Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Superman Celebration 2014

Ah Summertime...
3 months of Sunburns, Speeding Tickets, and Family

Per usual it was time for my annual trek 179 miles north to Metropolis, Il. Ever since Father's Day of 2009 it has been a tradition for my daughter and I to head North to the little river town known as "The Home of Superman" in Southern Illinois. Every year we prepare our Griswaldian family t-shirts and wait patiently for the second full weekend of June to come around. In the present economic climate, full weeks of vacation can be harder to come by and the short roadtrip always offers a solid weekend of quality Daddy/Daughter time. This was a special year for sure. My son was just born on May 1st, and of course was too little to attend with any benefit to himself this year, but we stayed strong to keep the trip alive for traditions sake. Someday, LittleBigMan... someday...

We headed up HWY 51 to Paducah, Ky where we stay every year at Drury Inns & Suites, as we always do. The staff has remained consistent for years as well as courteous and helpful and damned good at their job... Being called by your name as you pass through for breakfast adds a touch of royalty on our modest roadtrip. Its right on the edge of Paducah and only leaves a 10 minute drive in for every visit. It keeps us in the middle of some retail/entertainment action for downtime between visits into Metropoils since there is no real dense commercial center to town besides the town center itself, but that does not slow us down from dropping some major cash love on the little town of Metropolis. Truth be told, My daughter loves staying at the Drury for their indoor pool and breakfast every morning... gotta love a kid who loves tradition and her Daddy. *

*If you look closely, there are tiny tear stains in my waffle

This was the 36th Annual Superman Celebration, and as off years go, it was a lower turnout than last year which saw the Man of Steel's 75th Anniversary as well as the release of Man of Steel in theaters the next weekend, but always a great time. Vendor areas seemed to be thriving, the food was great, and everybody who made it seemed to be having a good time. The event is largely supported by the locals and people from the surrounding areas

A special treat was seeing the Americana Hollywood Museum was back in operation from an extended closure due to flood damage in 2012. I was told that it is not open EVERY weekend, but is now back in some capacity, especially during the Celebration weekend and throughout the summer. (forgive me, pretty lady if I misunderstood any part of that).

The first thing you will notice as you arrive on the grounds is the cinephile's playground that is the courtyard full of planes, trains... and a Bat-Boat. I make a special point of taking my daughter's picture with the Superman standup near the entrance as a growth chart of sorts. As she became tall enough to put her head in the cut out, she has since started to stoop into position, so this will now stand as a growth chart of her head only...

I love going into this place. It's a special mix of exactly what you'd expect. Jim Brickman, owner of the SuperMuseum in the town square, also operates the Americana Hollywood and it is stuffed with unique finds he has collected and amassed over the years representing decades and decades of Elvis, Marilyn, and James Dean, the Rat Pack, years of Sci-Fi, Horror, Tomb Raider for diverse measure and of course the AWESOME backroom which is essentially an extension of the SuperMuseum as it is nearly completely DC Character related collectibles representing nearly every generation of licensed action figures and toys from the 70's to current releases. Not without its more peculiar displays, there were the only 2 (3) items I chose to document as I soaked in the rest... I suppose there's not much sexier than a pair of abnormally large brains... Such impressive organs...

There was also quite the surprise in the gift shop at the Americana Hollywood. It was unavoidable that the gift shop had been shifted from its previously Superman heavy presence to a very VERY Star Wars heavy offering. I was overcome by the contrast between my cash on hand and the bevy of stuff I was looking at. From larger ships to modern 3.75" figures @ $4 a pop bagged with accessories for the most part, I had to cut out a special part of our last few hours in town to dig through the multi tiered trough of loose figures to be thorough... I left plenty behind and I encourage any enthusiasts to drop by the museum some convenient weekend. You can always contact the SuperMuseum to see when they'd be open for you to dig through. It's a troop builder's dream; as a compulsive troop builder I can attest.

Child not for sale and present for scale reference only.

Another nice surprise was the addition of Daily Star Comics to the circuit of things to see in Metropolis. I had tried to locate this place in 2013 but it proved difficult since it was a relatively new listing so we didn't check it out. It's a little tucked away off the main drag but still just a couple hearts beats away from all the action. I will say it was mostly empty excluding what seemed like a few rented vendor spots within their extended retail space but still a cool place to run into. Of course while it takes its name from Clark Kent's original employer from his comic debut, the store is actually a Doctor Who-centric retail spot, complete with a Tennant/Smith era TARDIS in the parking lot which obviously makes for a good photo op.

No trip is complete without a visit to the SuperMuseum itself. Right in the heart of the action Right next to the 15 ft statue is Jim Hambrick's archival opus, the SuperMuseum, home to what has to be damn near every licensed & unlicensed Superman product known to man. The place is wall to wall Superman from action figures, movie props, costumes, production prototypes, handmade statues and action figures... (ahem)...

The Museum doesn't change much over the years but it is such a rich collection of Superman memorabilia and artifacts that it is always a treat to drop in and pay $5 to wander the short but dense  maze to examine all the pieces contained within. Jim Hambrick has been a lifelong collector and even manager and friend to Kirk Alyn (the silver screen's original Superman) and has been a central figure himself in Metropolis bringing crowds to this town with a recorded population of 6500, which leaps in a single bound to nearly quadruple it size for the celebration weekends on a good year.

As always it was a good year. We came we saw, we goofed off, we spent our money, and we left broke, and we can't wait to come back. Next year we'll be +1.  

The trip itself was over, and we didn't stick around for the Costume Contest or the closing festivities, but trips like these don't just stop when you leave Metropolis for the long road home, there's always something waiting around the corner. Literally around the corner from the Market Street square we came across the closed Massac Theater, Metropolis' only theater to speak of outside of the Baymont Auditorium. The theater had been owned by Larry Ward in the recent past (could possibly still be) who was manager to Noel Neil, TV's Lois Lane from the George Reeves era Adventures of Superman. Efforts have been underway to rehab the facility for public use once again, but it had seemed that things had come to halt since last year when we saw a new roof had been put in place. We took a look through the windows into the generously sized theater space. It will definitley take a lot of work to bring the building back to its full glory, but I'm sure that one day it will become a welcome addition to the festivites as a potential space for screenings of the Fan Film Festivals and general purpose stage use. Every year there is a series of breakfasts in the early morning hours to support the "Save the Maassac" campaign, but as I saw on the fundraising marker out front, it looks like maybe support has waned in recent years. Hopefully they have seen an uptick that wasn't represented here.

 I've been inspired in the past to extend my modest services to an effort to bring more attention to the effort, but I find it easy to get in over my head on passion projects. But this space definitely seems to have some life left in it, barring some much needed work as far as the insides which had fallen to ruin in the past years of having a collapsed roof which wreaked havoc on the interior. I would still care to rebuild it in a digital setting that could show the potential for the space as it pertains to the celebration specifically, but I know if this space were to be back up and running according to the necessary updated standards it could be a great facility for general purposes in the town. There may be more on this before the summer is out... but don't quote me on that, artists are funny people, easily distracted...


Oh... and I found Jesus, unfortunately it was at 10:31 and he was no longer serving breakfast, so I bought a Coke and a bag of Cheetos anyway, since it would have been weird to just turn around and leave. It's ok... maybe next time Sir.

I also found Elvis, but this was much closer to Memphis. We had stopped at a Love's Truck Stop Hardee's outside of Jackson, Tn on our way back down and all of the sudden a presence made itself known. Out of the corner of my eye was the mis-shapen hairdo of the savior of popular music himself. I turned and there he was, checking the air pressure on his moderately priced compact SUV. I warned my daughter that it was not polite to stare as I fumbled with my iPhone for no less than a full minute one handed trying to get it to focus... Much like Sasquatch, Elvis too had bested me as he managed to elude my skills of depth of field and composition.

That's the trip folks, thanks for reading, I had a great time.

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