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Long Island 'Star Wars' fans cosplay for charity

More than 35 costumed “Star Wars” characters invaded the lobby of the Cradle of Aviation on Nov. 30 for the 30th annual “Festival of Trees,” benefiting the Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County. Credit: Newsday / David Criblez

The Force is strong on Long Island. Professional “Star Wars” cosplay groups, 501st Legion, Saber Guild and Rebel Legion, all volunteer every weekend at local charity events such as Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County's “Festival of Trees” as well as visiting children's hospitals and supporting public library reading programs by taking selfies and delivering high-fives.

“We live vicariously through the kids who see us,” says Chris Feehan, a member of the 501st Legion Empire City Garrison who dresses up as various characters such a Stormtrooper, an Imperial Gunner or The Emperor. “When they look at us, they don’t see people in costumes they see those characters from the movies.”

Here are five Long Islanders, who eagerly await the new film, “Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker," that portray characters from “a galaxy far, far away”:

0-0-0 (TRIPLE ZERO)

PLAYED BY Allan Liefke

HOMETOWN Kings Park

AGE 39

OCCUPATION Special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration

GROUP 501st Legion

ALSO PORTRAYS Stormtrooper, TIE Pilot, Royal Guard

Liefke made his new costume debut for 0-0-0 at the Festival of Trees after building it by hand for seven months.

“I 3-D printed it, sanded it smooth and painted it,” he says. “He looks like C-3PO except black with red eyes. He’s a Darkside droid that specializes in torture.”

REY

PLAYED BY Cheri Nowak

HOMETOWN West Islip

AGE 35

OCCUPATION Graphic designer

GROUP Rebel Legion

ALSO PORTRAYS Sabine (a Mandalorian)

Rey is the hero of the current “Star Wars” films and serves as an inspiration for Cheri Nowak.

“Originally Princess Leia was all we had,” she says. “Now with Rey using the lightsaber and being such a big part of the new movies makes it extra special.”

The big question everyone is waiting to be answered...is Rey a Skywalker?

“I don’t think so,” says Nowak. “She’s not a traditional Jedi.”

STORMTROOPER

PLAYED BY Joe Mantello

HOMETOWN East Northport

AGE 55

OCCUPATION Licensed customs broker

GROUP 501st Legion

ALSO PORTRAYS Darth Vader, Kylo Ren

Mantello wanted to be a Stormtrooper since he was a little kid when he saved up his money to buy a Stormtrooper mask for $50. Today he has upped the ante by building his own full bodied Stormtrooper suit for $2,000 complete with a voice simulator inside his helmet.

“Seeing Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers always has the biggest impact on people,” he says proudly showing off his costume. “Sometimes they will just stare and look at the details of the costume. It’s inspiring.”

AWYNA MATSUKO

PLAYED BY Heather Butterworth

HOMETOWN Shirley

AGE 33

OCCUPATION Student/receptionist

GROUP Saber Guild — Endor Temple

ALSO PORTRAYS Original Sith character Palan Ombra

Members of the Saber Guild create their own original characters within the “Star Wars” universe and Butterworth portrays Awyna Matsuko, a Jedi healer who was discovered on Naboo. 

“When I get into character, I separate myself to become her,” says Butterworth, who helps teach Padawan training for kids with toy lightsabers. “It’s like being a rock star for an afternoon.”

TIE PILOT

PLAYED BY John Trowbridge

HOMETOWN Baldwin

AGE 49

OCCUPATION Sanitation worker

GROUP 501st Legion

ALSO PORTRAYS a Jawa 

Trowbridge was immediately drawn to the TIE Pilot character simply because of the look.

“The costume is cool because it sticks out with the black mask and hoses,” he admits. “It’s fun because we give out trading cards that kids can collect as they meet us. Playing these characters is like re-experiencing your childhood and kids approach you with so much excitement in their eyes.”

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