Devoted fans savor final ‘Xena’ convention

Cosplayer Lauren Saalmuller, 24 of Boston, srrikes a pose as Xena the princess warrior, at the Xena Warrior Princess 20th Anniversary Celebration, The Absolute Last Official Xena Convention: The Bittersuite Finale at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center in Burbank on Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. The convention continues through the weekend.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Bringing an end to two decades of fan-fueled fun surrounding the syndicated TV series “Xena: Warrior Princess,” the “absolute last” Xena Convention is taking place in Burbank this weekend.

Some of the show’s cast, including Lucy Lawless who played the title role, will be on hand during the event at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport. It’s billed as “the final journey” for a convention that was first held in 1995 and which celebrates a show that aired its series finale in 2001.

PHOTOS: Fans take in “Xena: Warrior Princess” for one last time

The weekend includes games and contests, discussion panels, a costume parade and a slew of celebrity meet-and-greets as well as autograph and photo-op sessions. Vendors will also be selling autographed photos and memorabilia, jewelry, costume items, T-shirts and more. It all ends Sunday.

“We would have stopped running the events years ago, but the Xena fandom is like a family to us,” said Adam Malin, co-chief executive of Creation Entertainment, the Glendale-based business that has produced the event for 20 years.

It may be the last convention, but attendees at the event on Friday, some dressed as Xena or an Amazon warrior of their own creation, said it won’t be the end of Xena fandom. The family will find a way to carry on.

“I don’t look at it as an ending,” said Steven L. Sears, who was a writer and producer on the series. “I’m looking at it as 20 years of having awesome friends... I don’t know how you can end something like that.”

Danny Harms came from Germany for this year’s event, which she said is at least her 10th. She said she met up with friends in the United Kingdom to travel with, including one woman she met at the Xena Convention in 2003.

“You definitely make friends for life with this [convention],” said Harms, who had the series title dyed into the buzzed hair on the back of her head.

The series tells the fantastic story of an Amazon princess in the time of Ancient Greece, who works to redeem her past by doing good works. She is accompanied by a traveling companion named Gabrielle, who guides her toward the good, but who also grows as a character herself — from a simple farm girl to a warrior.

Michaela Roof, who came from Cheyenne, Wyo., for what was her first and, sadly, last Xena convention, said it’s a story of life — the desire to pursue a bright future, as Gabrielle did, or to move on from a dark past, as Xena did. Roof was dressed in a costume she made herself that combined elements of both characters’ outfits.

One of the minority of male fans at the convention, Tommy Dougherty of Wisconsin, said growing up without parents, Xena was like a mother to him. He said that when meeting Lawless on stage at the convention last year, he broke down in front of a packed roomful of fans and told her what she meant to him.

“Apparently, I was a voice for a lot of people,” Dougherty said.

Los Angeles-based actress and model Bernadette Bentley came to the convention dressed as Xena. She said she was bullied for her weight as a child, but “found solace in someone who could be so strong and beautiful.”

Jessica Crouse, a model and actor from Maryland, came to the convention — her fourth — also dressed as Xena, who she called an “inspiration.”

Crouse said she’d been hearing talk of a retreat for Xenites — as they call themselves — or “some kind of gathering so we can do our once-a-year hugs.”