Last month, Springfield, Vt., gained national and international recognition when it was tapped to host the July premiere of “The Simpsons Movie.” In an online USA Today competition, the 9,300-resident town beat 13 other municipalities named Springfield (the fictional community where the Simpsons live) that were vying to be the official home of the dysfunctional cartoon family. American City & County talked with Springfield Town Manager Bob Forguites about preparing for the event and how hosting the premiere has helped the town.
Q: What did the town have to do to win the competition?
A: The town and [the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce] put together a video [showing] Homer [Simpson] chasing this giant pink-frosted donut around town. [Homer] goes by Springfield Savings and Loan, in and out of Springfield Library [and] various places [with the] name Springfield [displayed]. Ultimately, there are people in town that are upset with Homer because he is making a nuisance of himself and they chase him with clubs and brooms. [Homer] ends up at the Springfield Theater, and just at that moment, someone comes out of the theater and says, “Come on in. The movie is starting,” as if it is going to be “The Simpsons Movie.”
Q: How is Springfield, Vt., similar to or different from the fictional Springfield that is featured in “The Simpsons?”
A: There are some similarities, [such as] businesses that have the name “Springfield” on them. We don't have a nuclear power plant in Springfield, [but] we do have one just down the interstate [within] driving distance, so Homer could live here, work there [and] drive back and forth without a problem. You can associate probably some of the characters that you see in The Simpsons with people in town. That's not negative, you can just do it.
Q: Who helped prepare for the event?
A: A number of us were all working together, including people from the state, the Vermont Film Commission, Vermont Economic Development [and the] Vermont Chamber [of Commerce], and we pulled it off in 10 days. Through a cooperative effort between the Vermont State Police, the county sheriff's department and the town, we were prepared [for parking and traffic].
Q: How many people came to Springfield, Vt., for the premiere?
A: The figures that I've heard were 4,000 to 5,000 people. We had absolutely no idea of how many to expect, and we were hearing estimates that we could have had 10,000 people there. We had a good crowd. It filled the downtown square area where the theater is and a bank parking lot where the festivities took place. We had about 30 vendors with food, T-shirts [and] gift items. It turned out to be a really good day.
Q: How has the premiere benefitted the town?
A: The name [Springfield, Vt.,] is out there worldwide now. Each October, we have an apple festival during apple harvest season, and I think that we probably will have a bigger crowd this year than we normally do. People will be here for the apple festival, but they also will be here because it's the home of the Simpson family. [The movie studio] gave us this large yellow hand on a pedestal holding a pink, frosted donut; it's probably about 8 feet tall. That is in a little park in front of the Springfield Theater. It obviously won't be there forever, but it will be there, I would say, probably throughout the fall foliage season. Everyday, there are people having their picture taken with the yellow hand and pink donut.