Springfield, Ill., loses out on premiere

Simpsons portrait Steve Contorno

Simpsons portrait Steve Contorno

By John Curran

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Maybe it was the pink doughnut. Maybe it was the clever homemade video, or small-town charm.

Maybe Homer just figured it was time to go green.

Whatever the reason, this much is true: Tiny Springfield, Vt., beat out 13 other like-named cities Tuesday for the right to host the premiere of “The Simpsons Movie,” winning an online poll it wasn’t even invited to participate in.

On July 21, the town’s 100-seat movie theater will play host to the movie, which opens July 27.

“Vermont wins,” read the purple lettering beside the doughnut-chomping patriarch of America’s favorite dysfunctional family on “The Simpsons Movie Springfield Challenge” Web site.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “Ninety-three hundred people, and we won,” said an exultant Town Manager Bob Forguites. “I think it’s pretty neat, myself.”

    Springfields in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee also made bids, submitting videos meant to playfully connect their cities to the fictional Springfield in “The Simpsons.”

    Competition was fierce: Massachusetts got U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy – the inspiration behind the voice of Mayor Quimby on “The Simpsons,” to appear in its entry.

    “Just think,” Kennedy said. “You’ll even be able to enjoy some real chowdah.”

    Vermont’s Springfield – which has a bowling alley, a pub, a prison and a nuclear power plant just down the road – wasn’t initially part of the contest, but a local Chamber of Commerce executive appealed to movie producer 20th Century Fox and the race was on.

    The town submitted a video shot by a 17-year-old volunteer cameraman showing buildings with “Springfield” in them and featuring Homer – played by a Burlington talk-show host – running through town chasing a big, pink, rolling doughnut.

    Eventually, a mob chases him into a movie theater.

    The video was posted on the contest Web site along with the other entries. By midnight Monday, the deadline, 109,582 votes were cast.

    Vermont got 15,367, edging out Springfield, Ill., which drew 14,634.

    Florida’s Springfield got the lowest vote total, 1,386.

    “We’re so excited,” says Patricia Chaffee, vice president of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We came in at the last minute, and for us to win, we feel like the underdogs, which makes this so big and so great for us.”

    Gov. Jim Douglas congratulated the town.

    “This is an exciting, exhilarating moment for Vermonters,” he said. “Perhaps more importantly, it proves there’s really nothing a giant doughnut can’t do. To all the other Springfields, I say ‘Don’t have a cow, man.'”

    The mayor of Springfield, Illinois, the state’s capital city, took the loss like a man, not a cow.

    “We knew all along that it would be a tough battle against the other cities who claim a relationship with the television program,” said Mayor Timothy Davlin. “We in Springfield, Illinois, have enjoyed the notoriety from this exercise and hope that it translates into more people visiting Springfield looking for the Abraham Lincoln sites and the Simpsons.”

    Springfield, Ore., hoped it had an in because “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening is from Portland, the state’s largest city, and many of the show’s landmarks are named after streets in Portland. It noted in its video that “the only Springfield Groening passed through on his way to Hollywood was in Oregon.”

    According to USA Today, which ran the vote on its Web site, the 13 other Springfields that participated will be given small screenings of their own the night before the movie opens nationwide July 27.

    AP writers John O’Connor in Chicago and Aaron Clark in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report