Baltimore to be transformed into a 'Twilight' zone

The Sheraton Hotel hosts a "Twilight" convention Oct. 8-9. Pictured, fans at a 2010 "Twilight" fan convention in Los Angeles.
The Sheraton Hotel hosts a "Twilight" convention Oct. 8-9. Pictured, fans at a 2010 "Twilight" fan convention in Los Angeles. (Handout photo, Creation Entertainment)

The guys of "Twilight" are coming to Baltimore, and Vanessa Strickler is stoked.

"I'm expecting total chaos," says Strickler, one of hundreds of "Twilight" fans expected to converge on the Sheraton Inner Harbor for this weekend's "Twilight" fan convention. "I want to enjoy every minute."

Before anyone jumps to conclusions, it should be made clear that Strickler is no star-struck middle-schooler with pictures of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner taped to the inside of her locker. She's a 57-year-old ad coordinator for a Baltimore-based consumer magazine who's never done anything like this before. She and the two friends she's recruited to go with her — they're even spending Saturday night at the Sheraton, to make sure they don't miss anything — realize they may find themselves surrounded by scores of shrieking pre-teens.

And she's not the least bit intimidated.

"Of course I'll be shrieking," she says with apparent conviction. "I might be heard over them."

Better prepare yourself, Baltimore. Twi-hards, fans of the explosively popular book and film series about high-schooler Bella Swan and the vampire and werewolf who love her, will be taking over the Inner Harbor this weekend.

"It's usually kind of organized mayhem," says Gary Berman, co-CEO and one of the founders of Creation Entertainment, which runs fan conventions like this all over the country. "Where else are you going to see five or six stars from a movie that you love?"

Even better, fans get to more than just see them. There are autographs to seek and pictures to be taken. Although the marquee "Twilight" stars — Pattinson, Lautner and Kristen Stewart — will be absent, half-a-dozen actors from the film will be making an appearance. They'll be signing autographs, attending fan forums, even hitting the dance floor for a vampire ball set for Saturday evening, when the moon is full.

"It's just fun to be with the fans," says actor Booboo Stewart, who plays werewolf Seth Clearwater and reportedly will have a considerably larger part in the upcoming "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" (in theaters Nov. 18) than he had in last year's "Eclipse."

"The fans who come to the 'Twilight' conventions are usually the most die-hard fans," he says. "They all just want to meet you, see what you're like and have some fun."

Strickler certainly fits that bill. While she insists she's not "star-struck," she's clearly ready to be impressed. A couple weeks back, she started a Facebook page, "Baltimore Twilight Convention Oct. 8th-9th." And she and her friends bought gold tickets, meaning they'll be able to attend everything, including Saturday's costume contest, the ball that evening and Sunday morning's breakfast with the stars. There's much to be said, Strickler notes, for spending the weekend with a bunch of kindred spirits.

"It's just great to know that there's going to be a lot of people that are there for the same reason we are, to just enjoy ourselves and meet some of the stars in the movie," she says. "We probably understand each other more than anyone else does, because we have so much in common."

Baltimore is one of 14 fan conventions being staged by Creation and Summit Entertainment, the studio releasing "Breaking Dawn." Besides giving the movies' adoring fans what they crave, the idea is to amp up anticipation for the movie, already one of the most hyped films of 2011.

In addition to Booboo Stewart, actors scheduled to attend include Peter Facinelli, Chaske Spencer, Kiowa Gordon, Tinsel Korey and Tyson Houseman.

Strickler says she's most eager to meet Facinelli — who, at 37, is a veritable fossil among the "Twilight" cast. He plays vampire patriarch Carlisle Cullen, the father to Pattinson's character, Edward. But with so many young girls certain to show up — the "Twilight" conventions, organizer Berman says, attract scores of mom-and-daughters teams — it's a safe bet Stewart and his fellow young stars will get plenty of attention, too.

"Oh gosh, yes," Stewart says when asked if his fans sometimes get carried away at these conventions. "Usually, they try and say, 'Can you show us your abs?' But one time, this girl asked us a question: 'Do you have an innie or an outie, and can you show us?' That was the most thought-out version of 'Can we see your abs?' that I've ever heard in my life."

So, did he and his fellow actors comply?

"No," Stewart says with a laugh. "I just congratulated her on such a creative thought."


If you go

The Officlal Twilight Convention runs Oct. 8-9 at the Sheraton Baltimore Inner Harbor Hotel, 300 S. Charles St. Show hours are noon-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission runs $20 per day. Separate tickets are required for the Saturday Night Vampire Ball ($79) and the Sunday Continental Breakfast and Charity Auction ($69). Gold weekend passes, which include all sorts of extras, are available for $219. Information: 818-409-0960 or twilightconvention.com/cal/twilight_baltimore.htm.

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