The LEGO and Star Wars brands have been a force to be reckoned with ever since they first joined hands in 1999. For the last six years they have held a special Star Wars event to celebrate this union. This year it took place during the weekend of June 20, and it was time again for the troopers of the Rebel Legion and 501st, especially those from the Nordic Garrison, to invade LEGOLAND. Your reporter from StarWars.com went to Billund, Denmark to support these troopers.
The fun started on Friday when I landed at Billund Airport, a convenient short walk away from the park. With Friday being the traditional day that all the troopers and their supporters arrive, the LEGOLAND Holiday Village quickly filled up their quaint cabins — styled as if you would expect US frontiersman Davy Crockett to walk out at any moment. For those among you with a special fondness of growing up with LEGO, the many great animal statues that denote the different zones like Bear Country, Eagle Plains, Raccoon Forest, and the big pirate ship at the entrance are nice highlights and introductions of what one can expect to see inside the theme park itself.
While a day like this normally consists of chatting up old friends who I have known since my trip to Finse or last year’s LEGO/Star Wars anniversary, there was a troop organized for those who had arrived early enough. This prelude troop was a surprise for the guests at the theme park and the LEGOLAND Hotel, who had the chance of meeting their favorite characters that included stormtroopers, X-wing pilots, Jedi, and the Emperor. When they returned to the Village, it was time for a rehearsal of the opening ceremony.
Saturday started with a group shot of every trooper and supporter, and one can really see here how much this event has grown in the past six years. When it started out there were 60 troopers and six supporters; this year there were 118 troopers and 24 supporters. With so many people you would need a proper setting and a nice background for the group shot, and this year’s biggest and newest attraction was ideal for it: a life-size X-wing made out of LEGO bricks. This was the very same X-wing that stood in New York’s Times Square in 2013.
With the group picture taken, it was time to get ready for the opening ceremony. This year Søren Holse and his team went even further in creating a convincing mini-story, one that was told with actual lines of dialogue and included sound effects from the movies. There was also a smoke machine to add visual impact. Taking place right at the entrance, guests standing in the plaza before Miniland would see how Rebel pilots were caught by snowtroopers and taken before Darth Vader, who arrived flanked by his royal guards. But despite the presence of countless troopers, the Rebel pilots would be freed in a daring rescue led by our heroes Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewbacca. This would then set the stage for one of the many activities throughout both days: the hunt for the Rebels by Imperials, bounty hunters, and guests alike!
The other big events are the two parades that happen each day. The one at 11:30 a.m. would take a loop through the park, ending in the special-event location that is open for guests. The event place is a big field filled with many smaller activities for children that include an obstacle course in which they get to whack targets with lightsabers, and tents in which children can build their own starships with bricks or work on a big LEGO mural of an X-wing in space with a green planet below. There was also a Jedi Academy and an information tent for the Nordic Garrison covering Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, which is the main base of the 501st that was active there. Flags of the other countries participating like the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Russia, and Poland were hoisted on a special post next to the tent. This tent was the main source of information about the 501st and Rebel Legion and how you can join them, along with details of helmets, weapons, even a full-sized speederbike. At the end of the day when it was time to close the event space, troops could be seen leaving from the second parade.
With 118 troopers walking around the park it would be very hard to miss seeing them, and besides the scheduled photo opportunities there were constant patrols by multiple squads each day. In these patrols you could clearly see the love for Star Wars that fans of all ages share. Being a supporter of the awesome Echo Squad — consisting of snow troopers, snow scout troopers, and an Imperial officer — it was a great thing to encounter small kids who would offer their popcorn or cotton candy, or just rush up with a big smile on their faces wanting a hug or a handshake. And it was not just the kids who enjoyed meeting the troopers, even some parents joined in to have their pictures taken with the cosplayers.
So for those who never have been to a LEGOLAND before, I can fully recommend going there next year when the Star Wars event returns. To borrow a phrase from a certain LEGO movie: Everything is awesome!
Sander de Lange (Exar Xan) from the Netherlands worked on the Rogues Gallery feature in Star Wars Insider and has written the backstory for Niai Fieso through “What’s the Story?” He is an editor for TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub, and is an administrator for the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook.