May the force be with them
Despite movie critics panning “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” as a disappointing finale to the most recent Star Wars trilogy, Gillette resident Steve Boothe and his 35-year-old son Adam were camped out in their lawn chairs outside Foothills Movie Theater waiting for the 6:45 show to begin. Staring into the empty parking lot with eyes shaded against the sun, they trade stories over Whoppers with cheese and wait out hours to be first in line for the last movie of the saga spanning 42 years.
This will be the end of a tradition, which started when Adam was 8 years old and Steve took him out of school to see “Episode I – The Phantom Menace” in 1999. Back then, just as today, the two were armed with a Thermos of hot coffee, a cooler full of snacks, and several small bags of homemade cookies, breads, and candy that Steve’s daughter Jenny Carroll just dropped off.
She brought the goods then made a beeline because this is their tradition, she said, and for more than two decades, the father/son duo have been first in line for every opening show. Her special time with dad will come later this year when they get dressed up and go out for dinner and a movie to see the film-version of “Cats,” in honor of the first time he took her to see the musical as a girl years ago in Rapid City.
“Now she’s a busy mother of four,” Steve said, “but she still takes the time to deliver the (baked) goods.”
As for Steve, he’s got his own traditions with all three of his kids, and the opening day of Star Wars is reserved especially for his eldest.
Now that Adam is a husband and father himself, this tradition has taken on a new tenor as two family guys take off work – Steve from his mine job, Adam from his security manager position at the Campbell County Health Center – to carve out time for this special day. They don’t agree on favorite characters or episodes, and each has his own opinion on the order in which the episodes should be watched, but they share a passion only “true nerds” would understand, laughing and talking over each other, especially when it comes to their all-time favorite space saga.
Not their first Millennium Falcon
In past years, they’ve arrived before sun-up, sometimes sitting for hours in the blistering snow, bundled up in layers with frozen eyelashes, waiting for the faint warmth of sun to make its slow arc over to their lawn chairs. One year, it was so cold that they huddled together to warm their hands over the radiator of an idling delivery truck. These guys pride themselves on being tough and sticking it out with the exception of an occasional run to the nearby convenient store to use the restroom. Otherwise, they brave the elements for the sake of earning the best seats in the house.
Throughout the day, dozens of people come and go to rattle the locked theatre doors in hopes of getting tickets. As for Steve and Adam, they’ve already bought theirs online, and when the theatre added a second, earlier 6:15 show at last minute, Adam went online and bought two more that, he said, he’ll probably end up giving to someone.
In past years, hecklers have driven by, calling them weirdos or yelling at them to get a job, to which they smile and wave. Others are much friendlier. In a couple hours, a fellow Star Wars groupie will show up dressed to the nine in full Kylo Ren costume (Darth Vader’s grandson) waving his realistic light saber. Like them, the guy they know as “Will,” never misses an opening and this is the one time they know they’ll get to see him.
Why do they do it? As Steve explains, “they’re guys, so they do dumb things.”
“What’s the fun of showing up a few minutes before a show to buy a ticket?” Adam countered. “There’s no story in that.”
They’re a family who like doing “weird” things together, Steve explained, including once taking a road trip around the perimeter of Wyoming for the heck of it and creating their own Thanksgiving holiday on the following Saturday.
With less than five hours left of what will likely be their last opening show as the series comes to an end, the father and son talked amiably about how they’re going to miss this time together, while looking forward to what might come next.
“We’ll find something else to do,” Adam said with a smile, and next time, he said, they’ll probably include his own son, Baxter.
“It’s all about family,” Steve said as a herd of deer bolted out of nowhere to gallop across the gravel lot for what they both agreed was a pretty good pre-show.