When Kansans travel, it is almost a guarantee they will hear several times during their trip references to a certain movie involving a girl, a dog, a tornado, ruby slippers, witches, flying monkeys, munchkins, and a yellow brick road. After a while, it becomes pretty easy to know when that reference is going to hit, for there is a little glimmer in the person’s eyes almost immediately upon learning the traveler’s home state before he/she references that iconic movie.
When I was living in Australia, those references came on a very regular basis because, well, I was in Oz. Sure, I thought it was neat Kansas was in the top five states people knew overseas (the others being California, Florida, New York (really only the city), and Texas), but the Wizard of Oz lines did get old after awhile.
For the first few months, I did the polite Kansas thing and just smiled before quickly changing the subject, but then the snarkiness may have come out with my answers after that:
- Comment: “There’s no place like home.” Answer: “Pretty much true with everywhere really when you start thinking about geography, climate, people, and animals.”
- Comment: “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Answer: “Really? Oh, that silly tornado did it again.”
- Comment: “Where’s your ruby slippers?” Answer: “Back at my place. I didn’t feel like they would go with my outfit. Your thoughts?”
- Comment: “Where’s Toto?” Answer: “He was hit by a garbage truck. Why did you have to bring up that traumatizing event that took years of therapy to get over? Just a second. I have my therapist on speed dial for moments like this.”
My favorite, for it was less snarky, was always when the person would say, “The Home of Dorothy!” and I would quickly and proudly add, “And the Home of Superman!” This perplexed look would fall over their faces. “Smallville, Kansas,” I would say to try to clarify my response. After a “Huh?,” I would talk about Clark Kent/Superman and his boyhood home, which would always lead to their asking, “Where’s Smallville?” My reply was always the same: “There are at least four towns claiming some Oz-related thing, but yet none have claimed Smallville. Crazy, isn’t?” Little did I know during those hundreds of conversations that fate would eventually place me in the real Smallville, Kansas.
Several years ago, the amazing Christopher Wietrick and some of his friends came up with the theory Hutchinson was Smallville. They combed through comics, watched movies, viewed television shows, and researched everything they could for evidence to support their idea. This grassroots effort was fantastic to watch take place as the snowball continued to roll while they spread the word during Third Thursdays, comics, blogs, and news stories. Last year, Hutchinson officially became Smallville thanks to our city council when they renamed the city for a day in honor of Superman being inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame.
This year, the embracement of being Superman’s childhood home grew exponentially with the City Council renaming the town for several days. Third Thursday incorporated it into its events. A sold-out Smallville Pub Crawl took place down town. Concerts for the Cause celebrated it as well on both Friday and Saturday as they raised money for great causes in Reno County. And then there was the very first of many yet to come Smallville ComicCon.
If you are not familiar with ComicCons, they are a convention of sorts in honor of comics, superheroes, sci-fi, and other popular arts with cult followings. Celebrities, writers, artists, vendors, and fans are all in attendance, and the community is amazing with pretty much everyone embracing everyone else. Then, there is Cosplay taking place too, and that is just nifty to see with fans dressing as their favorite pop culture characters as they become celebrities themselves with others running up to them, posing, and getting pictures with them. Friendships and admiration form with these just being a few of the many ingredients that cause that overall feeling of awesomeness to flow through the convention.
Armed in a Superman shirt on Saturday, I went to check out Smallville ComicCon at the Kansas State Fairgrounds. Truth be told, uncertainty rested in my mind of how well this would be attended. That quickly disappeared upon entering the fairgrounds and seeing all of the cars. Without a doubt, the wonderful Jon and Troy Robinson’s creation was a success. Exploring the building, I saw some excellent cosplay, talked to some great artists, listened to some fascinating panels, and enjoyed seeing so many people having an amazing time.
That night was then spent down at Avenue A Park listening to the highly talented Wandering Madman at the Concert for the Cause for the Hutchinson Street Cat Society. The weather was perfect, and I was able to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen for a while as well as meet some other nifty Hutchinson residents as the music flowed through one of the many extremely beautiful places in Reno County.
On Sunday I came dressed in my Least I Could Do Raccoon with a Light Saber T-Shirt (next year, the plan is to go in a costume thanks to one of my former students coming up with a very good idea for me and insisting I had to do it) and had yet another excellent day soaking in everything (especially anything involving the stunningly beautiful and extremely nice Alaina Huffman).
The last few days have been so much fun on so many different levels, and because of Christopher and his efforts, so many people came together, made connections, found out about this great place in Kansas, and changed the culture of not only this city but also the state. As the success of Smallville continues to grow, Kansans are going to find when they travel that one certain movie will not be the only thing referenced.
In fact this just happened to me last May. When I riding the T (aka the subway) in Boston, the guy next to me, after we had been chatting for a bit, asked where I was from, and I simply said Kansas. That glimmer formed, and I prepared myself for a Toto reference. Instead, surprising me completely, he asked, “Do you live near Smallville?” With a grin on my face, I proudly replied, “That’s where I am from.” His smile was huge as he said, “That’s so cool.” And without a doubt, he is right, and this weekend definitely proved that.