A cool, gray weekend in March was warmed by the smiles of hundreds of adoring female fans (oh, okay, and the few token husbands or sons that were dragged along) at the LAX Marriott for the 2008 Creation Entertainment "Salute to Supernatural." While the festivities kicked off on Friday night with pre-registration, special vendors' sales, and a concert by fan favorite Jason Manns, things really didn't get rolling until Saturday afternoon when creator Eric Kripke took the stage to answer some questions that both the strike and the general suspenseful nature of the show previously left hanging. The most prominent things on everyone's mind seemed to be the concept of a "Body Swap" episode, in which Dean and Sam experience their own Freaky Friday moment as well as the return of the show on Thursday (The CW will air a three reruns to get the audience back into the flow of the show until the first post-strike episode is ready to air on April 24). "Body Swap" wasn't confirmed by Kripke, but it wasn't entirely shot down, either, and the fan who seeded his mind with it might want to register the spec so she can collect residuals when it undoubtedly turns up in a season or two, as it proved to be a very popular topic all weekend.
The number of attendees seemed to grow exponentially come Sunday morning-- the day the Winchester boys were scheduled to meet and greet the fans who had come from all walks of life-- and they turned up from all parts of the world to support the stars of their favorite show. Literally. Some drove down from Northern California; a few flew in from Chicago or Texas or Florida; and a couple more traveled from Australia or Israel, all to get their first taste at convention fandom. As one fan pointedly shrugged: "If you have the opportunity to do meet and take a picture with someone you like, why not do it? You may never get that chance again." For a lot of these fans, though, the opportunity presents itself time and time again with a handful of conventions just like this popping up across the country as the cult-like following of similar sci-fi/fantasy programming becomes a bit more mainstream.
First up on Sunday was a breakfast and silent auction to which only Gold Members were privy. Tickets for the convention were sold singlely, by event, or in tiers, but no one seemed to feel like they were missing out: everyone who wanted a Gold ticket seemed to get one, as Creation Entertainment was extremely accommodating to the high demand. Photo ops came next, followed by a Q&A (during which Jensen and Jared indulged the cheering crowd in their impersonations of each other), and then autograph sessions. Around mid-afternoon composer Steve Carlson and recurring guest star Sandra McCoy popped in for Q&As and autograph sessions of their own. What was most fascinating about the event, though, was that the face time with the stars was so minimal-- literally seconds while the professional photographer snapped the photo-- but the time spent on the lines seemed to be just as valuable. Fans mingled, laughed, and made new friends quickly, exchanging email addresses and myspace page IDs to share photos and videos later.
While the majority of the fans loved the show and storylines first (but couldn't help but notice the leads are hot, so that definitely makes tuning in week after week even more enjoyable), a handful admitted they have only seen a few episodes so far. Mary only got into the show the weekend of the convention, in fact, when her friend Tracy flew in from Houston to crash at her house while attending the events. Tracy had Mary's whole family, including her eleven year-old daughter, who subsequently developed a crush on Jared, watching the Season 1 DVDs in preparation, which prompted Mary to buy a last minute ticket and photo op. And that was not unique to those friends: fan after fan interviewed mentioned they started watching the show because of word of mouth, something which seems to be backed up by the show's growing ratings as more and more people make Supernatural appointment television.
And getting the word out has always been the primary goal of Team Winchester, an online community that provides custom, public domain virtual banners, avatars, and other images for fans to embed on their respective websites. With the infamous tag of "Tell your friends to tell their friends," the new management behind Team Winchester was represented at the convention, and all three were eager to meet the fans with whom they had been talking on message boards and forums for months. Explained Danie: "These are wonderful people who are a tight-knit, vocal, but classy group." While some expect the fanbase to be made up of primarily teenage fan girls, that proved not to be the majority, as while the banquet rooms were full of claps, cheers, and whooping, high-pitched squealing and fainting was left for Gossip Girl (also The CW) events. Danie also expressed interest in tying in some charity work with organizations like Kids Need To Read or Linda Blair's WorldHeart Foundation. It's easy to get these fans moving in the name of their favorite show-- after all, during the WGA strike when The CW wasn't showing Supernatural reruns, many fans signed online petitions in support of getting their boys back on the air, as well as sending letters with packets of salt to the network heads. There is no doubt that kind of action will translate to a good cause.
After all, a handful of fans have been following Jensen since his daytime days, and almost everyone first watched Jared on Gilmore Girls. Though these guys have certainly been around for a while, though, the response Supernatural has garnered them appears to have solidified that series as their big break. These fans are hooked, and they are hooked for life! The consensus this weekend was that there was virtually nothing these guys could do next to which these fans wouldn't follow them-- whether that is a charity function or another genre of film (Jared expressed interest in a western, and it was hard to tell if he was kidding, but he didn't seem to realize he is already in this millenium's perfect buddy piece). "The show is much more intelligent than just guys chasing monsters," Samantha explained. "The show is scary and suspenseful, but the relationship between the brothers is what keeps us coming back."
As the events came to a close, one mother-daughter duo proudly showed off their joint photo with Jensen and Jared and talked about that one day a week that has become "Panda Padalecki Thursdays." They pick up their favorite fast food (Panda Express) for dinner and then sit down to watch their favorite show together as a family. And as Corey (the mother) pointed out: "At an age when your sixteen year old doesn't really want to hang out with you, this is a nice thing we can do together."
Jensen, Jared, and Supernatural, bringing people together since 2005.