As the small island of Amity — er, Martha's Vineyard — found out this weekend, when it comes to the movie Jaws, there are fanatics, and then there are fin-atics.
"There is no other movie I would fly hundreds of miles to go celebrate," a giddy Yvette Pryor of Augusta, Ga., said on Sunday. "It's the ultimate movie."
"On a scale of one to ten, this weekend has been about a 20," added an exhausted but elated Dean Nicholson, who traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, for the three-day event. "For a great film, a fantastic film, the festival couldn't have been better."
"My late father once said to me ‘son, you always can tell a good film by how much it leaves you tingling after you see it,' " Michael Boyd of Edinburgh, Scotland recalled. "I saw Jaws for the first time on Boxing Day in 1975 and I couldn't stop thinking about it. It still leaves me tingling every time."
Like a scene borrowed from a Star Trek convention, thousands of movie buffs, some of them dressed in character, and a mass of media flocked to the Vineyard this weekend to celebrate Jaws Fest, the 30th anniversary of the monumental film's release. Jaws fin-atics of all ages - not to mention all nationalities - packed hotels, clogged streets and scoured the Island in their quest for anything and everything related to the movie, which was filmed here in the spring and summer of 1974.
The three-day festival was sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and Universal Studios, and a full schedule of events kept the crowds on the move all weekend. National media from Good Morning America to the Today Show to UPN Channel 38 descended on the Island to cover a weekend devoted to that famous killer shark.
On Friday, hundreds lined up outside the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown to hear Joe Alves talk about the workings of the mechanical shark. Even more flooded the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs to hear Peter Benchley, the author of the original book, tell stories of how the Jaws phenomenon began.
And on Friday night, more than a thousand people streamed into Owen Park in Vineyard Haven to watch an outdoor screening of the film. Most of the cast and crew on hand for the weekend were introduced to the standing room only crowd.
"This is my mecca," said Lee Pfeiffer, the publisher and editor in chief of Cinema Retro magazine, as he waited to interview the cast before the screening.
A daylong workshop on the making of the film at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, a fashion show at the Lambert's Cove Inn in West Tisbury and the Amity Ball at the Hot Tin Roof highlighted Saturday's activities. At the Amity Ball, several fans were brought on stage to impersonate their favorite characters, and their uncanny performances met with raucous applause. Music was provided by Entrain.
A clambake in the Steamship Authority parking lot in Vineyard Haven on Sunday capped a weekend of worship that made even those closest to the film scratch their heads.
"I have been completely surprised by the fans' reactions, it's just amazing," Susan Backlinie said at the clambake on Sunday. Ms. Backlinie, the actress who played Chrissie, the shark's first victim, signed autographs all weekend for the constant stream of fans.
"I have no idea how many I've signed," she said — then posed for another photo.
Jeffrey Kramer, the Hollywood producer who played the role of Chief Brody's deputy in the film, also said he was astonished. "I don't know if I ever understood the fervor this film has created," he said, shaking his head. "It's really pretty incredible."
Even Mr. Benchley seemed taken aback by the weekend's wild frenzy.
"I'm surprised it still has any resonance at all," he said to the Owen Park crowd on Friday night.
But while Mr. Benchley, Ms. Backlinie, Mr. Kramer and Bruce, the replica of the great white that terrorized filmgoers so many summers ago, were in the spotlight this weekend, the fans were the best display of all. Decked out in their homemade Jaws T-shirts, reciting their favorite lines from the movie and reading from their prized first editions of the book, many proved that the line between being a fin-atic and a fin-addict is very thin.
"Well, I spent all the money I had just to get here and camped out in a tent, but meeting the cast and crew has been great and the Amity ball was fantastic, so it was worth it," said Mr. Nicholson from Australia, who earned the distinction of having flown the farthest to attend the weekend festival.
Matt Drinnenberg of Worcester was 14 when he first saw Jaws in 1975, and it changed his life. "The last movie I saw in a theatre before seeing Jaws was Benji," he said. "So it really altered the way I looked at movies. The pacing of the film, the acting, the realism of the characters - it all affected me, and still does."
Mr. Drinnenberg also admitted that he had seen Jaws over a hundred times - an achievement he attained by 1982.
"You just don't ever get tired of watching it," he said.
Sarah Townsend, 20, and her boyfriend traveled here from Chicago, Ill. "This has been so cool," Ms. Townsend said, proudly sporting a Jaws Fest tattoo on her right arm.
"We went down to the pond and I started yelling ‘shark in the pond' like the girl did in the movie and we filmed it. We filmed the whole weekend and I'm going to make my own documentary. I really think I could sell it, maybe on eBay."
But if there had been an award for the most diehard Jaws fan, Ms. Pryor, who came up from Georgia with her aunt, would have taken the prize. Dressed from head to toe in Jaws garb, the 29-year-old was a walking shrine: She donned a custom-made Jaws visor, custom-made Jaws T-shirts (a different one for each day), Jaws earrings from the Universal Studios gift shop in Florida and a Jaws necklace. She said she would have worn her Jaws shoelaces too, if only she could have found some.
"And I have an original copy of the 1975 issue of People magazine with Roy Scheider and the shark on the cover that I bought on eBay," she said.
Just getting to the Island was a remarkable feat in itself for Ms. Pryor. Up until this weekend, she had never been on a plane before.
"I wasn't going to miss this," she said.
As the weekend wore on, the lines between reality and fantasy became more and more blurred. A fan impersonating Quint, the salty sea captain who sets out to kill the great shark, took on an almost mythic quality; by Sunday's clambake, people were chattering about whether Quint liked the chowder or not. He, too, was a popular photo opportunity.
As Ms. Pryor and her aunt prepared to leave the Vineyard and fly back to Georgia, they scurried to secure autographs of those somehow related to the movie that they may have overlooked. When Ms. Pryor bumped into a reporter who had written an article for the fictitious Amity Gazette, she couldn't resist the temptation.
"Can I have your autograph, too?" she asked.
Staff writer Rachel Kovac contributed to this article.