Updated: April 15, 2014 at 8:51 am
More than 2,000 people got to hang out with Darth Vader and Chewbacca on Saturday and Sunday at the Colorado Springs Comic and Toy Con, the fourth biannual show of its kind and the most successful.
This spring's convention hosted 60 vendors and 100 tables filled with toys, memorabilia and comic books at Embassy Suites Hotel on Commerce Center Drive.
Fans and collectors were able to pore over thousands of comic books and piles of toys and action figures from nearly every character imaginable. Local artists displayed original sketches inspired by animated characters and even handmade jewelry from cartoons, comic books and fantasy-themed stories.
For Star Wars aficionados, the 501st Legion displayed an impressive collection of every weapon and body armor in the original and more recent films, all handmade by legion members, including a 13-foot-long Imperial Star Destroyer battleship that took six months to build.
"Part of the fun is definitely seeing the look on people's faces, not just the kids but also the adults," said legion member T.J. Hutcheson. "We all remember being kids and watching the movies over and over, then running around with flashlight sabers. It's about keeping that feeling alive."
The 501st Legion has more than 5,000 members around the world who indulge their love of everything Star Wars by constructing their own costumes and props adhering to strict specifications taken from the movie series.
The Pikes Peak Squad based in Colorado Springs has 56 members, said Ben Frahm, a legion member of two years and the proud owner of a life-sized Chewbacca costume, made from scratch.
The Chewy costume, complete with a voice box that recreates Wookie sounds and specially built feet that put Frahm at 7 feet in height, took the Star Wars enthusiast about six months to make and cost about $700, a bargain for a costume that usually retails at $6,000 or more.
For members of the 501st Legion, charity work makes up the biggest component of the group's activities through their shared love of Star Wars, Hutcheson said.
"We constantly team up with nonprofit and charity organizations, we work with Denver Children's Hospital, with the Starlight Foundation, and so many more," Hutcheson said.
This spring the Colorado Springs Comic and Toy Con joined forces with the Susan G. Komen affiliate of Southeastern Colorado. All attendees who donated to the organization were entered into drawings for door prizes.
Con founder Clint Randolph said the event's steady growth in attendance and popularity has been an encouragement and driving factor since the first conference in 2012.
"This is just a great way to get everyone who's into comics and toys, as well as artists and collectors, together in one place," Randolph said. "The con lets people display their talent, and everyone can meet people who are into the same hobbies and interests."
Patrons got to participate in a video game competition, cosplay contests and Magic the Gathering contests.