'Twilight' Fans Celebrate With Saga's Stars At TwiCon

'You establish a rapport with them. It's so sweet,' Jackson Rathbone says of fans at the convention.

DALLAS — As fans learned from Bella's birthday bash in "New Moon," celebrations with the Cullen clan aren't always the best idea. But over the weekend, thousands of people attended a sold-out event in the Lone Star State, eager to prove that Twilighters know how to party.

"TwiCon '09 is a 'Twilight' convention," explained actress Christian Serratos, who plays Angela Weber in the series, looking around at all the Twilighters bearing "Team Edward" T-shirts, "I Drive Like a Cullen" bumper stickers and, most importantly, smiles. "We're meeting fans, signing autographs, taking pictures and doing all that jazz. And we're having a good time."

Downtown Dallas was transformed into Forks West during the four-day convention at the Sheraton hotel, across the street from a parking garage filled with cars bearing "TwiCon or Bust" scribbled on their windows. In addition to Serratos, "Twilight" saga stars Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Billy Burke and Alex Meraz (from November's "New Moon") made the trek from Hollywood, while beloved musical acts like the Twilight Music Girls, the Bella Cullen Project and the Mitch Hansen Band performed in front of some of the biggest crowds of their careers.

"People have flown in from Oklahoma, New York — somebody came from California," marveled Facinelli. "I was like, 'I could have met you on the corner at a Coffee Bean.' "

"We bought magnets for our lockers that say 'I'd rather be in Forks' and 'Team Edward' and stuff," explained 14-year-old Page Watkins from Lakeland, Florida, walking a huge convention floor that had vendors selling "Twilight" board games, action figures, hand sanitizer, "I Run With Werewolves" and "Spunk Ransom" T-shirts and Sweethearts candies inscribed with the words "Bite Me." "I read all the books in a week and a half and became obsessed. The story is really captivating. It's a little bit of everything."

"And we really love Robert Pattinson," added her 14-year-old friend Haley Oberhoffer. "A lot!"

But if you think this was just a bash for the braces-and-bicycles crowd, think again. "You're never too old for a love story," insisted Bonnie Newkirk of Salt Lake City, who would only give her age as "over 70" and has seen the "Twilight" movie 10 times. "We all love Edward!"

Newkirk attended with her daughter Karen, of Hurst, Texas, and her 19-year-old granddaughter. Pointing out the septuagenarian's homemade "Twilight" vest, Karen explained, "My daughter started reading the books, she got me to read the books and then I got my mom to read the books. ... [My mother and I] love the books because we're both widows — which makes us want love stories in our lives, because we've both lost our husbands."

"We love 'Twilight,' " she added. "Generation after generation."

"You establish a rapport with them. It's so sweet," Jackson Rathbone said of such fans. "[They] make us hats, give us blankets, cookies.

"I get the chance to connect with the fans, which is really great, because they're the ones that made this franchise what it is," added Rathbone, whose moonlighting career as a rock star was on display Friday night for a huge, shrieking crowd, as well as sold-out nightclub gigs in the area all weekend. "The band I'm in, 100 Monkeys, we're playing all over Dallas. ... They're so sweet, they support us in everything we do — and we love them for it."

When the Twilighters weren't attending photo sessions with the stars, watching the bands perform or shopping for merch, there were plenty of other fun options available. A Bella's Self-Defense class taught women of all ages how to defend themselves against evil vampire attacks, Alice's Makeover Room offered makeup and hair tips, Emmett's Arm-Wrestling Tournament gave fans the chance to channel their inner teddy bear, and Cardio With the Cullens got everyone's hearts racing faster than Bella in the ballet studio.

"We saw Jackson perform with 100 Monkeys — they were awesome," explained Nicole McDuffy, 29, of Alabama, who was attending with the teen daughter she turned on to Stephenie Meyer's series. "I actually let her stay home from school one day so she could finish — I wrote her a sick note and everything — just so she could finish 'New Moon.' "

"This was our only chance to get here and meet them — especially Kellan," grinned Adrian Therrell, 36, of South Carolina. "I'll be getting his autograph later. ... I'm nervous; [my friends and I] didn't sleep well last night."

"This is the biggest one I've been to," marveled Facinelli when asked how the first TwiCon (it is planned to be an annual event) ranked with other conventions. "There was a moment when we were doing a Q&A panel, and the cast were signing our names and throwing paper airplanes out into the sea of fans. I thought, 'I want to get a paper airplane to the back,' but it was so far back that I took the paper airplane and ran it through the crowd. It was intense, running through a sea of 3,000 people.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I got terrified halfway through," laughed Facinelli. "Now I know how Rob Pattinson feels."

The convention reached a fever pitch Saturday night when an enormous ballroom was packed for the Volturi Masque Ball. Swapping their black T-shirts for ballroom gowns and their vampire baseball caps for Victorian-inspired masks, it was like a prom being held at that spooky party mansion from "Eyes Wide Shut," but with "Baby Got Back" and "Ice Ice Baby" blaring over the speakers and things like "Happy 14th birthday, Nicole!" being announced between songs. As multiple generations of Twilighters partied (some pushing babies in carriages), the fire officials had to warn everyone to stop dancing on the collapsible stage — and a handful of male Twilighters found themselves in a minority rivaled only by the dude who showed up inexplicably dressed as Harry Potter.

"This is what 'Twilight' is all about: beautiful vampires dressed in gorgeous clothes," explained Karen Bender, 21, from Phoenix, who peered out from behind her yellow contact lenses to describe her outfit as "a red, 1700s-inspired Gothic suit."

"I'm dressed as Tanya from the Denali clan," added her sister Katrina, 22. "We're friends with the Cullens. I went with yellow eyes, and I'm wearing a ball gown with a bustle — very Victorian-looking."

"I went to Hawaii on vacation with my family, flew into L.A. last night and then got a red-eye straight from L.A. to Dallas. I literally have not slept at all," struggled Facinelli, moments before heading upstairs to get some shut-eye after a long day signing hundreds of autographs. "I feel bad for the fans who are meeting me. But the fans' energy wakes you up. I feed off that."

"I hope he gets some rest. That's incredible," said an appreciative Karen Bender, who had met Facinelli earlier in the afternoon. "Peter is so nice. One thing I've noticed about the 'Twilight' actors — more than other actors — is that they're so kind, generous and willing to give their time. And we really appreciate that."

Check out everything we've got on "New Moon" and "Eclipse."

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