A small piece of a galaxy far, far away comes to Butler Park every Monday night around 6:30 p.m.
“On the far away world of Dantooine, a Jedi knight observes the way of the force,” said Paul Trupia, Jedi Master and Viceroy for the Lone Star Jedi.
Trupia narrated one of the scenes the Lone Star Jedi will perform at this weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con. A few feet away from him, in the middle of a stone circle in Butler Park, stood founder Marc Tucker and his combatant, Mike Jackson. Both were in full Jedi dress and held the hilts of glowing lightsabers in their hands.
The Lone Star Jedi is a not-for-profit group of “Star Wars” fans and battle saber enthusiasts founded by Tucker in 2011. They have weekly meetings where they practice the eight quadrants of saber combat and work on choreographed fights for things such as birthday parties and charity events. The charity aspect of the group was brought in by Tucker, who wanted to do something more than start yet another “Star Wars” fan group.
“I’ve done ‘Star Wars’ groups in the past where I’m from in Idaho, but all they do is sit around and talk about ‘Star Wars’ and eat,” Tucker said. “We do this to benefit the community.”
In light of the recent flooding throughout Austin, Lone Star Jedi’s current goal is to raise money for Austin Disaster Relief Network, which Tucker also volunteers for when he isn’t wielding a saber.
“We’re not in the $10,000 business,” said Trupia, who also serves as Master of the Treasury. “We’re raising a hundred bucks here, a hundred bucks there, and we wanted the money to go somewhere where it could make a difference.”
Comic Con is Lone Star Jedi’s biggest event of the year. The group hosts quarterly, community-wide lightsaber summits, but Comic Con brings them more publicity and money for charity than any of the summits. This year, the Jedi commissioned original art from New Orleans artist Damon Bowie, which will be auctioned from their booth at the conference.
Trupia said there are two other “Star Wars” groups with chapters in Austin — Rebel Legion and the 501st Legion, both of which are sanctioned by Lucasfilm. These two groups also have a charitable aspect to them, but are focused on creating costumes that are exact replicas of the ones in the “Star Wars” films.
The Lone Star Jedi create costumes, but they do not have to be taken from the movies. The group’s members are lightsaber enthusiasts through and through. “Star Wars”-style martial arts is their primary focus.
Trupia, like Tucker, has been hooked on “Star Wars” since he was a 6-year-old boy watching “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” in theaters in 1977. But he didn’t become interested in joining something like the Lone Star Jedi until he saw the New York Jedi perform at the New York Comic Con in 2008.
“I had a couple of personal things happen and I thought I really needed a hobby, so I came out and did this,” Trupia said. “I do it because it’s good exercise, it gets me together with some like-minded fellas and we do some good, as well as beat the snot out of each other.”
Trupia is a Jedi Master by night and a management analyst for the Department of Veteran Affairs by day. He is 42 years old, has an MBA and is married with three children.
“My 21-year-old thinks it is outstanding that I do this. She says, ‘Everybody says, “My dad’s a fireman,” but my dad’s a Jedi,’” Trupia said. “My wife and kids enjoy the movies, but I’m the geek.”
Behind their lightsabers and Jedi robes, the members of the Lone Star Jedi know that what they’re doing is out of the ordinary. Their saber combat looks like a more sophisticated, adult version of something usually reserved for the backyard play of young boys. But to Tucker, none of that matters.
“I think if we admit it, there’s always a part of us that wishes we didn’t have to grow up,” Tucker said. “I think that’s part of what the Lone Star Jedi does, is let people have that outlet.”
Looking on from the outskirts of the group’s Butler Park practice area, Tucker watched as two other Jedi knights practiced their saber battle for Comic Con. The two jumped and clashed blades, the multicolored glow of their slinging sabers lighting up the otherwise dark corner of the park.
“This is how the magic happens,” Tucker said.