The first annual Smallville SuperFest was held in Plano, Illinois on August 17-19, 2012. It featured bands, vendors, and attractions for Superman fans of all ages.
Plano was chosen for Smallville SuperFest, because it is the site of “Smallville” in the 2013 “Man of Steel” movie. It was “within the distance that they were looking for from the city…we had the perfect set-up to be able to build the set on the other side…it was the perfect fit,” said Susan Bennett, Vendor Manager, who volunteered to handle, staff and set up booths, as well as set up food. The actual filming was completed in August of 2011. “Location managers visited with me to talk about doing the movie here. After we went through all the process to have the movie filmed here…there was so much excitement and pride from the community…that I thought that we should have a festival to commemorate that,” said Mayor Bob Hausler. Jim Martens became involved when the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce built a committee to develop the idea. “That’s why we picked this, because we’re building fest grounds exactly where they built their buildings,” said Jim Martens, Smallville SuperFest Event Director. “I can definitely say that if they hadn‘t filmed the movie here we would not be here today.”
By September of 2011, ideas for planning Smallville SuperFest began to surface. “On Facebook. We had a Facebook conference, and Bob [Hausler] was talking about coming up with the name for it. We all voted on it,” said Brad Gardner, who volunteered to be the Logo and Graphics Coordinator. Within a matter of weeks, about twenty people voted for a logo, out of ten that were proposed. Gardner explained the inspiration for the logo, “[It] jumps off of the page with that shadowing on it. Kind of a comic book-inspired thing. The very townscape…it looks like the city. I went and took a photograph of the downtown, and then copied it, with the water tower in the back, because I think the water tower is going to have something to do with the movie. That‘s just Smallville, USA. Old-fashioned downtown.” “I printed up the signs and designed the banners and all the stuff…posters,” said Gardner.
“In February, it came to a point where we knew our time was getting short to get all this stuff booked. We hadn’t made any contacts; we just had an idea. Even in February, August is very close…we just started, in February, just making as many contacts as we could, and just setting things up, and our goal was to get everybody to come and do something,” said Martens. “We’ve been [planning]…I think we’ve been at it at least 6 months…6…7…months…for the Fest,” said Susan Bennett, Vendor Manager. “Give thanks to the 20 or so people in the SuperFest committee that showed up once a month and got these meetings accomplished. As with any committee, sometimes it’s hard to get things done, but we managed to always just work through all the problems and get things done and taken care of,” said Martens. “We’ve had two to three meetings a week. At first, we didn’t really know anything about running a fest, and just through meeting with different people, different peoples’ involvement in different fests, everybody just came together, and tried to learn everything that we needed to learn in order to put on a successful fest. We went to other fests, to see what they were doing, and just tried to really put on something that the community would enjoy coming to,” said Bennett. The first few meetings were just to come up with a name for the event. According to Martens, the easiest part of planning Smallville SuperFest was passing it through the city council. However, there were challenges along the way. “Everything took a lot of time. Some things seem easy, and they just don’t come together the way you expect them to, and you try force them to work out, when sometimes you just need to let them happen…I’m just glad everything has come together, and we’re here today, and the weather is beautiful.” According to Martens, “We worked with local carnivals to build vendors lists and book vendors for this. We tried to give everyone a little bit of exclusivity, where we’re not overbooking the same types of things…”
A volunteer rally 2 weeks before the festival involved almost forty people, including twenty-five volunteers and ten committee members. This group organized the festival for August 17, and there was a similar turnout for August 18. “Plenty of people on hand to help out with everything that needs to get done for something like this. A lot of it was getting the stage set up, and the band [Friday night], and then of course running the information tent, and just trying to get the word out of what we have going on here,” said Martens. “We’ve got radio spots, we’ve got some friends at a couple of different radio stations, local people, local newspapers, we’ve been in the Chicago Tribune, the mayor’s been interviewed I don’t know how many times by the people in the Tribune. There was an article Friday morning in the Tribune. We’ve had flyers and posters all over, everywhere, anywhere we could put them, we put them,” said Gardner. “We got a great group of volunteers together that formed a fantastic committee that made all this happen,” said Mayor Hausler.
Smallville SuperFest featured bands Jody Upp, Friends of Fife, The Brothers of Absolution, Ryan Mumby, Mr. Johnson, Blue Shield, Reason to Believe, and Orion Nine. It also featured food vendors, including Frank Michaels, who inquired about doing the event, and said that he would love to be part of Smallville SuperFest in the future, “If they keep having it, absolutely, we’ll be part of it. I hope this festival keeps on getting better, and better, and better…Sue Aurmour…did a superb job,” said Michaels. Chris Johnson, a t-shirt vendor, said that he loves Superman’s appeal as the “All-American Person.” He became a Superman fan by “…having the movie shot here, and getting to watch it be filmed, and getting to be part of it.”
There were many attractions at Smallville SuperFest, including a ‘Super Zipline,’ that would allow people at the festival to fly like Superman, down Main Street. According to Mayor Hausler, approximately three hundred people went on the Zipline, “From 3:00 to 7, and there was a steady line all during that time.” He said that it was “a city-block long, and about 40 feet high.” Another event was ‘Fishing With the Mayor,’ which is an event that began a few years ago, when Bob Hausler became Mayor of Plano. “Oh, that was very much fun. That was a very successful event. I would say we had around 70 kids participating,” said Mayor Hausler, “Illinois DNR has a program that loans fishing poles, and so I had 100 fishing poles from DNR, we have sponsors that buy the bait, we have what we call a little shore lunch. We have sponsors providing water, Gatorade, hot dogs, and potato chips, and it‘s a family event that we do, and we welcome parents to bring their young kids down. We also have a lot of volunteers to help the kids. It‘s held at one of our city parks, that we have a little pond that we stock before the event every year with little gills, so the kids have fish willing to bite their hook, and it‘s a fun event. [Saturday], we had several kids that had never fished before, that got their first fish, and [they were] all excited.” The ‘Villain’s Jail,’ was a charity event, from which all of the proceeds went to the Christopher Reeve Foundation. “Our local Rural King’s store sponsored that event, and different people were chosen to be in the jail, and then there was a certain amount of money that they would have to donate to bond out, or people could have them sit in longer if they contributed…All the proceeds from that went to the Christopher Reeve Foundation. We‘ve had a great mixture of those types of events for charity organizations…we’ve had a great mixture of charity type,” said Mayor Hausler. “Somebody had Superman arrested. He was in there, and he didn’t have any money because he doesn’t have any pockets in his outfit, so he had a tin cup that he was hanging over the side, and collecting quarters from people, and he got $20 to get out,” said Gardner. A ‘Bike Safety Rodeo’ was set up, “That was held over here in the parking lot. That’s something that our police department did. They set up a course, they have all kinds of different props of houses and streets and things, and that’s [a] pretty cool-looking course that they set up, because of the props and that. They showed the kids the proper way to cross the street and bike safety,” said Mayor Hausler. A ‘SuperFest Strongman Contest’ was held, for which applicants could sign up in advance at Snapfitness, and could audition for placement in one of eight categories. The most popular attraction, according to Mayor Hausler and Gardner, “Other than Brad’s cutouts, that he made of Superman, that people can put their heads on, and look like either Supergirl or Superboy…the flag, probably, and all the vendors…[The] Zipline, where people could fly down Main Street. That was very popular.” Charlee Chartrand, who portrayed Superman at the Smallville SuperFest, has some ideas for Smallville SuperFest next year, “something that they paid for to come here…something that Plano actually wanted to bring themselves…they paid for a company to bring a Zipline here…that was so much fun.” Other attractions included volunteers who showed up dressed as Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, the Blur, Superman, and Superboy. There was also face painting, edible Kryptonite, and Smallville SuperFest key chains. “When they were doing the movie and had the town closed down, so many people were coming to town that a lot of businesses made their own t-shirts. So you can see a lot of people have these other old t-shirts that are from last year that are somewhat Superman-related…there was fifteen different styles of t-shirts that were made last year, which kind of started us on what we were doing for our merchandize for this year,” said Martens.
Patti Mann, the Assistant Event Coordinator, who has lived in Plano for 19 years, was caught up in the excitement of the movie coming to town. “[Superman is the] Superhero…American Way,” said Mann. This festival is something for Plano, that brought the community together. She said that she will definitely be volunteering for Smallville SuperFest next year, “Yes, absolutely, it’s been a very positive experience.”
Chartrand became involved in Smallville SuperFest after he won a costume contest in Metropolis for being dressed as evil Superman (Superman III). He is originally from St. Louis, and is known as “The St. Louis Superman.”
He explained Superman’s appeal to so many people, “He’s a good role model. He’s a perfect role model. He’s good to look up to. When I was a kid, aside from looking up to what he could do as Superman, I looked up to him more because of how he did it, because he’s a good person, not just his super-powers…a lot of people overlook that.” Chartrand’s interest in Superman began when he was a child, “…pajamas as a kid. [I] first got my glimpse of a pertinent person Superman when I saw Christopher Reeve fighting Nuclear Man, and I loved the fact of him with the flag, and showing off the nation…and it escalated into this.” He remembers watching “The Adventures of Superboy,” with Gerard Christopher and Stacey Haiduk, as well as the Justice League; Gerard Christopher was his inspiration.
The most challenging part of playing Superman, said Chartrand, is the suit. “People are going to challenge you to stay in character. They are literally going to find anything they can get you on. It’s all about knowing what to say and how to say it. Especially here in Plano, people kept telling me ‘fly,’ ‘do this,’ ‘do that.’ The adults play along with you, because you want to make the child believe as much as possible. It’s all about making sure that you don’t break the code of being in costume, like admitting your real name or pulling out your cell phone.”
“I just loved the idea of a city taking advantage of something that they’ve been given. When I see someone on the streets, as an impersonator, and I say ‘Hey, you know, have you ever been told you look like so-and-so?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yes, of course,’ I’ll say, ‘Please, take advantage of it. You look like this for a reason.’ Plano was chosen to be Smallville…it wasn’t luck…they were chosen for a reason…they have a gift, because, obviously, that gift will be shown in the movie. So, they should take advantage of what they were given. This city can thrive on the annual festival, and they deserve the recognition,” said Chartrand.
If he could be any member of the “Smallville” cast, it would be Tom Welling. “I definitely see his struggles through life.” He also said that he would like to meet Terence Stamp, “I want to meet Terrance Stamp. His view of going from General Zod to learning how to be a role to Tom Welling as Jor-El…aside from meeting him, I want to ask him, it’s like, ‘How was that?’ The critics…when they found out that they picked General Zod to be Jor-El…that show was like, ‘What’s wrong with you? You picked a villain to be his dad. It’s terrible. You should have picked someone who looked like Marlon Brando.’ I want to know how that was for him,” said Chartrand. If he could change anything about Superman, “I would give Henry Cavill a pair of trunks…I would brighten up his blue, and make that gold a shiny brass yellow.” Chartrand has some ideas for Smallville SuperFest next year, “Yeah, get a guest. Like a big-time themed guest…now something that sticks to Smallville itself, not Metropolis. And eventually, after years to come, they can get guests that actually represent the movie ‘Man of Steel,’ and then they can turn that into a ‘Man of Steel’ propped museum. Yeah, that would be a good idea.” His favorite of the Superman movies is Superman IV, “As far as movies, I like Superman IV, because of the purpose of the movie and how he wrote it. Christopher Reeve actually put the most of that movie then from the other three. Because of the ‘Quest For Peace,’ with the weaponry and making the world a better place, and he had someone he could punch around. So, that was fun. And, relating to that, I appreciated it when they had Christopher Reeve appear as Dr. Virgil Swann. [Clark] actually found out who he really was. The expression that Tom put toward realizing kind of, ‘What?’ I loved his reaction to that; he played that perfectly. Because the truth hurts; and sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s good for you, you just don‘t realize it. ‘Smallville’ made that episode true to life…you need to face your values…get it straight…get it done…or don’t get it at all, and he did a good job of that.” His favorite ‘Superboy’ episode is “the episode where Lana found out about his real powers…John Haymes Newton…he made the perfect Clark, and Gerard made the perfect Superman. John made a great Clark…they managed to find someone who could fill the role. For me, best Superboy…Gerard; best Superman would be Christopher; I liked Annette as Lana, and Margot as Lois. I appreciated Superman III as well. My two favorite parts were…evil Superman was good…and I loved Annette O’Toole. I liked Annette O’Toole…Lana literally had that old-fashioned feel to her, and she carried that into her role as Martha Kent. I think she was the perfect Martha Kent.”
Chartrand has met a few Superman legends throughout the years, “Ilya Salkind…I actually got a chance to meet him 2…3 years ago, and he saw me in this, and he’s like, ‘Good Superboy…you look like Gerard. Oh, that reminds me…[the ‘Adventures of Superboy’] they are going to come out soon, so please be patient.’”
Aside from the main Superman characters, Chartrand has some favorite supporting characters as well, “For me, Superboy…Connor Kent. I really love the costume with the leather jacket, and the…shades. It’s good to see a teenage feel-good Superman that stands for the same thing that younger kids can relate to.”
“Don’t be ashamed of a Superman costume you want to make, because when I first decided to be Superman, it was in high school, senior year, my dad bought me a suit three sizes too big, and I originally wanted to be Austin Powers…[dad] was one who inspired me…to become Superman. The reaction from the people…they loved it. They applauded someone trying something new, and being themselves, and showing their true colors. To the people out there, don’t hold yourself back…do what you want…go off on a limb, always fight for what you believe in. That first moment of wearing that Superman costume…I will never forget. Anyone who’s a Superman fan, who wants to experience anything similar to that…never hold back on your dream of anything related to comics or an idol that you have…Three words have always gotten me by in life, ‘You never know,’” Chartrand said.
Colleen Egan, who portrayed Lana Lang at Smallville SuperFest, said that her first memories of ‘Superman’ were in the 1980s, from the Christopher Reeve movies. “It’s the character of him…it’s not just the powers…it’s the hope. It‘s the kind of person that you want to know. It‘s somebody to look up to. It‘s his character.” She explains her favorite version of ‘Superman,’ “All the Christopher Reeve movies from the ‘80s, from Superman all the way up to Superman IV. It was probably mostly Superman II…I could watch that over and over.” The most challenging parts of her role as Lana Lang are, “probably putting together the roles of the…Lanas that I didn’t know. I didn’t know the Lana from the comic books…I didn’t know Stacey Haiduk from the ‘Superboy’ series. The Lana that I knew was from the Smallville TV show. Going out and researching the information, trying to figure all that out, trying to put the costume together. And then, also, knowing that the costume that I was creating…was mostly kind of modeled after the…Smallville show…getting the colors right…it’s a learning tool for next year for recreating the costume and kind of learning from the first time around.” She then began reading Superman Origins, which soon became her favorite comic, “it was kind of like 5 or 6 different stories of his life…his childhood…high school with Lana…and then there was a section of him and Lex, and Metropolis life…it was kind of like a one-on-one for people trying to relearn some of the things they once knew. That has become my current favorite.”
Egan’s inspiration for Lana Lang comes from a few portrayals of the character, “Stacey Haiduk and Annette O’Toole…and a little bit of Kristen Kreuk, and just in the aspect of…the necklace that I‘m wearing. That‘s just kind of a prop…’the reason why he can‘t fly today’…‘It‘s just enough to where he can‘t fly.’” If she was to change anything, it would be to, “…make some new storyline where Lana’s more important than Lois…she needs some thunder, too.” If she could meet anyone from the Superman universe, “If Christopher Reeve were still around, it would be great to meet him and Margot Kidder together. Annette O’Toole is another one…just because I play the Lana role now…she was Lana Lang in Superman III. I would love to meet…Allison Mack.” She would like to be Chloe Sullivan, “her job as WatchTower…I feel like I would like to be that role,” and would like to meet Tom Welling, Annette O’Toole, and Erika Durance. Her favorite “Smallville” episode is “Power,” and her favorite “Superboy” episode is “Pilot.” She describes her favorite portrayal of Lana Lang, “The scene with [Annette O’Toole] and Christopher Reeve [in Superman III] after the prom was over. They were having this conversation back and forth. They were off-track. He would say one thing, and she would finish the conversation…I always loved all the scenes of him and Lana together. I loved Annette O‘Toole as Lana. Right now, Superboy, for me, would have to be John Haymes Newton. I always liked Christopher Reeve…[Superman Returns] is beautifully done…that guy does a really good job…he actually brought the character back to life. Then, meeting him in Metropolis…he is very gracious and he’s very like kind of meek and mild…so I was always hoping that, if they ever did another Superman movie, they’d be able to find somebody like him.” Egan also has favorite supporting characters, “I still want to do a female Green Arrow version…the one I do know is Green Arrow…so he’s one of my favorites.”
She agrees that the Super Zipline was the biggest attraction during Smallville SuperFest, “That was probably the biggest event that they had going here…it brought in such a huge crowd.” For next year’s Smallville SuperFest, “…they’re going to have the next year…to plan…to figure out what they want to do differently…a couple of them actually went down to Metropolis this past year, to get some of the ideas for this year. I’m sure they probably already have done everything that they possibly could to…with the time that they had.”
Originally from Washington, D.C., she found out about Smallville SuperFest through Chartrand. “Being able to be a part of it is amazing. Coming here [is a] very welcoming, warm hometown, and the people here have just been so accepting of outsiders. It‘s amazing to have a place like this to celebrate the series that we all love so much…whether it‘s a series, or a movie, or a comic.”
“Don’t let it go…if people have dreams to do something like this…go with it…you never know,” said Egan.
When the “Man of Steel” was filmed, four city blocks were occupied; Smallville SuperFest only occupied two-and-a-half, but the Smallville SuperFest committee plans to extend it next year. “Oh, absolutely. The whole idea was to get it started this year, but I don’t think any of us anticipated the success of this year’s. We wanted to make a small event to start out with, and have it manageable, and then grow. But the reception and the participation of the residents and the other citizens of neighboring communities and that and people that we’ve had come from St. Louis and Chicago and those places. We just want to keep growing and making it better,” said Mayor Hausler. “We definitely expect to extend the fest grounds for next year. We‘re prepared to make it a little bit bigger for next year,” said Martens, who said that the committee plans to began building vendor and artists clients in January. “[We are] looking forward to the release of “Man of Steel,” June 14, we plan on doing something at that time…to coordinate with the movie release, and leading into next year‘s second annual Smallville SuperFest 2013. I’d have to say we’ll have more vendors; we plan to extend the festival.” “The committee will meet again, and talk over the things that were successful, and any changes that need to be done to make it a better event. This type of a thing is a big learning experience. Most everything has gone very smooth, a lot better than I think any of us would have anticipated, but there’s always things that you can improve on. With the movie being released, there are a lot of things that we can add. I think [the movie] will just add to the excitement. We definitely are planning another celebration…like this,” said Mayor Hausler.
There are parts of the “Man of Steel“ filming that will always reside in Plano, “There are some things…artwork that they left on some business windows. The big American flag down here is one…great, big flag on the side of the building…big, big huge flag on the whole side of the building…two stories tall…you can’t miss it. This-and-that little incidental things. On the doorway of this building, there’s a ‘Smallville Town Hall’ painted on there…it still says that. It’s got a Kansas area code on the phone. ‘We’re not in Kansas, anymore,’” said Gardner. Superman will always be a role model for Plano, “Everyone wants to relate to a Superhero, somebody that’s all good, that does all the good things,” said Bennett.
“Once the movie is released, Warner Brothers has told me that they would give us some items from the movie. They‘ve already given me some things that I can‘t display yet until the movie’s released. My plans are to open up the west end of this building and having a display of ‘Man of Steel’…some of the props from that. I think we‘ll be in a lot better position to do that next year once the movie is released,” said Mayor Hausler. “I came up with the idea for festival, got the community together…it was a group decision. I got the group together. I think everything’s been very positive, and it brings out a lot of pride in our community and a lot of excitement, and I think our citizens would like to see this keep growing, and be a part of our history. This is just another huge accomplishment that the city of Plano and its residents have done.” He is open to the idea of future superhero movies being shot in Plano, “We don’t know. There was a little talk of sequels, but nothing, nothing firm. Nothing official. We would be happy for that…to see that. With the experience that we’ve had with, with the filming and that, I think they would be welcomed to come back,” said Mayor Hausler. “We would do anything we could to work with that happening,” said Martens. “We can certainly take an idea of doing something else related…we’ll build something for the release.”
“I’m just proud of the fact that we were chosen to be ‘Smallville’…Truth, Justice, and the American Way is what Plano is. We are a Small Midwest town with Midwest values,” said Mayor Hausler. Martens expects two thousand people to attend Smallville SuperFest this year, but definitely thinks it will exceed that.