THE FIRST PACIFIC NORTHWEST XENAFEST:
A XENITE COMMITTEE MEMBER'S EXPERIENCE
Special to WHOOSH!
By Julie Ruffell (firstname.lastname@example.org ympatico.ca)
Photo captions by Donna Kaye (email@example.com)
Copyright © 1997 held by author
Welcome to Hower and Minya's Place, otherwise known as the Laurel Room, Ramada Inn Vancouver, site of the 1st Pacific Northwest XenaFest! (Photo by Donna Kaye)
 When I heard about the Xena and Hercules convention in Burbank, I was furious that I was unable to attend. Missing the opportunity to meet your greatest hero and to be with people that understand your obsession would annoy anyone! But what could I do? It was then that I learned about XenaFests: gatherings of Xenites arranged by Xenites. I contacted the people organizing the New York City XenaFest and they told me about a group of fans arranging a Fest in the Pacific Northwest. I contacted Rita Jessica Ma (head organizer) and signed up to help the same day!
Rita Jessica Ma "I have many skills", XenaFest organizer (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 There was a lot of work to be done over the next month. Fellow committee members, Rita Jessica Ma, Donna Kaye, Stephanie Davis, Fern Webb, Ann Duffield and myself did our best to launch the XenaFest. We thought it would never come, but finally the day of the Fest arrived.
Xena did put in an appearance after all (thanks to UTV Creative Director, Tamara Poirier). Xenite Deb7 took the opportunity to pose with our she-ro. (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 The Pacific Northwest XenaFest was held on March 29th, 1997 in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. We held it on this date so that we could celebrate Lucy Lawless' birthday! About forty-five people attended the event. Tamara Poirer brought her life-size "Xena" stand-up, which gave many Xenites a wonderful photo opportunity. Tamara, who works at UTV, managed to contact MCA and they donated fifty keychains, fifty posters, five t-shirts and five sweatshirts. All were handed out as prizes at the Fest.
Xenite Class of '97, Vancouver, Canada. Can you spot the special guest in the back row? (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 By 10:30 A.M., all of the Xenites had shown up. The Xenite who traveled the farthest to attend was Karen Goodger, who came from Oklahoma (she won a Xena t-shirt). The committee was introduced shortly thereafter. We surprised Rita Jessica Ma with a certificate and informed her that we had ordered a ten inch Xena action figure for her.
Our youngest attendee, Joshua Mills, here with mom Rebekah, also an avid Xena fan, brought his own Herc sword, complete with sound effects. (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 Before the Fest, we had taken a poll on the attendees' favorite Xena episode. A DAY IN THE LIFE (#39) won hands down, and we had a great time watching it as a group.
Demeter (aka Donna Kaye) models Xena merchandise while making announcements (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 The trivia contest was next. Some questions were easy and some were not so easy. Here is an example of the different levels of difficulty for some of the questions:
- Easy : Who is Xena's son?
- Answer : Solon.
Soon only one person remained in the trivia contest. Fern Webb was presented with the final question:
- Hard: How many characters has Lucy Lawless played on HERCULES and XENA and name them.
- Answer : Seven : Xena, Lysia, Lyla, Princess Diana, Meg, Doctor Mel Pappus, and Callisto.
"What TV character has become known as the greatest woman role model ever?"The answer was easy and Fern replied, "Xena," winning herself a Xena sweatshirt.
Jena Lamothe of UTV-13 wows Xena with her battle cry. Jena won our Xena yell contest handily. She also studied opera -- sound familiar?) (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 Just after lunch, we held our second contest: the Xena yell. Diane Merriam, Jena Lamothe and Stephanie Davis gave it their best shots. They were all very good, but it was Xenite, Jena, who took home a Xena t-shirt and Xenite hat. Having taken opera lessons, Jena had the proper vocal pipes to let out the best Xena yell I have ever heard, besides Lucy Lawless'. Maybe being an opera singer had something to do with her victory?
Ephiny (Vicky Yung) and Gabrielle (Angela Ekkert) practise their Amazon symbol of peace and Gabwhacker moves respectively. (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
Iapetus (aka Andrew Rosenberg) dons a costume in preparation for the filming of a skit. Alas, Vancouver's weather did not co-operate (when does it?) and we had to cut it short. Maybe next time the weather gods will look kindly on us. (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 After the Xena yell contest it was time for a trip around Vancouver for a few Xenites to film two skits, "Old Friends," a Xena adventure and "A Day In The Life: Xena In The 90's," a Xena comedy, both written by yours truly. Xenite Emily Magana played Xena and was very convincing in the role. She won a Xena t-shirt for best costume. Angela Ekkert, a Renee O'Connor look-a-like, played Gabrielle and, considering that it was her first acting role as an action hero, she did a great job. Unfortunately, the weather was bad that day, and only two scenes were able to be filmed (so we didn't kill anyone). We headed back to the Ramada hotel and had a Xenathon, which is a watching of Xena episodes, until it was time to head to the Greek restaurant "Orestes."
We deliberately chose to hold the XenaFest on Lucy Lawless' birthday so we could celebrate it in style. Here is the birthday card we sent to Ms. Lawless. Designed by Edison Gonzalez/Donna Kaye. (Photo by Donna Kaye)
Hungry Xenites descended on Lucy's birthday cake. It entered the room with a unique rendition of Happy Birthday amidst our Xena battle cries. (Photo by Donna Kaye)
 We were all tired by this point, so we sat, ate and really got to know each other. However, it being Lucy Lawless' birthday, a song was needed and a cake was made -- and what a beautiful cake it was! I made the design and the bakery at the at a local Safeway made our cake. Emily was selected to blow out Lucy Lawless' candles because she played Xena in our skit. Lucy Lawless' beautiful birthday card was signed as well. Afterwards some Xenites were filmed expressing their private birthday wishes to Ms. Lawless.
Gabsclan was well-represented at the XenaFest. Here, Arlene Bolton proudly displays SKIP-TO-MY-GAB with accessories. Thanks to DangerChick for the top-notch seamstress work! (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
Another Gabsclan member, Simahoyo, sports the Sacred Chalice (or lipstick-stained Dixie Cup) on her sweater. (Photo by Tamara Poirier)
 Xena brings out the writing flair in Xenites, so we invited them to share their work. Most were too shy, but Rita read her funny poem, "Meet Miss Amphipolis," followed by my short story, "The Hunter In The Darkness." We also raffled off the last pieces of Xena merchandise and donated UTV prizes.
To celebrate Ms. Lawless' birthday, we had dinner at Orestes, a Greek restaurant here in Vancouver. "Aphrodite" came by to do the traditional "blessing of the cake" dance. (Photo by Donna Kaye)
Xenites were encouraged to join in. Lt. Zorak of the Gabsclan learns some new moves. For her courage, she should move up in the ranks, I think! (Photo by Donna Kaye)
 At this point it was pretty late. A few Xenites had already left, but they missed one of the best events -- the belly dancer of Orestes. Three Xenites were pulled on the floor, Rita Jessica Ma, William Barker and Diane Merriam. I swear that the belly dancer could have pulled off the Xena breast launch! At 10:30pm the Fest ended and all the happy Xenites went home.
The dedicated and hard-working members of the 1st Pacific NW XenaFest are introduced to our guests (l-r) Rita, Stephanie Davis, and Julie Ruffell
 All in all, it was a great experience. I, for one, look forward to attending future XenaFests and I cannot wait until I have the chance to go to my first convention, in the hopes of meeting my idol Lucy Lawless and the great actress, Renee O'Connor.
Tamara Poirier (UTV-13 Creative Director) and Jena Lamothe sport their Xena baseball caps. Not only was Tamara our fearless photographer but she and MCA/Universal provided all participants with souvenir keychains and posters. Also, all contest winners received either a Xena t-shirt or sweatshirt. (Photo by Brian Fox)
A Special Note
UTV-13 is not affiliated with UTV Chat or The Pub. Tamara Poirier is the Creative Director of UTV-13 (CanWest Global Network), a television broadcast station in Vancouver, BC.