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Star Wars mania strikes Tri-State area

February 05, 1997

By KATE COLEMAN

Staff Writer

Shannon Grimm admits to being a "Star Wars" addict. She watches the video weekly. She loves the music and the story of the heroes fighting the dark side.

"It's just a great epic," she says.

Before the Friday, Jan. 31 premiere of the re-released "Star Wars" at Hagerstown Cinema 10 movie theater, the 22-year-old Hagerstown resident had experienced the legend on video only - she was 4 years old the first time. Her grandfather, Fonrose Grimm, took her to the drive-in to see "The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980. Last weekend, Shannon Grimm, 22, took "Pap," and her father, Bradley Grimm, to the movies to see the updated, computer-enhanced version of "Star Wars."

Although Shannon Grimm had bought the tickets five days in advance of the Friday show, they still waited more than an hour to get into the theater. People were dressed as "Star Wars" characters - with Princess Leia hair and light sabers. The audience cheered and clapped during the film.

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"It was great. It was awesome. There's nothing like seeing it on the big screen," Shannon Grimm says.

She went back again Sunday with her sister, Cindy. Cindy Grimm had collected Barbies; Shannon Grimm collects "Star Wars" memorabilia.

She has 230 items, including some of the original Kenner figures, her "prized possessions." She shares her collecting hobby with her neighbor, Terry Faith.

Faith's collection has taken over a spare room in his family's Hagerstown home. He owns a mint condition Imperial Shuttle, sand crawler vehicles and figures, including Luke Skywalker in a tan vest - valuable because it was supposed to be black. Faith remembers setting up "Star Wars" scenes all over his yard as a kid.

A childhood memory inspired Kyle Davis, a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to share his "Star Wars" story. When he was a 5-year-old, his parents made him feel special by picking him up at his day-care center with a surprise gift of a C-3PO figure and a small Hoth tank. Still a "'Star Wars' nut," Davis looks at the new Luke Skywalker figure "proudly displayed" on his desk at West Point and knows that he has fulfilled Luke's dream of attending the Academy.

Tina Feigley of Hagerstown remembers "Star Wars" for the friendships it fostered. The film and its characters became the common bond that linked a group of friends nearly 20 years ago. They made costumes - Feigley was a Tuscan Raider or sandperson - and entered and placed in Hagerstown's Mummers' parade and parades in Hancock and McConnellsburg, Pa. They panhandled for charity in costume in Martinsburg, W.Va., and a few members of the group appeared at the Miss Maryland Pageant one year.

Julie Belle Ridenour was 5 years old when her mother took her to the movie theater to see "Star Wars" for the first time. Mom fell asleep, but Ridenour was awakened to the long ago and far away world and has made the return journey many times with monthly viewings of the videos. Ridenour, 24, knows every line, but notices something new every time she sees the films. Ridenour didn't gather Star Wars collectibles as a child, but she has bought new "Star Wars" figures for her 8-year-old nephew.

Tamby Sexton of Hagerstown also has introduced "Star Wars" to another generation. Her 4-year-old son, Damien, enjoys the story on video. She has promised to take him to see it on the big screen, just as her mother took Sexton and her older brother, Tony Free, to see it nearly two decades ago. The 6- and 8-year-old siblings were "so enthused" after seeing the movie, they hopped on their Big Wheels and acted out the fantasy at Bester Elementary School. Sexton was Princess Leia; Tony was Luke Skywalker.

There's more to be enthused about. Restored and enhanced versions of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" are scheduled for theatrical release in February and March. Creator/director George Lucas is planning the first of three new movies beginning in 1999. They will tell the story of the 40 years preceding "Star Wars." The Force will be with us for a long time.

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