Reporter’s Notebook

Crafts, Cupcakes and Geeking Out for ‘Star Wars’ Day

By DAVID BIGGY | May 09, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Emily Fiore shows off the Chewbacca and Yoda paper-bag puppets she made while visiting the Barnegat Branch of the Ocean County Library on “Star Wars” Day, May 4.

For many “Star Wars” fanatics, finding some fun things to do on “Star Wars” Day, aka May the Fourth, is easy. In some locations, the day is much like a national holiday, where all ages of “Star Wars” geeks gather to slug blue milk, play “Pin the Tail on the Bantha” or whip out their favorite lightsaber and start going to town on each other.

But here in Southern Ocean County, it was a bit more of a chore to find activities related to the galaxy far, far away. Of course, the first place this “Star Wars” geek looked was The SandPaper’s calendar of events. And, to quote a quite unpopular blue Toydarian, “Whaddya know!” ... there actually were a couple of “Star Wars” Day activities on the slate – both of which were being hosted by two separate branches of the Ocean County Library.

So, at about 11:30 a.m., after I donned a brand new “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” T-shirt with a quite popular BB unit pictured on it, the moment came to make the first stop on the sunny, 80-degree Friday.

Walking into the Barnegat branch, it didn’t seem as if too much was taking place – because it wasn’t. Not a single child was sitting at the table where the “Star Wars” craft project lay atop a table in the children’s section.

“You’re the only one so far,” said Youth Services Librarian Lexi Majeski, who had set up a paper-bag puppet craft for all the young “Star Wars” fans to enjoy.

As we stood near the table examining the materials on the table, Majeski looked toward the door. “There’s another one,” she said.

Prancing toward us was 4½-year-old Emily Fiore, gripping an orange “lightsaber” – made during last year’s “Star Wars” Day craft, according to Majeski – and sporting a Rey hairdo as well as a cool shirt depicting a pyramid of classic “Star Wars” characters, Princess Leia, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, R2-D2, Han Solo and Darth Vader among them. Accompanying Emily was her mom, Jennifer.

It was time not for the Jedi to end, but for the paper-bag-puppet crafting to begin. And that’s exactly what the 45-year-old “Star Wars” geek did, alongside the young padawan ready to show off her skills. We both opted to make Yoda puppets.

“I like Princess Leia,” said Emily, when asked about her favorite character. “I liked her white dress and buns.”

She also revealed that she liked the ewoks from “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” the droid pictured on my shirt, BB-8, and – no surprise, given her hair – Rey, one of the stars of the new trilogy.

“I liked when Rey beat Kylo (Ren),” she said in a soft voice through a smile. And if Emily could have a lightsaber of any color? “Rainbow.”

Jennifer Fiore revealed that her husband, Dan, and stepson, also named Dan, are both big “Star Wars” fans, and the family often watches the saga’s films together. Her favorite characters are Yoda and Solo, whose back story through his younger years is slated for the upcoming film “Solo: A Star Wars Story” later this month.

“When a new movie comes out, they get really excited,” she said.

As for paper-bag puppets, Emily wasn’t as excited once she finished her Yoda – Jennifer was left behind at the table to finish up the Chewbacca one, and he looked great! Unfortunately, as one who is not the most crafty individual in the galaxy, my Yoda was merely decent.

Of course, Majeski did her best to be encouraging, more to young Emily than the older kid sitting there. She’s a children’s librarian, after all.

“I thought the paper-bag puppets would be cute,” said Majeski, a Chewbacca fan herself. “Some of the things we have for today are left over from previous years, but I always change the craft. ‘Star Wars’ is popular with the kids who come here. Today, I think the weather worked against us.”

With that, it was off to the Waretown branch for another craft time at 1 p.m., as well as a showing of “The Force Awakens.” And again – “whaddya know!” – guess who showed up as well? Yep ... Emily and her mom.

“This was planned,” Jennifer said, noting that art projects are good for Emily, who is homeschooled. “We wanted to do all the ‘Star Wars’ things we could today.”

Waretown branch manager Melissa Rutkowski, decked out in a really cool classic “Star Wars” skirt – acquired from – was happy to oblige. So what was the craft awaiting us here? Lightsaber construction! Yes! Now, we were going to get to some serious business.

For the moment, Emily decided against making a rainbow-colored lightsaber, instead opting to make a pink one. Utilizing the provided construction paper and paper-towel rolls, my choice was a double-bladed black saber.

I had a bad feeling about it, but once we were finished Emily happily requested a duel. Yes, inside the library! She won, of course, hacking off my legs and right arm, a la Anakin Skywalker. Good thing they were paper lightsabers!

After Rutkowski read a few “5-Minute Star Wars Stories” to Emily, the girl left to get some lunch and Rutkowski spilled the beans on just how much of a “Star Wars” geek she is.

“I try to celebrate ‘Star Wars’ whenever I can, and today is the perfect opportunity,” said Rutkowski, who last summer at the branch hosted a Jedi Training Camp, drawing about 60 younglings. “I have a purse with a Rebel insignia, and in my office I have a picture of R2 with a porg. I went to Florida last year, and I found a painting of Leia with a Vader backdrop, and that’s in my living room. I’m a little bit of a nerd, for sure.”

She, too, is a Leia fan who would gladly take a porg home as a pet.

“Carrie Fisher was the best,” she said. “Leia was total girl power. She was a strong, awesome woman. She held her own with the guys, didn’t take any crap. She was great.”

And even though she said green was her lightsaber color of choice, Rutkowski admitted that my black, double-bladed saber was cool and she wouldn’t mind having it. Yeah, right! She may as well have kissed a wookiee!

Nonetheless, craft time at the library was over. It was time for some treats. And for those, it was off to Manahawkin’s Cake That!, where it was said at one time the owner, Jess Bartlett, often did something special for May the Fourth.

Unfortunately, Jess wasn’t anywhere within a parsec of the place – she took the day off and left Stephanie Paulauskas, the lead baker but not a “Star Wars” fan whatsoever, to provide the public with specially designed Yoda and Chewbacca cupcakes, along with a few others, including the “Admiral Ackbar,” the “Wookiee Cookie” and “BB-8’s Peanut Butter Fate.”

“I know about R2-D2 because he’s sassy,” said Paulauskus, who said she wouldn’t want a lightsaber but wouldn’t mind an R2-like droid as a kitchen helper. “The boss took the day off, so I’m stuck with making the cupcakes today. It’s fun to make them. I can get a little creative, so it’s OK to do it for one day. I would leave if I had to do this all the time, though.”

Fortunately, Cake That! customer service rep Daria Husni was nothing short of joyful to be able to say, “May the Fourth be with you” to every customer walking through the door.

“I took the semester off from college, and I was a little bummed I wouldn’t be able to say that to anybody on campus,” said the 20-year-old who brought her Skywalker-blue lightsaber to work. “But it’s cool. I have a boss who loves ‘Star Wars’ and plans special cupcakes for May the Fourth, so now I get to say it to everybody, after all.”

Of course, Husni, too, received a probe droid’s interrogation on her favorite “Star Wars” film, character and choice of lightsaber color.

“I watch ‘Return of the Jedi’ the most, but the best one is ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ Blue is my favorite color, so I definitely would have a blue lightsaber,” she said. “And Leia is my favorite character. She was awesome.”

And what about a “Star Wars” creature as a pet?

“I’d love to have one of those lizard things from Episode III,” said Husni, referring to Boga, a wingless lizard from the planet Utapau, ridden by General Obi-wan Kenobi in his pursuit of General Grievous during the final battle of the Clone Wars. “That would be so cool to ride around on one of those things, just hop on its back and go places.”

Interestingly, her answer paled in comparison to the one Lily Cahill – who had stopped by with her sisters, Kelly and Aileen, dressed up as Chewie, Solo and Vader, respectively, earning them a free four-pack of cupcakes – gave when asked the same question.

“Well, Chewie would be a pal, not a pet,” said the 18-year-old senior at Pinelands Regional High School, who recently met the huge wookiee at Disney World during the senior trip. “I would rather have a rancor. That would be kind of cool to have one of those, to feed it all the people I don’t like.”

As Solo, Kelly played the part quite well, and even had managed to swipe a toy gun from underneath her younger brother’s bed to complete her getup.

“We decided about an hour ago that we wanted cupcakes,” said Kelly, a former Pinelands field hockey player now at Stockton University. “Lily loves ‘Star Wars’ and knew Cake That! made special cupcakes for today. So she made us dress up. I like the Yoda cupcakes.”

Once the Cahill sisters blasted off into hyperspace, the time had come for me to take my cupcakes and ride off into the twin sunsets on my landspeeder.

“May the Fourth be with you,” Husni said with a smile and wave of her lightsaber. “Always.”

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