MIDLAND, Mich. — Carl Williams’ love for the galaxy far, far away started not so long ago, when he was 5 years old. His grandmother had taken him to see “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”
By the time “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” came out in 2002, he had watched the original trilogy “to near death.”
Eight years later, he founded the Reformed Jedi Order as a club at Midland High School. Originally, it was a small group of devoted fans who would watch the movies in depth, exploring every minutia of the films.
After Williams graduated from high school, the group shifted to Facebook. In December of 2011 a member, Matt Baker, suggested holding a light saber fight event. Two other people besides Williams showed up, Scott Comer, a co-worker of Williams, and Nick Kalkman, a friend from high school.
Williams did not host another event until the summer of 2012.
There he saw a dramatic increase, spiking at around 20 people, and then again shrinking into a small but loyal core group.
“I continue to do this out of my love for ‘Star Wars,’” Williams told the Midland Daily News.
“Star Wars” was more than just movies for Williams. While the group stayed small throughout his high school years, Williams left a legacy behind by wearing a Yoda costume to school.
“It was a great bridging interest for me to make friends,” he said.
Kaylee Coin was someone affected by Williams’ legacy. “I was familiar with (‘Star Wars’) from when I was younger, but at the time I didn’t take interest in it; I actually thought it was boring,” she said.
However, seeing Williams dress as Yoda heightened her interest, and now she’s a loyal member of the Order.
“I found something out about myself ... I actually enjoy ‘Star Wars’ more than I ever anticipated,” she said. “(Each time) I feel like there’s something new to learn. Everyone always learns something new when they come back.”
Now, RJO holds light saber events on Sundays at 7 p.m., frequenting local parks including Midland City Forest, Stratford Park and Plymouth Park. Because parks close at 11, they usually pack up and move to the Walmart parking lot, where they continue the battles. According to Comer, they aren’t concerned with what people think; they just want to have fun.
“Many people argue that ‘The Force’ isn’t real. So what if I can’t move objects with my mind?” Williams said. “I’m aware of my surroundings and know my place in the universe, and that is all I need.”
PHOTO: Scott Comer, center right, leaned down to make sure that Kaylee Coin is okay after she was hit in the leg during a fight at the Midland City Forest in Midland, Mich. The group has several rules to ensure the safety of the participants, including limiting speed of the swing and areas of contact. The Reformed Jedi Order club in high school, which now holds light saber events on Sundays at 7 p.m., frequenting local parks including Midland City Forest, Stratford Park and Plymouth Park. (AP Photo/The Midland Daily News, Sean Proctor)