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Become a trained Jedi on Jan. 14 at the Lakeshore Mall
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Emma Hogan and Jedi Master Jeff McClure fight off Darth Vader (Anton Shields) during last year’s Young Jedi Academy at Lakeshore Mall. This year’s event will be Saturday, Jan. 14.

Star Wars Jedi School

When: 2-4 p.m. Jan. 14

Where: Lakeshore Mall, 150 Pearl Nix Parkway, Gainesville

Cost: Free; must register in advance

More info: 770-535-8877 ext. 225

There is a disturbance in The Force at Lakeshore Mall.

Jeff McClure is calling all Jedis-in-training to report to his command center and learn how to defeat “the dark side.”

McClure, a magician and owner of Got Magic? Entertainment, will set up his Jedi Training School on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the mall at 150 Pearl Nix Parkway in Gainesville. In a program inspired by the “Star Wars” movie franchise, participants will make their own lightsaber “weapons” from pool noodles and learn how to use the films’ signature superpower, The Force.

 “The idea of the Jedi Training School is teaching the importance of being mindful of their surroundings and being calm in situations,” McClure said. “The Force seems to go along with martial arts, so we try to adhere to addressing your foe in a controlled way.”

Each child will have the opportunity to battle either Darth Vader or Kylo Ren, villains from the popular films. The event also will feature appearances from the characters Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2.

This is the second year McClure will host his Jedi school. Last year, he said around 150 children participated, and he expects 250 this year. Last year’s event was a hit with children and parents, so McClure decided to allow adults to participate this year as well.

“We had so many adults wanting to join in,” McClure said. “So as long as you’re capable of following instruction and having fun, we encourage any age to come.”

For McClure, the best part of the experience is watching the children react to the dramatic battle sequence. When the Darth Vader theme music begins playing and stormtroopers secure the area to bring in the villains, he said he’s seen every reaction imaginable. 

“Some of the kids are so stunned when Darth Vader walks out that they’re just overwhelmed and not even able to move,” he said. “And we’ve had some that were hell-bent on defeating Vader and were just beating the snot out of him.”

McClure said he was inspired to host the Jedi events in part because of his own experiences meeting his favorite characters at car shows and movie premieres as a kid. He was surprised and overjoyed to find children today love the Star Wars movies as much as he did.

With the release of two new movies in the franchise, “Rouge One: A Star Wars Story” last month  and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in December 2015, McClure said a new generation has come to love and connect with the world of droids and space creatures.

And because children are so observant, McClure said he works hard to make the characters look as accurate as he can, paying attention to detail in costumes and selecting performers who match the build of the original characters. It’s all part of creating an experience that lets kids escape into a world of their imagination, he said.

“I want these characters to be as real as possible,” he said. “Because I want the kids to believe in that magic and be entertained by it.”

Jedi training sessions last 30 minutes and are free. McClure said costumes are encouraged, but said children should leave their toy weapons at home.

Participants may register by calling 770-535-8877 ext. 225.

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