By Allison Ballard
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It was sunny and warm on Saturday morning. But that wasn’t why Samantha Powers was flushed.
No, the 13-year-old from Lexington turned red, bright red, when she saw Joshua Jackson at the Dawson’s Creek Tribute Ceremony, held at Riverfront Park.
Mr. Jackson, who plays Pacey Witter on the hit WB show, was the person Samantha most wanted to see.
She and her sisters, Tiffany and Whitney, were vacationing in the area when they heard about the event, and knew they couldn’t miss it.
They were joined by a couple of hundred others – fans, crew members, Hollywood executives, film commissioners and politicians – who came to honor the show that’s filmed in the area for six years and wrapped for the last time Friday.
During that time, Dawson’s Creek has pumped about $125 million into the local economy, employed more than 100 crew people and 25,000 extras, increased tourism in the area and been the longest-running television project to film in North Carolina.
Cast members Katie Holmes, Nina Repeta, Mary-Margaret Humes, Michelle Williams, Busy Philipps and Kerr Smith joined Mr. Jackson onstage. But he was the only one to speak at the ceremony; he thanked the fans and the crew people who put the show together.
Locals such as Frank Capra Jr., president of Screen Gems Studios, and Mayor Harper Peterson also spoke before turning the microphone over to the creators of the show.
Kevin Williamson, who wrote projects such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, based the series on his experiences growing up in Oriental in Pamlico County.
Even though the show takes place in a fictional New England town of Capeside, “this is the only place this show could have been done,” Mr. Williamson said.
“I’m so proud of the look of the show,” said Paul Stupin, executive producer. “And it’s a look courtesy of Wilmington.”
Mr. Stupin’s gift to the area was a sign that read ‘Entering Capeside’ to be placed in Riverfront Park.
Mr. Peterson presented Mr. Williamson and Mr. Stupin with a key to the city and artwork of the Wilmington riverside.
He also unveiled a street sign for Dawson’s Creek Way. According to Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, the plan was to change the name of Water Street for the day.
“Even though Dawson’s Creek is saying goodbye to Wilmington, we will never say goodbye to Dawson’s Creek,” he said in his speech at the ceremony. “We will reap the benefits for many years to come.”
Todd Berliner, director of the Film Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, noted that the show filmed on campus 65 times since it began. A plaque dedicated to Dawson’s Creek will be posted on a bench in front of Alderman Hall, which was the location for Capeside’s high school.
Mr. Berliner also asked Mr. Williamson to come back if he had an idea for filming Dawson’s Archipelago or Dawson’s Marsh.
“The people from California were very impressed with the attention,” said Dale Williams, associate producer. “We’ve been telling everyone for years that it’s like a family here. It’s good that they could see it.”
Even out-of-town fans could feel the love.
“It was a good, fuzzy moment for the show,” said Katie Waters of Knoxville, Tenn. She and her husband, Matt, drove to Wilmington after learning about the tribute. They arrived in town 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
“I’m glad I came,” she said. “I’ve never seen any of the cast before. They look just like they do on TV.”
After the speeches, the fans had a chance to try to catch the attention of the stars. Fans asked Ms. Holmes to sign copies of the Dawson’s Creek first-season DVD set and gave gifts of teddy bears.
Mr. Jackson went straight to the middle of the throng and posed for pictures. He wouldn’t talk to the media on Saturday – saying that this was a day for the fans – but in an earlier phone interview said the benefits of filming in Wilmington for the plast six years were obvious.
“You only have to look out your window to see the advantages,” he said.
Among those fans who hung around to catch glimpses of the stars after the ceremony were 13-year-old Samantha and her sister Whitney.
And they didn’t leave disappointed. Ms. Holmes, Ms. Philipps and others signed their T-shirts in black Sharpie marker.
“They’re really sweet people,” Whitney said.
“And I got a hug from Pacey,” Samantha said. “That’s what I really wanted.”
Allison Ballard: 343-2376 or firstname.lastname@example.org