By Emily Branson / Staff writer

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were a couple of kids who fell in love with “Star Wars.”

Jump into hyperspace 40 years, and both of those people are now professors at Hutchinson Community College, but their love for “Star Wars” remains strong.

Dan Naccarato, Business Management and Entrepreneurship Professor, first fell in love with the movies back in 1977, when the original “Star Wars” movie, “Episode IV: A New Hope,” came out.

“It was the summer before my senior year in high school,” Naccarato said. “A girl I liked saw it while she was vacationing out of town. When she got home, she told me it was the best movie she ever saw. She wanted to watch it again. So it was the perfect date opportunity.”

“Star Wars” has connected millions of people over 42 years, and will be ending its series with “Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out in theaters Dec. 23.

“‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is billed as the final installment of nine core Star Wars movies,” Naccarato said. “I will watch it multiple times in preparation to engage Brad Hallier (Journalism Instructor) in world-class banter about Star Wars.”

While Naccarato is excited to engage in conversations about it after watching the movie, Tracy Chadwick, Computer Drafting Professor and Coordinator, will be sad when the final credits roll.

“I hate to see them end it,” Chadwick said. “But I can’t wait to see how they wrap it up.”

Chadwick fell in love with the “Star Wars” movies as a kid and is now able to enjoy taking his daughters to see them.

“Having my two daughters, and them coming out with new movies, and being able to take them to Star Wars movies has meant the world to me,” Chadwick said. “‘Episode 7, The Force Awakens’ has a special part in my heart because that was the first one that I got to take my daughters to.”

Chadwick has even gone to the extent to decorate his front yard with “Star Wars” decorations for Christmas.

“My yard will be pretty full this year,” Chadwick said.

He has R2-D2 lights lining the yard, a projector shining on the garage, a new Chewbacca and Kylo Ren being put up this year. Chadwick also has a large X-Wing with R2-D2 flying it that will be on display.

With the new movie coming out, Chadwick and Naccarato reflect on some of their favorite characters through the years and which ones have inspired them the most. For nearly 40 years, Naccarato has had two characters shape who he is: Millenium Falcon pilot and Rebellion hero Han Solo and the Jedi Master, Yoda.

“Han is a confident, fun-loving adventurer who faces every challenge with humor and optimism,” Naccarato said. “Yoda is the ultimate coach and teacher.

He’s trustworthy, caring, wise, insightful, accepting and fully aware of what’s happening throughout the universe.”

For Chadwick, it is hard to choose one favorite, but Anakin Skywalker resonates the most.

“I think we all have a little dark side in us,” Chadwick said. “I always have to try to keep that in mind. I have to remain calm because it is easy to just fly off the handle sometimes.”

As many viewers are also, Chadwick and Naccarato are eager to see how Rey and Kylo Ren’s story resolves at the end of the movie. Rey is the newest Jedi in training, while Kylo Ren, grandson of Darth Vader, is the Sith lord trying to convert Rey to the Dark Side of The Force.

“It is kind of cool because I feel like it’s bringing together the new ‘Star Wars’ that my daughters got started on, and the old that I got started on,” Chadwick said.

“Every ‘Star Wars’ episode gives viewers the choice of reflecting upon real-world good vs. evil issues,” Naccarato said. “Or simply escaping into pure entertainment. The saga is perpetually fresh.”

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