Show to go on for 'One Tree Hill' convention after Florence

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‘Return to Tree Hill’ will be be held this weekend at the Wilmington Convention Center

WILMINGTON — For a few days in September, it seemed as though Hurricane Florence would wash out what has proven to be one of the city’s most lucrative new attractions — the “One Tree Hill” fan convention.

Held bi-annually at the Wilmington Convention Center and organized by EyeCon Conventions, the event brings together stars of The CW’s locally filmed series and the thousands of fans that still fawn over the show.

But organizer Autumn Dawn Nierode said after Florence, there was a period when they thought they might have to cancel the eighth “Return to Tree Hill” convention.

“We were laying out all the options after the hurricane,” she said. “We are from Florida and we have never had to deal with a hurricane like this. But we talked to people in the mayor’s office, and they said the revenue would be really good for the town and that made us want to make it happen.”

The convention will go on as planned this weekend — Friday to Sunday — albeit with a few less people.

“So many hotels rooms were getting cancelled, so we offered people the opportunity to transfer their tickets to our upcoming March,” Nierode said. “We would have had good attendance before the hurricane, but it definitely hurt us a little bit.”

For those who do make it to town, the convention experience won’t be any different than it would have been.

This weekend’s events will still feature planned appearances by Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Paul Johansson, Stephen Colletti, Lee Norris and Antwon Tanner. The stars will be signing autographs, taking pictures, attending parties and participating in Q&A sessions.

Lenz will also join Tyler Hilton, Kate Voegele and Wakey Wakey for a concert Sunday at Brooklyn Arts Center. All four performed music as part of the series.

But Nierode said the convention won’t simply be about honoring the show, as it has been in the past. The convention team will already sold t-shirts that read #OneWilmington, a nod to “One Tree Hill,” to raise money for hurricane relief and will continue to sell specialized show-themed collectibles this weekend.

“We want to raise as much as we can while we are here,” Nierode said. “We want to more about Wilmington and not just about the show, and we know the fans really care about this town.”

The show’s iconic locations weathered the storm to varying degrees. The signature Sixth Street Bridge came out unscathed, but the former site of the Rivercourt basketball court at Battleship Park is still closed from flooding. The convention’s planned BBQ and episode screening at the park on Thursday also has been relocated downtown.

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at