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Accelerated Evolution

Simpsons Hometown finally revealed


Cleese

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After 18 seasons of suspense, it was revealed Tuesday that Homer and the rest of "The Simpsons" live in Springfield, Vt.

In a stunning upset, the small town in southeastern Vermont beat much larger rivals from Massachusetts, Illinois and 11 other states in a contest to determine the "real" setting of the popular animated show. For winning, Vermont's Springfield will host the premiere of "The Simpsons Movie" on July 21 at the Springfield Movie Theatre on Main Street.

"I was very surprised and a little overwhelmed," said Patty Chaffee, head of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We kind of went in as the underdog."

In fact, the town went in uninvited. It was included after Chaffee called 20th Century Fox a few weeks after the contest was announced.

"I think the fact that we won after not being invited is great," said Brock Rutter, assistant director of the Vermont Film Commission.

Chaffee said the town would probably plan a party for the premiere, but it was too early to nail down details. She hadn't heard names yet, but said the movie's filmmakers and studio representatives would attend the premiere.

Even though the first glimpse will have a Green Mountain backdrop, the other 13 towns did receive a consolation prize: a limited screening July 26, the night before the movie opens nationwide.

Since 1990, the Simpsons have lived in an imaginary Springfield in America, although the state was never identified. To determine the actual city, each town submitted a short video that was posted on USA Today's Web site, where the show's fans could vote.

Springfield, Vt., garnered 15,367 votes -- about 6,000 votes more than the town's population -- to beat Springfield, Ill., by 733 votes. Springfield, Ore., came in third, and Springfield, Mass., was fourth.

Vermont's resume tape parodied the introduction to each Simpsons' episode, complete with Homer chasing an inflatable plastic doughnut. The Chamber of Commerce, along with the Vermont Film Commission and the town of Springfield, helped produce the video. Rutter said the clip gave the town a chance against the bigger Springfields.

"Obviously, we were glad for the great in-state support we got," he said, "but Vermont's a small state, and we wouldn't have won if we hadn't had the best video."

A few similarities to the fictional show also didn't hurt. The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon is about 45 minutes away from Springfield -- Homer Simpson works at a nuke plant. The town's only bar, McKinley's, also has a newfound cousin: the fictional Moe's Tavern. Noting the bar's numerous regulars, McKinley's bartender Caroline Bye saw similarities.

"Yeah, I guess there is a connection," she said, laughing. "We know everybody that comes in."

NEWS RAISES A RUCKUS

It didn't take long for word to spread through Springfield that it will host "The Simpsons Movie" premiere.

The town has only 9,300 people, and for a burg with one movie theater and a main street anchored by the public library, the news was big.

Liz Clapperton, a waitress, heard the news on the phone from her excited 14-year-old son, Jordan.

"My son was yelling, "We won, we won, we won!" Clapperton said. "We won what? The megabucks? That's what I thought the way he was screaming."

Vermont's Springfield and 13 other Springfields across the country submitted videos to convince voters on USAToday.com that they should host the premiere.

Judi Martin taped giant yellow letters on the Springfield Copy Center's front window announcing, "We won," in case there was any doubt.

Martin couldn't remember the last time anything created such a stir in town.

"I heard a little scuttlebutt at the bank," she said. "People were buzzing, not that it takes much to buzz in a small town."

Vermont's Gov. Jim Douglas, who voted Monday, offered condolences to the town's 13 rivals: "To all the other Springfields, I say. 'Don't have a cow, man.'"

Vermont > All.

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