Story and photo by Ted Simpson –
When Westboro resident Andy Pegan dresses up to go out in Westboro, people take notice, they smile, laugh, high five and ask for selfies. Pegan gets all this attention because he happens to be dressed in the costume of an Imperial Stormtrooper from the classic Star Wars movies.
Walking down Richmond Road in full garb, Pegan explains.
“The Stormtrooper is my safest costume, for me and those around me,” he says. “I’m least likely to be misunderstood in this one. My other outfits can be a bit frightening if you don’t recognize them, people might think there is a crazy person running around.”
Pegan has five other Star Wars character outfits at home, all put together by hand in the family dining room. His other outfits include a few more obscure characters, some who had very little screen time, some taken from books or video games. Each one is finished with meticulous detail that would rival a movie prop.
Pegan is in love with the look of Star Wars. “For me it is all about the characters and the design,” he says.
The Stormtrooper was the first costume. Since Pegan put it together five years ago, his interest in costume-making has snowballed.
It started out as most adult hobbies do. His daughters had grown up to the point where Pegan and wife Britt started to have some free time again. They opened a business, Milkface Nursingwear on Churchill Avenue, though Andy doesn’t spend much time on the sales floor. (“Me trying to talk to women about their breastfeeding, it’s just not comfortable,” he says.)
So the Pegan dining room table became a workbench, littered with a variety of tools, tapes, glues and materials. Being a typical Westboro home, there is no garage to tinker in. “My wife is… all right with it, she’s been getting more all right with it,” says Pegan.
He can spend countless hours on one project, mostly sewing, especially on a 7’10” Wookiee costume that includes stilts to raise the already tall Pegan even higher. Actually, passers-by can be forgiven if they accidently identify it as Chewbacca, but it’s actually Snoova, a bounty hunter in the Star Wars expanded universe.
“As a costume, is it incomplete so I wear it as Chewbacca.… Only one person has ever noted that my hair style and colour were not that of Chewbacca, so I think it’s safe to call him Chewie.”
It’s work he loves to do. Pegan even makes costumes for other people around the world, not for a profit, but for the love of the project. “It’s cathartic,” he says. “Some people watch TV, I can’t do that, so I do this.”
Pegan usually works on four to seven projects at a time, building props to sell while working on his own projects. He’s currently working on a Sith Stalker costume, the inspiration of which comes from a video game called Star Wars The Force Unleashed. Next year’s project may include a Shadow Scout.
Being out in public with Pegan in his Stormtrooper garb makes it easy to understand why he takes the costume out of the basement and into the world. It makes people happy. Just the sight of an iconic figure from a person’s childhood puts an instant smile on their face.
Pegan has taken his hobby a step further by joining the Capital City Garrison, a group of ordinary folks who transform themselves into Star Wars characters to raise money for children’s charities. The Capital City Garrison is part of an international group called the 501st Legion. With nearly 7,000 members worldwide, the group’s objective is to serve the community through charity work.
The Capital City Garrison attends community events around Eastern Ontario and collects donations in exchange for photo ops. Recently they raised over $12,000 for Make a Wish Foundation at their Ottawa Comicon booth. In an ironic twist, they only dress as the villains from the movies. Though it makes great sense, bad guys in Star Wars wear helmets and that helps to separate the character from the person inside the suit.
Being out in the suit, Pegan gets to transcend the mundane, Westboro life. “It’s kind of like being a mascot, or a rock star,” he says.
Pegan is heading to Toronto on August 28 to participate in FanExpo, Canada’s largest comic convention. Local sci-fi fans can be sure to catch the Capital City Garrison at this year’s Geek Market on October 4.