Like the inaugural event, this year's fete has attracted mostly female fans - "some drag a husband or a boyfriend along," says Petri - and not just from the D.C. area. Fans have traveled from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and California this year. The number will more than double that of 1999: 18 fans bought advance tickets for the movies, 10 for the convention. Though the festival got under way yesterday, tickets for both events are still available, and fans are encouraged to bring magazines, pictures and videos for sale or trade.
One who won't make the scene is Val himself. Perhaps because its origins are so modest - the organizers first met in online chat rooms - the fest has never sent the 41-year-old star an invitation. And given his reputation as a temperamental artist, there's no indication he'd come or enjoy himself if he did.
But for fans who can't get to Fairfax, there is still considerable access. The Web sites Planet Kilmer (www.planetkilmer.com) and The Kilmer Zone (www.kzone.anickof time.ca), not to mention the festival's site (members.aol.com/VKFF2000), are chock-full of Val arcana. Where else would you learn, for example, that Val married "Willow" co-star Joanne Whalley in 1988, divorced her in 1995 and dated Cindy Crawford in 1996? Or that he was the youngest actor ever admitted to Juilliard (he was 17), and that nearly 20 years later, his "Batman" director, Joel Schumacher, would call him "the most psychologically disturbed human being I have ever worked with"?
But for true Val fanatics, the fest experience is hard to beat.
Conventioneers will savor hard-to-get videos such as "One Too Many," a 1985 ABC Afterschool Special starring Kilmer, and three documentaries on the making of "The Ghost and the Darkness," an epic filmed on location in Africa. Through films, magazines and discussions, their image of the elusive star will take fuller shape.
Mostly, though, they'll just enjoy the company of fellow Val-maniacs who might otherwise be less than willing to share their fervent tastes.
"It's hard being a `Lone Ranger' for Val," says Chris Henke, of Erie, Pa. "To share [that love] is an awesome experience. You finally realize it: `I am not alone.' "
More information on the festival, call 703-328-6798, or visit http://members.aol.com/VKFF2000.