Springfields vie for label of Simpsons hometown

LOS ANGELES: It is common knowledge that The Simpsons live in Springfield, a town populated with doughnut-munching, beer-swilling power-plant employees.

LOS ANGELES: It is common knowledge that The Simpsons live in Springfield, a town populated with doughnut-munching, beer-swilling power-plant employees.

But where Springfield is on the map, exactly, has long been the subject of debate. To capitalize on that ambiguity - and promote its upcoming The Simpsons Movie, due out this summer, 20th Century Fox has challenged Springfields across the nation to prove why they're the "official" home of Homer. The winning city will get to host the film's July 26 premiere.

To qualify, each Springfield - Fox invited 16 of the country's more than 30 Springfields to participate - must submit a three- to five-minute video proclaiming its Simpsons-related credentials. In preparation, Springfields have designed submission Web sites, have urged their citizens to submit ideas, and have held packed-to-the-rafters, idea-generating sessions.

In June, viewers will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite Springfield video, and the real-life Simpsons hometown will be determined, once and for all.

Fox representatives weren't available to comment by press time.

Springfield, OR, efforts were launched with a community brainstorming event and food drive, at which more than 200 people attended, many in costume.

"From a PR aspect, initially, sure there were nerves," said Niel Laudati, Springfield, OR, community and intergovernmental relations coordinator. Considering the characters' at times questionable behavior, "there's definitely a negative connotation," he noted. The key, Laudati added, is to remember that The Simpsons is a cartoon.

"We didn't hesitate a bit," said Ernie Slottag, communications director for Springfield, IL, adding that the competition was "a tremendous tourism benefit."

Citizens have already submitted "500 or 600 comments and thoughts" via a specially launched Web site for the Simpsons campaign, Slottag said. And to prepare a truly outstanding video, he noted, the mayor's office is working closely with the city's convention and visitors bureau, the Springfield Film Commission, and its local Fox affiliate.

In Springfield, MA, "we're embracing it as a community," said Azell Murphy Cavaan, the city's community relations director.

At public meetings, the city has "been inundated [with] input from everybody who knows and loves The Simpsons," she said.

A highlight so far, Cavaan noted, was the day city officials opened the Fox-provided contest box. Packed with a video camera, props, and participation guidelines, she said, everything was laid out on the city's green; a local paper company donated huge celebratory signs, and the entire event was broadcast on live TV.

"The whole city found out together," Cavaan said.

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