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Hundreds of teens in Aurora ravenous for ‘Hunger Games’

Actor Josh Hutcherspoints crowd while promoting upcoming movie release 'The Hunger Games' Westfield Fox Valley Mall Wednesday March 7 2012

Actor Josh Hutcherson points to the crowd while promoting the upcoming movie release of "The Hunger Games" at Westfield Fox Valley Mall on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 in Aurora. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 8, 2012 10:31AM

AURORA — If you walked into the Westfield Fox Valley mall on Wednesday afternoon with your sense of hearing intact, odds are it was gone by the time you left.

The screams of hundreds of “Hunger Games” fans filled the shopping center where the movie’s stars — Josh Hutcherson, who plays the lead male role of Peeta; Isabelle Fuhrman, who portrays Clove; and Jacqueline Emerson, who plays Foxface — showed up for a promotional appearance.

The film trilogy, produced by Lionsgate, centers around themes of oppression, war, love and survival in the future. Based on the best-selling series by Suzanne Collins, “The Hunger Games” is scheduled to be released March 23.

At the mall, anticipation was in the air.

Naperville resident Diana Aguilar, 14, woke up early Wednesday morning to secure her spot in the meet-and-greet line. The teen was camped out at 6 a.m. for the stars’ 5 p.m. signing at Hot Topic.

The 11-hour wait, Aguilar said, was no sweat. She was all smiles as she walked out of the store with her signed poster.

“It was totally worth it. I saw Josh, and he was beautiful,” she said.

Lisa Severini, 13, and Kileen Albright, 14, traveled from Gurnee to get some face-time with their on-screen idols. The friends darted to Aurora as soon as school let out, unfazed by the hour-and-a half drive. It was obvious that the event was a big deal for these two fans.

Wearing matching, handmade “Hunger Games” shirts, the girls gushed about their love of the series, which Severini said she has read as many as 10 times. And while that might seem overboard, for fans, the series is captivating. Aguilar, who read all three books in six days, wasn’t much of a reader before she got her hands on the “Hunger Games.” She finished the third installment as she waited in line on Wednesday.

Hundreds of other hysterical fans had “Hunger Games” fever, as well. They pushed their way up against metal barricades, and stole every last inch along the balcony on the mall’s second floor, hoping for a view. Security crews were out in full force as the crowd swelled. Fans waved posters and held books in their hands, hoping for an autograph.

Their screams intensified as the stars’ appearance drew near, and girls were going gaga over Hutcherson.

“We want to meeta Peeta (Hutcherson’s character),” one girl scrawled on a sign she waved around with excitement.

“I love Josh,” a half-dozen others read.

Nick Theodor and his 5-year-old son Jonny didn’t know what was happening when they showed up to shop Wednesday evening.

“Half of Aurora is here,” the Oswego dad said with a smile. The two decided to stay once Jonny realized Hutcherson was a character in one of his favorite films, “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

“I had no clue it would be like this,” Nick Theodor said. “I’ve never seen anything like this at all.”

Neither had several other teens who showed up on time Wednesday, instead of insanely early.

“Shut ... up!” one girl shouted as she caught her first glimpse of the crowd, which was now taking over the center of the mall. “I guess we should have showed up earlier.”

The sentiment was echoed by hundreds of other fans who held cameras held high over their heads, and the crowd around them, in hopes of catching at least a snapshot of the stars.

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