Maybe we should have known all along, said Wayne Jones, a 28-year-old clerk at the Bright Oak Meats in downtown Springfield. Jones has long argued that Oregon’s Springfield is the true inspiration for Groening’s invention.
For one, there’s the statue of an unnamed man astride a horse in downtown, just as the fictional Springfield features a memorial to founder Jebediah Springfield (nee Hans Sprungfeld) in its town square.
And people living near the now-shuttered Trojan Nuclear Power Plant near Prescott, Ore., have always considered the site to be the real counterpart to the fictional Springfield power plant.
The fictional town’s true location has been a secret for so long, even the jokes about its secrecy are old. In one, the showrunners had a narrator give one location in a voiceover for the first broadcast, then change it in reruns. In “The Simpsons Movie,” one character says the fictional state borders Ohio, Nevada, Maine and Kentucky.
Until Tuesday, Portland, Ore., provided the most likely inspiration for the Simpsons‘ hometown. Many of the names of characters on the show — Flanders, Quimby, Kearney — are names of streets in Portland.
Groening visited during a tour before the 2007 film “The Simpsons Movie.” Back then, tiny Springfield, Vt., beat out 13 other Springfields, including the one in Oregon, to host the movie premiere. The cities submitted videos meant to connect themselves to the fictional Springfield.
Maybe the town can use this — real leverage — to its advantage, said frozen-yogurt store co-owner Jack Kohler.
“A few years ago, the downtown had a reputation as a scary place,” Kohler said. “Now, the strip joints are gone, the place is coming back. If they’re smart, they’ll have a ‘Simpsons’ month, they’ll build statues so them kids can sit in, they’ll have characters during the Art Walk.
“This is an opportunity to really make this place explode. If they don’t do that, they blew it.”
With time, Springfield, Ore., will return to its place as Oregon’s ninth-largest city, a place of relative anonymity in the Willamette Valley sandwiched between the state's largest university and its biggest city.
But for a day, the creator of one of the most enduring fictional examples of Anyplace, U.S.A., let this real one stand out.
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