Geek in Gear: The best Black Friday I've ever had

Instead of Black Friday shopping last week, like I’ve done practically every year since elementary school, this time I got some sleep. When I woke up nice and late in the morning, I lounged about at my parents’ house and snacked on Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. After seeing the numerous stories pour in of attacks at your neighborhood Walmart, I was glad I took the most relaxing post-holiday option.

However, that’s not to say I didn’t do anything on Black Friday. When the early afternoon came, I strapped on my harness and armor, grabbed my Jango Fett-styled blaster and helmet, and headed out to the Gallivan Center, where the Make-A-Wish Foundation was hosting the Skate with Santa event.

At the event, I met up with a Wookiee, some Jedi and a couple other armored colleagues, and we did our stuff. We walked around and talked, occasionally posing for pictures or video, with the throngs of kids out having fun on the ice rink. About halfway through the event, one of the kids threw the switch to turn on all the lights around the center, lighting it up as only Salt Lake City can. For a few minutes after, the center cleared off the ice and allowed the kids in wheelchairs and one family member to enjoy the ice. Let me tell you, there’s something special about standing at the side of a rink alongside a half dozen other costumed “Star Wars” people and high-fiving an excited kid in a wheelchair as he zips around the rink faster than I can run.

That was, without a doubt, the best Black Friday I’ve ever had.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous column, I am a member of a “Star Wars” costuming club called the Mandalorian Mercs. While I’m definitely a bigger fan of other shows and book series (shh, don’t tell the other mercs), I fell in love with what this costume club and others like it stand for. I’ve talked a little bit about this in the past already, but as a reminder, my club is one of many that are routinely invited to attend charity events. Why, you might ask? Well, I imagine it’s much the same reason Disneyland and other theme parks have costumed characters walking around. It gets people excited. Usually the kids. And the events we attend are all about kids.

This weekend was the first time I got to attend two of those events as an official member. The first was the one on Friday. The second was on Saturday. This one was in conjunction with Hastur Games and Comics in Midvale. Over the past few years, our club has combined with Hastur and other costume clubs to host a drive for the Toys for Tots Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by the U.S. Marines Reserve Corps to gather toys to give to kids who otherwise wouldn’t be getting much for Christmas. From 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., a mixed group of about 30 or more “Star Wars,” Marvel, DC Comics, Disney and miscellaneous characters stood along the side of the road with signs, waving to people as they passed. Quite a few people whipped around their cars to hand us money and tell us to keep it up. In the end, we’d gathered quite a bit of funds and toys for the toy drive, as well as posed for many pictures and likely made many unknown strangers’ days a bit happier.

Not bad for a bunch of people who like to hang out in costumes.

This time of year, it’s easy to get lost in the hot Black Friday deals, the imminent downhill rush toward finals week, and all the trim and sparkles that comes along with the holidays. It’s a fun holiday, and you should enjoy it with your friends, family and yourself. However, while you’re out there hopefully getting the break you deserve, look for a way to bring a smile to someone’s face. You don’t need a costume to do that.