Boba Fett is one of the most popular characters in the entire Star Wars universe. There have been whole books, comics, and even television shows dedicated to the character. His iconic helmet has appeared on everything from lunch boxes to t-shirts ever since he first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. Except that’s not entirely true. Big time Star Wars fans will be quick to point out that The Empire Strikes Back isn’t actually the first appearance of Boba Fett.
In an animated segment titled “The Story of the Faithful Wookiee” that appeared as part of The Star Wars Holiday Special, Boba Fett appeared as a character who at first teamed up with Luke and Han, before later revealing that he was working for Darth Vader. Boba Fett also appeared with an Amban phase-pulse blaster. Years later The Mandalorian would reference the iconic looking weapon by giving it to Din Djarin in many of the promotional images for the first season of The Mandalorian. Because The Star Wars Holiday Special came out in 1978, two years before The Empire Strikes Back, this made the Holiday Special the actual first appearance of Boba Fett. Except that’s not entirely true either.
In 1978, Star Wars had become an unprecedented hit. It was clear that there were going to be sequels to expand the universe, and ideas quickly started being developed for what new sorts of creatures and characters could be introduced in the next movie. One of the new designs was for an elite level of Imperial trooper, and had a familiar looking T shaped visor in the helmet. While the new type of stormtrooper didn’t appear in The Empire Strikes Back, the design was repurposed and recolored from its original white into the Boba Fett design that we are familiar with today. Even though the sequel to Star Wars was still two years away, it was clear that George Lucas wanted this new character in the movie in some way. And this leads us to Boba Fett’s first actual appearance.
San Anselmo, California is a town about twenty miles outside of San Francisco, and in the 1970s, it was the location of Lucasfilm headquarters. Every year, San Anselmo would hold their County Fair that included a parade. In September of 1978, George Lucas decided to contribute something Star Wars related to the parade, and it was decided that the two Star Wars characters to walk in the parade would be Darth Vader and the newly created Boba Fett. On September 24th, 1978, Boba Fett would make his first appearance in the County Fair parade, almost two months before he appeared in The Star Wars Holiday Special.
The suit of armor was worn by an assistant film editor who worked for Lucasfilm named Duwayne Dunham, who was selected to be the first person to ever portray Boba Fett by virtue of the fact that he was the only person who was the right size for the costume. Years later, Dunham would talk about the parade and how he was asked to sign autographs by the crowd, despite nobody knowing who Boba Fett was at the time. He even mentioned being unsure at the time how the character’s name was spelled when signing autographs.
So the five hundred or so attendees to the San Anselmo County Fair Parade were the first people to ever see Boba Fett, and those who got an autograph from him were the first to ever find out the name of this new, interesting looking character (even if some of those autographs might be missing the second “T”). It’s a strangely small debut for a character who would go on to become one of the most iconic and popular characters in all of Star Wars.