How It Began...
How Hutchinson became
"Smallville, Kansas - The
Home of Clark Kent"
The End of an Era
After starting in 2001, the series "Smallville" came to an end in 2011. One of the most impactful lines of the final episode was, "Always hold on to Smallville" (a reminder to Clark Kent that, without Smallville, he wouldn't have become the hero that Superman is).
A few fans of the television show took this to heart. And, about a year after the show came to a close, an idea was born.
There's a Metropolis.
Why not a Smallville?
"Why isn't there a real town that claims to be Smallville?" This was the question that sparked a quest that, at the beginning, seemed like a dream.
Nevertheless, a group of friends started to imagine, find ways that Smallville compared to their hometown, and started a social media page to spread the idea.
After finding ten to fifteen reasons why Hutchinson was the perfect candidate to become "Smallville, Kansas", a way to share these comparisons became the next goal. It's one thing to explain it. It's another to show it. This led to the creation of the comic that asked the public, "Is this Smallville?" And, the response was a news interview that turned into a viral cause...before the comic ever went public. In September of 2012, the comic and our "Wall of Weird" comparisons was displayed for all, at a monthly event called Third Thursday.
Promotion for the campaign would accelerate and that meant more artwork, more interviews, and our idea finding it's way all across the world through the internet. Going viral is one thing but, we had to present the case to our city and community. We continued to share our story at downtown events and we were receiving a good response.
In October, our story even made it's way to Kevin Smith's podcast, where he defended and supported the idea (WARNING: He's excitable and does drop an F-bomb in the video.)
Winter hit and slowed the campaign a bit (in public events, at least). However, at the end of fall, we were featured in "Hutch Magazine" and that helped sustain our momentum through winter months. Pictured from left to right are: Ben Eisiminger, Christopher Wietrick, and KC McNeely. These three are the minds behind the campaign and continued to promote through the end of the year, through social media, personal interactions and inquiries from the public who had interest and questions. However, the next year and spring couldn't get here fast enough. The idea was spreading and it was time to take it to a new level.
The Campaign for Smallville, Kansas
In the first few months of 2013, we knew we were building some momentum. Our Facebook page had reached 5,000 likes in just a couple months. In March, we were invited to Topeka to meet with members of the Kansas Hall of Fame. They were aware of our campaign, wanted to collaberate with us, and told us of their plans to induct Clark Kent/Superman into the Kansas Hall of Fame, in June. We would stay in contact and look to sync our timing in coming months. This meant it was back to public promotion, new artwork, and plans to make an event out of this new partnership.
In May of 2013, we partnered with Third Thursday to have an event called "Summer in Smallville". Many downtown businesses joined the fun and did Smallville related events. Going back to that first public campaign, we partnered with one of the first families we met, the Robinsons. They helped fill our "Smallville HQ" with costumes and art. We had a costume contest and even had some visitors from Australia. It was at this point, we knew that this idea had some weight.
It was time to try and convince the city of the meaning and potential an actual proclamation could do for the community.
On June 4, 2013, the idea was presented to the Hutchinson City Council. We took a petition with hundreds of names, several pages of testemonials from the public about why this was a cool idea, and explained how it coordinated with the Hall of Fame induction, later in the month.
On June 18, 2013...after a 5-0 vote of approval by the council...we received the first EVER proclamation to be known as "Smallville, Kansas - The Home of Clark Kent", on June 21.
That same day, in Topeka, Clark Kent/Superman was inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame.
And, we had a lot of fun at our Third Thursday celebration.
Now...it was time to look toward the future.
What is the mission of "Smallville, Kansas"? What will next year bring?
The Start of a Town's Yearly Tradition
After the success of the previous summer, we knew that this had the potential of becoming a yearly celebration. In recent years, our town's summer festival had declined and would be in it's final year. This new interest in our town was a perfect reason to start a new, yearly tradition that could become an event, not just for the town but, for tourists as well.
The First Smallville
We needed more than just a reason to celebrate being the "Home of Clark Kent" and, after working with local businesses, the festival became a mission of fun, community, recognizing local heroes with a message that anyone could be a hero, by the smallest of actions. We received a second proclamation and the first festival was a big success, taking place during the third week of June. Events included: honoring first responders and health care workers, a costume contest, two days of concerts in our downtown park, businesses doing superhero themed events, artist booths, vendors, and a food drive for the local food bank. Anyone that donated recieved a "Smallville, KS HERO" bracelet. Art was also auctioned off, with proceeds going to our local Boys and Girls Club.
The First Smallville
One of the first families we met, when the campaign began, was the Robinsons: Jon, his wife Heather, his son Kal-El, and his brother Troy. After the first proclamation, in 2013, we coordinated with Jon, as he was creating the first comic convention for our town. We held the Smallville Festival on a Thursday and Friday and the first Smallville Con happened that weekend. It was a fresh, fun, amazing event to add to our celebration. The first convention featured some guests who had appeared in "Smallville", "Superman", and other shows): Phil Morris (Martian Manhunter), Alaina Huffman (Black Canary), Aaron Smolinski (Baby Kal-El in Superman: The Movie), and Michael Coleman (Happy in "Once Upon A Time"). This first convention had a huge variety of artists, writers, vendors, cosplayers and panels. It was a big success and helped prove how impactful being "Smallville, Kansas" could be to our town.
During that first Smallville Festival and Comic Convention, Hutchinson/Smallville was even featured on "The Wil Wheaton Project". Although, it was mostly for fun and jokes, it made for added publicity for our town and events. You can see the clip here, starting at the 16:56 mark.
2015 - Present
The Tradition Grows!
Since the first proclamation, in 2013, this has become a yearly tradition. In 2022, we receive our tenth proclamation. 2023 will mark the 10th Anniversary of being proclaimed as "Smallville, Kansas".
The Smallville Festival has seen some changes over the years. It went from being organized by a few people, to a couple years of struggling, to an offer by Hutch Rec to take over the planning and orgainization of the event, in coordination with Third Thursday. This has been a great decision as, over the past few events, the festival gets more sponsors, more events, and more attendence. This year's festival is packed with events and fun activities and could be the biggest one yet. Find a link to the event page in the CONTACT tab above.
Smallville Con has continued to grow and attract new audiences and more tourism. Over the years, guest celebrities have included: Helen Slater (Supergirl), Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars), Katrina Law (Arrow), Lee Meriwether (Batman TV series), Dean Cain (Adventures of Lois and Clark), Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) and many, many more. Despite the setbacks of the pandemic and having to cancel the event for two years, this year, it's back and bigger than ever. This is such an amazing event for our town, pop culture fans, artists and vendors and is unlike many of the big city cons. It truly has a family friendly, small town feel...with some big events and celebrities.
For more information on this year's event, visit the link on the CONTACT page.