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Return of the fans: New ‘Star Wars’ film sparking tourism in Arizona city

A fan dressed as a stormtrooper from "Star Wars" poses in Buttercup Valley, near Yuma, Arizona. (Fan Photo posted to StarWars.com)

PHOENIX — While the world may be ramping up for the newest chapter in the “Star Wars” saga, one Arizona city is enjoying a jump in tourism thanks to its part in the series’ origins.

“Within the last six months or so, I’ve gotten a substantial uptick in the number of folks looking for photos and so forth,” Ann Walker with the Yuma Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Part of “Return of the Jedi,” the third film in the saga, was filmed in the sand dunes in the desert west of Yuma. As the excitement for “The Force Awakens” builds, some fans are heading to the city where the nearby battle on Jabba the Hutt’s barge was filmed back in 1983.

Though filmed on the California side of the dunes, most of the cast and crew stayed in Yuma during filming.

“We kind of consider ourselves the gateway to the sand dunes,” Walker said.

While not much remains of the film set off Interstate 8, it still remains a draw for “Star Wars” fans. Most of them have blogged about the experience. Walker said the site’s location, just off the highway, makes it one of the series’ easier sets access.

Walker said some of the set was moved to Yuma, but not preserved.

“There is a house in Yuma where a lot of the lumber went into, apparently,” she said.

KTAR’s Brian Rackham contributed to this report.

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