The force was strong in Pershing Square in Los Angeles on Friday night, when an excitable and large crowd of Star Wars enthusiasts, many of whom were dressed as Han Solo, Leia, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and more, gathered for Lightsaber Battle LA.
Presented by Newmindspace and Lightsaber Academy, the event (see photo below) allowed attendees to face off with plastic versions of the famed weapon seen in a galaxy far, far away timed to the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was one part of this weekend’s Light Battle Tour, which also has San Francisco, San Diego, and Seattle on its lineup.
Kevin Bracken and Lori Kufner co-founded Newmindspace, a company dedicated to bringing favorite childlike activities to the masses like pillow fights and bubble blowing parties. On the inspiration for the lightsaber battles, he says the idea came from kids fighting with wrapping paper tubes during the holidays.
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“We thought ‘Hey, it would be really fun if we had a big cardboard tube fight, so we did one of those and said that everyone that came was going to get a free cardboard tube or two,” he told EW over the phone on Monday. “We made 1,600 of them and 4,000 people came. They were really disappointed that they couldn’t get one, and they were destroyed in like minutes.”
So he and Kufner modified their approach. “After that we were like ‘This would be a lot more fun if this was a lightsaber battle!’ and people could reserve [lightsabers] online in advance so they’d be guaranteed an opportunity for them and maybe their kid to fight.” The first lightsaber battle was in Toronto in 2007, and they’ve grown from there. “We have 10,000 lightsabers that we’re handing out through the West Coast this weekend.”
Attendees of all ages and fighting levels put those lightsabers to good use, gathering into circles to challenge opponents. (I know you’re all wondering so yes, I won my battle. When does my Jedi training begin?) They also broke into dance parties, punching bursts of neon green, red, purple, and more into Downtown LA’s night sky to the beat of a DJ blaring electronic remixes of John Williams’ legendary score.
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Amongst the crowd, the enthusiasm for the new film, the greater series, and the event itself was tangible. Bracken attributes that, in part, to childhood dreams being realized. “If you ask a kid, ‘Hey, would you like to be a Jedi master when you grow up?’ [they’ll] say ‘Yeah!’ It probably carries as much weight as any ’90s kid fantasy of being an astronaut when they get older.”
Because of that enthusiasm, and more Star Wars films up ahead, Bracken says he’d like to hold more events like this every year in even more cities. “Hopefully this four-city tour is a springboard to what ends up being a 40-city tour next year,” he explains. With that it mind, it appears there has, in fact, been an awakening…of lightsaber battles.