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Festa Attracts all Kinds of Characters

MAMARONECK, N.Y. –  With his history of murder and mayhem, you’d think Darth Vader would avoid a church festival. However, the evil emperor turned up Sunday, the last day of St. Vito’s eighth Festa.

"Obviously, it's fun wearing "Star Wars" costumes," said Peekskill resident Robert DeSimone, who was wearing a life-sized Darth Vader costume Sunday, the closing day of the four-day festival.

DeSimone, 44, is part of the 501st Legion, an all-volunteer organization of costume enthusiasts, that is part of the Empire City Garrison, one of 58 garrisons or divisions  representing different regions from all over the world. Volunteers attend non-profit events as characters from "Star Wars" movies. The events can’t make money due to copyright issues.

"We are in no way employed by Lucas Films, but they use us occasionally,” DeSimone said.

DeSimone, known as Boba Fett on his baseball-style playing card, owns three costumes he constructed and maintains himself. They include the bounty hunter Boba Fett, a stormtrooper and the Darth Vader costume. The Boba Fett costume took him six years to make. Darth Vader also took time – and roughly $22,500 to construct and maintain. DeSimone double checked to make sure his wife wasn't around before revealing the "ballpark figure."

"A lot of costumes are better than the ones in the movies," said Robert, adding that some members are working on a fully remote-controlled R2-D2.

DeSimone attended the Festa with his brother, Father David DeSimone, from St. Vito's Church 50, who was dressed in his black robe and white collar.

Someday, Robert would like to descend from a helicopter in his Darth Vader suite.

Robert DeSimone’s garrison does events throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester. His brother David mentioned the St. Vito's festival to Robert, who was happy to help.

While Robert DeSimone’s group has been able to meet people including Liam Neeson, Snoop Dogg, Weird Al Yankovic and George Lucas himself, the real reward has been the opportunity to help foundations such as Make-A-Wish, Light the Night and Caitlyn's Fight.

On July 30, the Empire City Garrison will volunteer at the annual Giant Kids fundraiser, which helps families struggling with medical bills, especially those being treated for cancer.

"It's a hobby that has given us a pretty unique opportunity," he said.

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