growing.

“Each year is just a little different,” Rawlins said. “We mix it up a little bit.”

Along with the use of multiple venues, this year’s event also expanded the time the LEGO displays would be available to the public. The public can view the LEGOs at the Museum of Rexburg during the museum’s regular business hours through May 11th.

“People are usually very excited to see (the LEGOs),’ said Alicia Tietjen, the museum’s Assistant Curator. “Kids, especially, get really excited to see things that were on a movie screen and now they can actually kind of see it in real life.”

And after browsing through the “Star Wars” LEGO displays, visitors can also spend some time with the historical pieces exhibited by the museum.

“I really enjoy doing the ‘May the 4th’ event,” said Tietjen. “We get people who don’t usually come into the museum. We get families that come in, and then we see their excitement, not just for the LEGOs, but also for the history that is here, and for them to understand little more about where they come from and the importance of Rexburg’s history.”

Lego display by Terik Birch.

Also joining the celebration were members of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion costuming groups. Members of these organizations construct screen-accurate “Star Wars” costumes and make appearances at all kinds of events, mostly to help raise awareness for different worthy causes.

“It’s a lot of charity work,” said Emily Hyde, who appeared at the “May the 4th” event as Rey from “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.”

“I think last year, they raised well over a million dollars for Make a Wish and Ronald McDonald House and things like that,” added Robert McKenzie, who appeared as sequel trilogy bad guy Kylo Ren.

Along with the satisfaction that comes from serving their fellow man, Hyde and McKenzie said the reaction they get when people see them in costume is extremely rewarding.

“There’s usually a lot of ‘Wow’ and if there’s small children, there’s a lot of tears,” McKenzie said. “It’s generally a very positive reaction. People are excited to see the characters they know and have grown to love.”

Robert McKenzie and Emily Hyde as Kylo Ren and Rey

“That’s why we do this,” added Hyde. “We love making kids’ dreams come true, seeing their heroes.”

Rawlins said having the 501st and Rebel Legion on hand added a special level of excitement to the May the 4th celebration.

“The first year they came, it was amazing,” she said. “People literally just pulled over and got out of their cars and were taking pictures with them. It was fun to see little kids’ eyes get really big and they just were in awe.”

The centerpiece of May the 4th were screenings of “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”, which took place at the Romance Theater on Friday night. The screenings were preceded by a light show assembled by technicians who work at the Romance. The screenings and light show will be held again on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Lego display by Jeremie Welch.

“We have amazing techs,” said Rawlins. “And they’ve been working really hard for the last two months.”

The result was a show of lights choreographed to pieces from John William’s iconic “Star Wars” musical score. The show also included sound effects and bits of dialogue from the movies and even simulated some of the saga’s beloved lightsaber duels.

Rawlins said that the whole event aimed to celebrate love people in the area have for “Star Wars.”

“Everybody loves ‘Star Wars’ and everybody’s looking for a reason to celebrate,” she said. “If you can find something fun to do with your family or for a date night connected to that, we wanted to give them an opportunity.”

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