The Star Wars at Dragon Con Track took a good virtual look at the world of real life Jawas Friday at 4PMon during the panel “Hold On To Your Droids, The Jawas Are Here” on their YouTube channel and Facebook page. A national (and international) group of 501st members and leaders, including Krayt Clan Detachment leader Jenn Chase, Shane Murphy of the 501st Ireland, and Georgia garrison members Cressie Lewis, Greg Eisenhauer, and the Chess Jawa himself (Stephen Eisenhauer), joined Peggy Eisenhauer for the discussion.
The 501st Legion has a long and storied history in the world of Star Wars fandom. Article I of the organization’s charter (www.501st.com/mission.php ) focuses on two priorities for this all-volunteer organization: “promoting interest in Star Wars” and “contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work.” As the Star Wars universe has grown and expanded, so too has its fandom. Now 501st garrisons, as well as Rebel Legion et al costuming groups, have hordes of Jawas within them. According to Peggy , the Georgia garrison has a current membership of 360 and among that group are more than 130 Jawas. As she proudly declared: “in Georgia there’s pretty much always a gaggle of Jawas!”
Lewis offered some insight into the Jawa phenomenon, pointing out that the Jawa community is an open and welcoming one, “the most fun thing in the Star Wars universe.” There are no height requirements (the tallest Jawa in the Georgia horde is 6’5”), and the costume is both easy to create (made of brown monk’s cloth) and comfortable to wear. As with all costumes in the 501st, the Jawa costume enjoys formal approval/adoption.
As we all know, where there are Jawas there must be a Sandcrawler, and the Georgia horde has “Sandy.” According to Greg , the Sandcrawler project began back in 2018 with the purchase of a dilapidated shuttle bus, a 1997 Ford Super Duty Champion v10. It had spent a great deal of time exposed to the forces of nature and had deteriorated, particularly the interior. Greg, along with a team of garrison volunteers (Jesse Fannin, ‘Gator’ Roberts, and Danny Kurtz) with mechanical, sheet metal et al skills, refitted this old bus, turning her into “Sandy.” It was the perfect vehicle for such a project. The street-legal vehicle must go through a conversion at every event. Constructed with more than 1000 pounds of plated steel and 200 pounds of PVC sheeting, a team must attach/build the outer façade of the Sandcrawler every time she makes a public appearance. It is a project of passion and love that brings forth a glorious “Utinni” whenever she appears.
Passion for Star Wars, a game, and for service to community are keys to another Jawa phenomenon which has become a mainstay of Dragon Con: the Chess Jawa. Stephen Eisenhauer fell in love with the game of chess as a ten-year-old and for the last nine years has donned his Jawa costume to play all comers at Dragon Con for charity. Passionate about the game, Stephen is now a master-class chess player, which means he plays a lot of chess. He plays at Dragon Con 8 hours a day in the lobby of the Marriott, averaging more than 100 games daily, and in the process collects thousands of dollars for Dragon Con’s annual charity. Over the course of his 9 years as the Chess Jawa, he has raised more than $10,000.
Shane Murphy of the Ireland garrison 501st.ie described the commitment to community service and charity work done by the Jawa groups and the 501st at large as fundamental. The groups are always looking for places and opportunities to help. As Shane simply put it, “We don’t say no.”
Jenn Chase of the Golden Gate Garrison discussed the process of joining the ranks of a Jawa group. The first step is to reach out to a local garrison and talk with members. It’s important to make sure that this is something you want to do. Then, find a pattern, tap into the community to get tips, and get going. There are great resources online to help with costume development. The Krayt Clan (www.kraytclan.net) is the web home of Chase’s 501st detachment and contains the latest garrison and costume information. So, too, does The Great Jawa Horde (greathawahorde.com) here in Georgia.
This global community of Star Wars fans loves the franchise, loves to get together, and loves to help others. Whether visiting a hospital, making a wish a reality, playing chess for charity, or marching in a parade, these real life “lovable desert scavenger rats” embody the spirit and intent of the 501st and the best of the Star Wars community.
Star Wars at Dragon Con Track’s “Hold On To Your Droids, The Jawas Are Here,” is available to stream at the group’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SWatDC) and their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/StarWarsatDragonCon).