Are you looking to do something Star Wars-related but can’t make it to Star Wars Weekends in Florida? Well, if you live in the Chicago area – or anywhere in the Midwest, really – you might be in luck! The Joliet Public Library is hosting its fifth annual ‘Star Wars Day’ on June 7!

The event started as a small library program designed to promote literacy, but over the years it has more than doubled in size and scope. The first year saw 12 costumed characters and about 600 fans in attendance. The 2013 event attracted 85 costumed characters and 4,800 fans of all ages from around the Midwest. Star Wars Day is now billed as “the world’s second-largest one-day Star Wars event” in the world.

Roger Burns, organizer of the event and youth services librarian at Joliet Public Library, had this to say about the annual event:

“Each year this event has exceeded our expectations. This is the place to see and be seen.

The heart of this is the library. The costumers and artists come because they want to raise awareness of the library, literacy and community.”

Live music will be provided throughout the day, and an artist gallery will feature various works related to sci-fi, fantasy, and Star Wars. Renowned Star Wars artist Dave Dorman will be in attendance, and local artist Steve Palencia will be donating limited editions of his artwork as prizes for the best costumes.

“It is great to be involved in this event,” Palenica said. “No one does it for monetary gain. It’s all about promoting literacy for kids, getting them away from the computers and TV and using their imagination. You try to make it an experience the kids will always remember.

This event is on par with any professional convention I’ve attended. It is all for free and it just keeps building. It’s amazing,” said Palenica, a freelance illustrator and Calumet Park firefighter. “Roger [Burns] really wants the library to be a place where kids want to come and open their minds.”

For the last few years, the event has been promoted by the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau and, last year, the Joliet Area Historical Museum jumped on the Force-led bandwagon.

Star Wars Day gets underway with a parade from the museum to the library starting at 11 a.m., and Wookiee footprints will lead the way from one site to the other. The area will see street closures as costumed characters mingle with attendees and pose for photographs.

Events at the library will include games and prizes and displays of Legoland Star Wars exhibits. The museum will feature a lightsaber duel reenactment (by costumed professional swordsmen), R2-D2 Robot Races, lightsaber training, a Star Wars action figure scavenger hunt, and a life-size six-foot tall Rancor head exhibit.

The Joliet Route 66 Diner will feature a Star Wars themed menu, and that evening’s Joliet Slammers minor league baseball game will have a Star Wars twist.

The ‘Fifth Annual Star Wars Day’ takes place Saturday, June 7, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.   Admission to the event is FREE!!

For more information, please visit Joliet Public Library – Star Wars Day.

To see photos from past events, check out the JPL Star Wars Day Facebook page.

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times. Star Wars Day image belongs to the Joliet Public Library. Video from the Joliet Public Library YouTube channel.

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