Cori Erwin

(Charlotte, N.C.) — Fans of the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” gathered April 14 at Charlotte’s Long Cove Resort to watch the season premiere of the show’s eighth and final season.

The Ice and Fire Festival, which is set to screen every episode of the final season, welcomes guests to sit at a lakeside viewing area and watch the show on a big screen as their favorite characters take their final stand against the Army of the Dead.

Thomas Berland, owner support for the Long Cove Resort, said the first week of the festival was a success despite a last-minute venue change, due to an ominous weather forecast.

“Everybody in there was happy and they had a couple things to eat. We had two killer (food) trucks that were here,” said Berland. “It was supposed to rain and didn’t, so we were all inside…next week, we’ll be on the beach.”

Each week the Ice and Fire Festival events will build on each other and grow more elaborate. For the premiere, guests were located in the Long Cove Resort warehouse, which was set up in preparation for the thunderstorm and tornado warnings that were forecast in the Charlotte area that night.

Fans arrived early, grabbed a beer, got some food or even received a tarot card reading, before camping out to watch the show.

Berland said a costume contest was added to the festival for the April 21 screening.

“I mean I’m Jaime Lannister (a character on the show) on vacation, because I’ve got the long hair, but there’s people coming with some proper ‘Game of Thrones’ outfits,” he said.

Winners of the costume contests will be awarded free stays in the Long Cove Resort’s tiny homes each week.

As the plot thickens and the battle for the Iron Throne rages on, more activities are planned for upcoming screenings, including fire dancers, live music and backyard games.

“This is important though, because this is not just the ‘Game of Thrones,’” said Berland. “I mean, this is a community. It’s a connection. It’s finding like-mindedness. I mean everybody in there has one thing in common: they love the ‘Game of Thrones.’”

Samara Spiegel, a fan of the show who attended the Ice and Fire Festival premiere, said she enjoyed watching the show in a group setting.

“I’m a nerd, so I love other people’s feedback,” said Spiegel. “Nobody in my house watches ‘Game of Thrones’ but me, so yeah. It was awesome.”

Berland said the community atmosphere is part of what makes the festival special for fans.

“Sitting at home, watching it by yourself or with a spouse, versus being in a crowd,” said Berland. “No theater in the country is playing ‘Game of Thrones’ and Long Cove Resort is.”

Spiegel said she plans to continue attending the screenings and she is excited to see where the final season of the show takes her.

“The show just never, you always feel like something great is about to happen, but it doesn’t,” said Spiegel. “Never ceases to amaze me.”