There is a great intergalactic battle coming.
Two epic forces will collide in a struggle that pits highly skilled Imperial soldiers against well-equipped Federation explorers.
And know this: there will be bowling.
The Costume Bowl, a charity event to benefit Manna Food Pantries and the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, is a joint effort between the local Parjai Squad of the Star Wars 501st Legion costumers and the USS Continuum, the local Star Trek fan group affiliated with the international Starfleet fan organization.
The Continuum’s Captain Jay Gallops said he had been looking for a way to do a charity event for several years and the Continuum had even considered doing a bowling event at Cordova Lanes previously, but it had simply not worked out for the club.
“Fast forward to fall of last year. The Continuum and Parjai Squad were considering doing a joint project– Star Trek and Star Wars fans working together,” Gallops said. “I met with their leadership, LaVonne French and Chris Vallia, and Chris brought up the idea of having a charity fundraiser at Cordova Lanes. I talked about using the costume idea, and the Costume Bowl finally got its second chance.”
French, the Parjai Squad Leader, said that when the idea came up, it was a natural fit.
“I think the first thing that came to everyone’s mind was a bowling tournament – Federation vs. Empire!” French said.
Groups consisting of up to six bowlers can register online at costumebowl.org or in person the day of the event for $75 for a lane. And though the event is called The Costume Bowl, dressing up isn’t mandatory.
“Bowling in costume adds to the fun, but it’s by no means required,” Gallops said. “When groups register, they join either ‘Team Empire’ if Star Wars is their favorite or ‘Team Federation’ if it’s Star Trek.”
The two teams will then compete in many different ways to earn awards for their faction during the event.
“Having the highest score will get you one award, but there’s also a costume contest and awards for sportsmanship, team spirit, and like,” Gallops said. “In each category, winners score a point for the respective teams, either Empire or Federation, fighting for their ‘sci-fi honor,’ if you will.”
But even if your bowling skills aren’t at Jedi-level, you can still make a difference in the competition and for the charities with a small donation through “Mulligans.”
“These tickets are sold – $5 for “Strikes” and $2.50 for “Gutters” – and can be turned in at the bowling counter to change the scores,” said Gallops. “If someone didn’t bowl too well in one frame, they can turn in a “Strike,” and then suddenly, it’s as if they actually bowled one or if someone notices an opponent bowling very well, they can turn in a “Gutter” ticket and it’s as if that opponent bowled a gutter ball.”
The event will also feature a bake sale with sci-fi themed goodies, photo ops with the Star Wars and Star Trek characters, prop displays and giveaways. Bring donated items for Manna or GCKH are also encouraged.
The rivalry at The Costume Bowl is all in good fun, but is there actual friction between Star Wars and Star Trek fans?
“The members of both groups are very passionate about their fandoms and love to share information to those interested,” French said. “I’m sure rivalries do exist, but I have not sensed it here locally.”
“Every once in a while, some non-sci-fi fan will think I hate Star Wars because I’m with a Star Trek group,” Gallops said. “I, like most fans I know, like both.”
One thing French and Gallops share is a passion for their chosen fandom.
“I like a good story, told well, that gets me thinking about important issues, and with over 700 episodes and 12 movies, Star Trek has probably touched on every single issue imaginable,” Gallops said. “It also has such a huge and fascinating universe that’s very developed. One of the advantages of having so many TV series is there’s a chance to really explore the various characters, aliens, and storylines.”
French says she likes both Star Wars and Star Trek, but there is something about Star Wars that speaks to her on a more personal level.
“I like both very much, but have more of an affinity toward the Star Wars universe. I like that Lucas took inspiration from the old serials of the 1930’s, like Flash Gordon – heroes and villains, action and adventure, comic sidekicks, and cliffhanger endings,” French said. “For me, and I’m sure others as well, it all started with the opening battle scene in “A New Hope” when we got our first glimpse of that massive Star Destroyer. You knew from that moment, your world would never be the same.”
In addition to helping the two charities and having a good time, both groups hope that The Costume Bowl will introduce fans to their respective organizations and entice new members to join.
“You don’t have to have a Star Trek uniform/costume. You don’t have to be a master of Star Trek trivia. Joining our parent organization, STARFLEET, is strongly encouraged but not required,” Gallops said of the Continuum. “It doesn’t even matter how long you’ve been a fan or if Star Trek is your favorite sci-fi franchise or not. We consider ourselves “Star Trek enthusiasts” – people who like one or more of the series or movies and what they represent.”
Yearly dues for the Continuum are $12 and those interested in joining can find more info at usscontinuum.com.
As a costuming organization, French says that joining the 501st only requires one thing.
“In order to join the 501st Legion, one must have a screen accurate costume,” French said. “The first step in joining would be to visit the main website: www.501st.com. All information about membership and costuming can be found there.”
If The Costume Bowl is a success, Gallops hopes it will become an annual event for the two groups and the entire fan community.
“We certainly want to continuing working with the Parjai Squad and other sci-fi groups in the Gulf Coast area because although we may have different themes and focus on different versions of sci-fi, but we’re still fans of a lot of the same things,” Gallops said.