“Is Chewbacca going to be there?” he asked, his eyes wide with expectation.
I smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” I said with a wink.
He smiled back but didn’t ask again. I could tell that he knew to expect to meet the large Wookiee from Star Wars but he was apparently content to let some degree of suspense continue to build.
We held Eitan out of school on Friday. It was May 4th, the unofficial holiday of the Star Wars movie franchise1 and I’d received an invitation to attend an event in Manhattan with Lego and Star Wars. I didn’t give Eitan much more information than that – partially because I wasn’t sure what to expect – but he didn’t ask for much more. He knew that he wasn’t going to school and that he was coming into the city for a special trip with me and that was enough.
We got to the event a bit early. The PR people were still setting up for the day and there wasn’t much to see yet. Eitan burned off some energy in the meantime running around Bryant Park and we borrowed a Ping Pong ball from two nearby players so that we could hit it back and forth with our hands on an empty table. The air was thick with humidity and felt more like mid-July than early May. Eitan broke a sweat quickly and his young legs began to falter sooner than they would have in even slightly cooler weather. We walked over to Times Square to walk through an air conditioned store for some relief before sitting on a bench outside for a snack.
As we turned back onto 6th Avenue, I saw what we had been looking for. A rope queue had been set up, as well as two backdrops displaying Star Wars and Lego backgrounds. I could see a tuft of brown fur just over the taller screen and didn’t bother to hide the smile that spread quickly onto my face.
“I think I see someone,” I said, squeezing Eitan’s hand a bit.
“Really? Who?” Eitan asked excitedly.
I didn’t answer, preferring to allow Eitan to see for himself when we arrived.
We finally got close enough to the display for Eitan to get a better look. Standing in front of him was Chewbacca, the six and a half foot roaring Wookiee from the movies. Eitan grinned broadly and looked back at me, his eyes twinkling with delight. I picked Eitan up so we could take a picture with Chewie and he shook the Wookiee’s paw, the smile never leaving his face. At the PR rep’s prompting, I let out my best Wookiee roar and Chewbacca patted me on the back, apparently impressed. I asked Eitan if he wanted to try but he shook his head shyly.
We stepped back to allow other people to take their pictures and I drew Eitan’s attention to the odd looking pedicab that had just pulled up next to the curb. I explained that Lego engineers had assembled thousands of Lego bricks and attached them to the pedicab to make it look like Chewbacca and Han Solo’s ship, the Millennium Falcon. He listened with awe and began begging me to take a ride. I told him we already had an appointment and he began jumping with glee, unable to contain his excitement.
Trudy and Shayna arrived shortly afterward and we were all able to board the “Millennium Falcon” together. Our driver accelerated to hyperdrive as we traveled through midtown traffic, avoiding nearby “ships” and “asteroids” (read: potholes). He committed fully to his role, making references to the characters in the Star Wars movies and puns based on the story and the sights we passed as we navigated the New York City streets.
We disembarked from the “Falcon” after the ride and Trudy and I thanked the Lego and Star Wars public relations representatives for the invite. Eitan gave Chewbacca one last hug and, although Shayna was not interested in any physical contact, she spent the rest of the day pointing out “Too-back-a!” anytime she saw him on clothes or in stores. We wished the crew a happy Star Wars day and said our obligatory “May the Fourth be with you” to everyone we met that day.
I was not compensated financially for this post; we received advance notice of the Lego Millennium Falcon and an appointment for a ride around Bryant Park, plus Eitan was given a free miniature Lego Millennium Falcon model. The opinions here are, as always, my own.
The event was coordinated as a partnership between Lego and Star Wars as part of the Roar for Change movement. Roar for Change is a global challenge from Lucasfilm and Star Wars: Force for Change that supports UNICEF’s lifesaving work for children around the world. Between May 3 – 25, 2018, Star Wars: Force for Change will donation $1 to UNICEF for each public post, like, or share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that includes #RoarForChange. It’s obviously too late to ride the “Falcon,” but please watch the video below for more information and post on social media using the hashtag #RoarForChange to boost the total donation to UNICEF.