Once Upon A Time, Peter Facinelli Stopped by the Mall to Encourage Teens to Read! True Story!
By: Susan J. Yeager

Driving to the Charleston Town Center on July 11 seemed like any other ordinary Saturday morning drive in West Virginia's capital city. The weather was nice. The traffic was minimal. Everything seemed calm until you entered the mall. The second you swung the doors open to step foot inside, you could feel an excited energy and you could hear way more chatter than usual. Something big must be happening here.

The mall has dedicated the month of July to encouraging teenagers to read and has adopted the slogan "Read! It Changes Everything." Because the hottest book series of the moment is the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer, the Town Center decided to dedicate a few weekends to bringing the book more to life for mall visitors. First up was a visit from Peter Facinelli, the actor who plays "Dr. Cullen" in the movie version of the first "Twilight" book.

Fans were so excited about Peter's visit that they began lining up at 4:00AM for his 12:00PM appearance. They drove in from as far away as Cleveland, Ohio, and some cars sported bumper stickers that read "Warning… I drive like a Cullen." One die-hard fan from Texas had planned her vacation to visit family in the area to coincide with Peter's meet and greet. Mothers lined up with their teenaged daughters and it was clear that they were equally excited.

Thanks to the event being well publicized in local papers and on the web, most of the folks in line knew the rules. There was a VIP line where you paid $40 to have a photo taken with Peter and an 8x10 would be printed on the spot. There was a second line for those just wanting an autograph which cost $25. Once you finished in the photo line, you could take your new 8x10 (or anything else you wanted to have signed) and get in the autograph line. A portion of the proceeds will go to “City of Joy”, a charity Peter is supporting by joining forces with the company OmniPeace.

At 12:00, Electric 102.7 DJ, Libby Jo, addressed the crowd and began to keep everyone updated on Peter's arrival. He was running a little late and was meeting with some media and mall employees but would be down shortly. About 12:30 Peter appeared at the top of the second story escalator to make his way to Center Court. The screams were overwhelming as everyone caught their first glimpse of the actor and Peter seemed genuinely surprised that so many people had turned out to meet him.

Peter grabbed a microphone and thanked everyone for coming. He explained a little more about the charity and then answered some questions from Libby Jo. He's very excited for everyone to see the next movie in the Twilight series called "New Moon," and is anxious to see all the special effects that will be used in film. He mentioned listening to Kings of Leon and that he digs the music that his co-star Rob Pattinson plays. He made all the girls jealous by saying that after long days on the set, he sometimes unwinds by hanging out with Rob while Rob is playing guitar.

Having just finished a RV trip with his family, he had been watching the Robin Williams movie "RV" over and over lately and enjoys reading books like "Cat and the Hat" to his younger daughters. He encouraged everyone to read as much as they good describing it as "getting to create your own movie in your head." Fans clamored to take pictures with cameras and cell phones while the actor spoke and then it was time to start meeting the fans. The actor took his place in front of a red curtain that would serve as a "Twilight" looking background.

Peter seemed to enjoy talking with everyone as much as they liked talking to him. He complimented them on their dresses, shirts and ball caps, offered one a piece of gum when he was getting one for himself and got on bended knee for younger fans so he could be on their level. While waiting for the next person in line, fans who had screamed his name from upper levels of the mall or from behind barricades would get treated to waves, hello's, smiles for the cameras and even air kisses.

Peter joked with a tall fan by standing on a chair to make himself taller. He took another one without the chair but for that one, he acted like he was going to stand on his tip toes!

One girl in line muttered "I'm next! I'm next!" to no one in particular… probably in an effort to calm herself down before reaching the actor who brought "Dr. Carlisle Cullen" to life onscreen. She was completely shocked when Peter started slow dancing with her as the Twilight soundtrack drifted through nearby speakers. We're kind of surprised she actually managed to walk away without passing out.

or the most part, the fans held it together in front of Peter but as soon as they had their back to him, their true emotions started to show. Some burst into tears, some tried to steady their shaking hands and many mouthed "Oh my God!" to friends who were waiting for them. When the last of the photos were taken, Peter moved to a table on a riser and began signing autographs. Fans brought books, posters, magazines and other "Twilight" memorabilia and Peter gave each and every person who approached his undivided attention.

What could have been a potential disaster was easily avoided, thanks in part to Peter's easy going manner and unwillingness to leave anyone disappointed. The printer for the photos wasn't moving as fast as everyone had hoped and that left hundreds of fans waiting for more than an hour for their picture with Peter. No one complained because they could ultimately watch Peter meet with everyone while they waited and that was just fine by them. The only problem was, it was getting close to time for Peter to leave and fans who had wanted to get their picture with Peter autographed might miss their chance. You could hear and see the mall employees scurrying around wondering how to resolve the situation… but it was an easy fix. Peter would just simply wait until all the pictures were printed so everyone had their chance.

Several shoppers who haven't experienced the joy that is "Twilight" had a hard time figuring out what all the fuss was about. It just isn't often that an actor who does such a great job bringing a beloved book character to life onscreen drops by your hometown to raise money for a good cause. If you get the chance to shake that actors hand (or give him a hug as some lucky fans did) and tell him you think he did a good job, well then you should take it. Hundreds of "Twilight" fans did just that on that ordinary Saturday and something tells us that they won't ever forget it.

The Charleston Town Center will feature a Twilight Lounge in Center Court until July 25. The lounge features the "Twilight" series of books and magazines that feature the movies cast for visitors to read. There you can cast your vote for "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob," enter writing contests or just hang out and chat with other "Twilight" fans. On July 18, the mall is featuring a "Twilight Fanpire Party." There will be look-a-like and trivia contests, and games. Winners will receive a VIP status to be the first in line to meet Michael Welch who plays "Mike Newton" in the films. Michael will be appearing on July 25 for a Meet and Greet. You can find out more at CharlestonTownCenter.com

More on the "City of Joy" from Peter:

"Part of the proceeds today are going to the City of Joy which is a learning/healing center being created for women who have been subjected to violence in the Congo. OmniPeace has chosen 'The City of Joy' to be there charity for the year so I've kind of teamed up with OmniPeace and OmniPeace is going to match whatever proceeds I give them. For me, I have three daughters, I grew up with three sisters, when I heard the stories of what was happening to these women in the Congo, it really moved me and I wanted to help do something about it."

How he got involved:

"I have a friend who is friends with the women who runs OmniPeace. She told me that they were donating money to this charity. I went to the Web site and found out more information about it. When they asked me to come here and do this autograph signing, I said 'I'd love to link it to charity.' This was the one I chose." For more on OmniPeace and the "City of Joy" visit: www.OmniPeace.com

EnterTeenment News would like to thank Nicole Nassar, Steven Gerard, Libby Jo and Electric 102.7, Lisa McCracken and everyone at the Town Center for their help with this article.