SALT LAKE CITY -- The force of Star Wars mania may have no stronger hold than in Utah.
Google Trends, a system that tracks popular terms on the search engine, has Utah ranked the top state for the terms “Star Wars” “Luke Skywalker” and “Princess Leia.”
“The minute I saw and that Star Destroyer flew over the screen, I was hooked,” said Mark Fordham of Provo.
Fordham has been dressing as Darth Vader for more than two decades. His costume, his third in two decades, cost around $3,000 to build.
He is a past president of the 501st Legion, an international group of costumers who dress as the villains from the Star Wars franchise. He is not surprised to learn Utah ranks high on Google searches for Star Wars, and he has a theory about why the franchise is so popular in the Beehive state.
“Encouraging principles, affirming story lines of good defeating evil,” Fordham said.
The popularity of Star Wars is not lost on the organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con. The biggest fan panel in their history was with Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker.
“We had about 12,000 people that were in the arena to see him, which was our largest panel that we ever had,” said Dan Farr, President and Founder of Salt Lake Comic Con.
It works both ways. The fans' enthusiasm encourages more Star Wars actors to visit Utah.
“Actors that come to Salt Lake, they, most of them, do really really well here and they want to come back,” Farr said.
Star Wars, The Last Jedi, makes it’s Utah debut on Thursday night at theaters across Utah.