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Star Wars convention looks to raise funds for local charity

May 21, Star Wars fans from all over the Midwest will gather in Hastings to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strike Back." They'll be attending Charity Con, the first Star Wars convention to be held in Hastings.

"As far as I know, this is the only Star Wars convention in Minnesota," said Keith Garrick, the event's coordinator.

Already Garrick knows of people from Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas who are planning to attend.

Charity Con is more than just a Star Wars convention.

"It's a Star Wars themed charity convention with the aim of raising donations for the local food shelf and Hastings Family Service," Garrick said.

Garrick has been a Star Wars fan since he was 9 years old.

"It was the first movie I fell in love with," he said. "It was the movie that made me fall in love with movies."

The film's director, George Lucas, as well as famed director Steven Spielberg, even inspired him to go to film school.

Garrick wanted to organize a Star Wars convention in Hastings for other fans, and Charity Con started as a standard convention - a place for fellow fans to meet and share their love of Star Wars. But over the years, Garrick had become friends with Alan Flyng, an actor who played the part of a storm trooper in "The Empire Strikes Back" and an Imperial officer in "Return of the Jedi."

"I met him on Facebook and we've been friends for over a year now," Garrick said.

Flyng has done a number of charities in Great Britain, where he lives, and when he heard about Garrick's convention, he suggested using the opportunity to raise funds for charity.

Instead of charging an admission, those who attend are asked to bring one canned or boxed food item to donate to the Hastings food shelf. Once inside, people will be able to bid on various donated Star Wars items in a charity auction, the proceeds of which will be given to Hastings Family Service.

"I like to support my local communities," Garrick said. "With today's economy, there's such a need."

Charity Con is not affiliated Hastings Family Service. Garrick simply wants to support the organization.

What to expect

There's much in store for Star Wars fans at Charity Con.

Autographed items - including original comic prints - will be up for auction. Local businesses will have vendor booths set up. There will be a vintage Star Wars toy display. Star Wars videos will be playing at various booths, and there will be a fan-made Star Wars presentation.

Of course, there will be a costume contest for adults and children, but Garrick doesn't know yet what the prizes will be.

"It depends on what gets donated," he said.

Members of the 501st Storm Trooper Legion will make an appearance in movie-quality costumes, and Garrick is hoping to also have members of the Rebel Legion attend as well.

But the icing on the cake is getting to talk live about Star Wars with Flyng and another actor, Derek Lyons, who played a rebel soldier in "A New Hope."

Garrick is setting up a Skype video and voice chat with the two actors, both of whom live in Great Britain.

Ten to 15 fans, chosen by name drawing, will get a chance to talk with the actors. The number will be limited for the actors' sakes.

"It's three-o-clock in the morning there when we're having our event," Garrick explained.

How to help

Besides showing up for the event, people can help out beforehand by donating Star Wars items or volunteering. Garrick still needs people to help set up and run Charity Con as well as more local businesses to fill the vendor space. There is a registration fee for vendors, which will be used to pay for the venue, decorations, and prizes.

Garrick is also looking for donations of large display items, such as replicas of a ship or robots.

"Things that people can stand next to and take their pictures with," he said.

To donate or volunteer, call Garrick at 651-338-9908 or e-mail him at

Charity Con is scheduled for May 21. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the events will begin at 7 p.m. It should end around 11 p.m. or midnight.

"I want to make sure everyone has time to visit the displays," Garrick said.

Charity Con will be held in the Country Inn and Suites, 300 33rd St. in Hastings.

If the event goes well this year, Garrick plans to bring it back next year, on the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back."