Monday, October 12, 2015

Youngsters have 'Star Wars'-themed fun at Norwalk Public Library (feature)

NORWALK, Ohio — The Force was strong at the Norwalk Public Library.

The children peppered Chewbacca with questions or said the Wookiee’s name in delight. Some got acquainted with a slimy green substance called Jawa Snot. Other youngsters dressed as “Star Wars” characters.

The Force is strong with these Ohio youngsters who are dressed up as "Star
When asked to name their favorite character from the science fiction saga, their responses varied: Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, various Jedi Knights and Yoda. One boy’s favorite character was the Rancor, the lumbering, slobbering creature who attempts to eat Skywalker under Jabba the Hutt’s palace in “Return of the Jedi.” 

“My favorite ’Star Wars’ character is Padme,” said 9-year-old Maci Lopresti, referring to Skywalker’s mother.

The Norwalk girl was at the library with her father, Jim.
Heidi Sutter, director of the Norwalk Public Library, and assistant director
Stacey Church are all smiles with a marker-based drawing of Darth Vader.

On the dry-erase board of the downstairs meeting room of the Norwalk Public Library was a drawing of Darth Vader. Library director Heidi Sutter said the message on the board captures the spirit of Saturday’s “Star Wars” Reads event: Don’t underestimate the power of the library.

CCC blogger and lifelong "Star Wars" fan Cary Ashby
poses with a Jawa, one of the exhibits for
Padawan's Playground. Note his "Empire Strikes Back" T-shirt.
The children did activities at six stations throughout the library. The stations, manned by volunteers, are part of Padawan’s Playground, an interactive children’s museum with educational exhibits. Shawn Butler, president and founder, said while the planned “Star Wars” story time didn’t happen Saturday, at at one station, children learned about how robots apply to real life through technology, industry and even one’s home.

“For the first time this year, the first in-house robot is being used,” he said. “Robots are being implemented into our everyday lives.”

Butler hopes the in-house robot named Jibo might one day join Padawan’s Playground. Jibo is capable of holding conversations and telling stories.

“He’s really, really cute,” Butler said. “We hope to pick him up this year as one of the exhibits.”

Based on the “Star Wars” universe, Padawan’s Playground is a non-profit corporation that does three to four outreach programs each month. It was founded in August 2013 and became non-profit the following August.

Bill Fougerousse has been working on
this homemade R2-D2 for the last year.
Padawan’s Playground will be part of an anti-bullying campaign this week and on Oct. 24, will be at the Sandusky Mall for a Halloween event.

“We just did Oktoberfest,” said Butler, who has been hooked on “Star Wars” since he was about 8 years old.

His father brought home a bootleg copy of the 1977 film to show his family on a reel-to-reel projector. Butler said it didn’t matter that it was in black and white and there was no sound, he was fascinated. 

“You’ve got to see this movie. Everybody is talking about it,” he remembers his father telling the family.

In addition to Saturday’s appearance by a fan dressed as Chewbacca, Bill Fougerousse used a remote control to guide a partially built R2-D2 around the children’s area of the library. The robot chirped and beeped noises identical to what Artoo “says” in the “Star Wars” saga. Fougerousse and Butler are members of the Midwest R2 Builders Club, a non-profit organization that supports Padawan’s Playground.

“It just brings joy to my heart,” Butler said about the “Star Wars”-themed event. “I love to see (the children’s) faces light up. It’s like Christmas to me.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This feature was published in the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper.

Of course I had to take a selfie with Chewbacca!
I was doing my volunteering thing with the kids when I felt someone
pat my head. I turned around — and it was Chewie.

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