5 Reasons Why the Superman Celebration Really Is SUPER

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a Superman Celebration! Each year, the little town of Metropolis, IL hosts a big celebration in honor of the super-est of superheroes. In case you’re a little rusty on your comic book history, Clark Kent (Superman) moved from his hometown, Smallville, Kansas, to Metropolis for his job at the Daily Planet. Part ComicCon, part neighborhood fair, and come on, part absolute glorious geekiness, the Superman Celebration is more than worth a stop.

superman celebration

Need proof? No problem!

 

1. Costumes. Duh.

Costumes Superman Celebration

There’s a reason why this is number one on the list. Because, really, is there anything better than grown men walking around in spandex? Watching a pseudo-fight between Joker and Superman in the street? Catching a Communist Batman (yes, that really happened!)? This is people-watching at it’s finest, and prime opportunity for some pretty epic selfies. If you are a million times more brave than I, you can also join in on the fun. And if you’ve really got this costume thing covered, the Superman Celebration hosts a costume contest with a pretty tempting grand prize of $1,000. Go ahead, unleash your inner diva superhero!

 

2. Fair Food. Always a win.

food stand superman celebration

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out of the country for far too long, but seeing these brightly colored signs advertising fried foods galore gets my heart chugging–and not just from clogged arteries! Deep-fried pickles and funnel cakes are two of my favorite guilty pleasures, and add in some corn dog goodness and ice-cold lemon shake-ups… heavenly. Besides, it’s just so… AMERICAN. The Superman Celebration has it all.

 

3. Celebrity Sightings

me and superman celebration

^^That’s me looking extra short next to the Superman Celebration’s OFFICIAL Superman–actor Josh Boultinghouse.

The Superman Celebration always arranges a pretty good lineup of Superman celebs, like my favorite from this year, Dean Cain. Yep, that’s the Superman from the 90’s television series Lois & Clark that my brother and I grew up watching (thanks to dad’s obsession with Teri Hatcher!). Billy Dee Williams was also on the lineup this year, probably most well-known for his role as Lando Calrissian from Star Wars. And don’t forget Valerie Perrine and Aaron Smolinski. Get some autographs and rub shoulders with the big guys.

 

4. Quirky Events

BMX superman celebration

I promise, I witnessed the most impressive game of Superman Trivia of my entire life. These people know their stuff! But there’s so much more than that… the Superman Celebration is jam-packed with events to suit everyone’s tastes. From art panels for the comic aficionados, to Mario Kart tournaments for the gamers, to BMX and K-9 shows for the family, it’s hard to get bored! There’s even a Smallville Prom!

 

5. And Finally… Because There’s Nothing Better than Superman to Bring Out the Kid in All of Us!

little superman celebration

Superman once said, “There is a right and a wrong in the universe and that distinction is not hard to make.” There’s something refreshingly beautiful (if not a little naive) about the guy. I mean, he’s eternally and thoroughly… good. The Boy Scout of superheroes. That’s what makes a big difference between Superman’s world and that of other characters like Batman, where good and bad often blur and superheroes have their own skeletons in their closets.  With his boyish charm, Superman brings back the simplistic comic-book morality of older days, standing tall in defense of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Take a walk in Metropolis, and it’s almost like a little vacation from the stressful complexities of modern life… where Superman is still super, and right and wrong still easily defined. So eat a snow cone, let it drip down your chin, wait in line for a picture with Superman, and put your belly in that spandex, anyway. This is the Superman Celebration, and that’s all the excuse you need!

 

The Details

  • The Superman Celebration usually lasts for a long weekend in mid-June, this year June 12-15.
  • Metropolis, IL is located just outside of Paducah, near the border between IL and KY.
  • Find more info on the official website, http://www.supermancelebration.net

 

Want more excellent costume photos? I know you do! Here are a few of my favorites:

An Icy Trip to Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park, a gorgeous bit of woods and recreation area in Southern Illinois, is a permanent fixture of my childhood. When I was small, my classes used to bus here in school buses for rowdy picnics and overly loud (and mostly uninterested) nature hikes. In the spring and fall, my family used to pack up a cooler, a tent, and the dog for long weekend camping trips near Ferne Clyffe’s bluffs. But let’s be honest… I was probably much too interested in boys and books to pay much attention to how gorgeous this state park actually is. And in all those years, I never visited during winter…

Giant Rock at Ferne Clyffe

So chalk it up to the increasingly wacky weather if you will, but when a particularly nice and sunny day struck this winter, my family and I decided to take Steven to see this place that is so dear to our hearts and go on a little hike. I was immediately amazed at the transformation of winter. On the drive over, I had a feeling it would all appear brown and gloomy, but in fact, the sparse tree branches actually cleared the view for more rock formations and cliffs than are usually visible. Not to mention, Ferne Clyffe was filled with giant, shocking icicles hanging from the stones! It was incredible!

Icecicles at Ferne Clyffe

We first went to what used to by my favorite ‘alone’ spot whenever we were camping–a gorgeous bluff looking out over the distant trees. I used to carry a book and a bottle of water to sit up here in the sun, sometimes for hours, escaping the day-to-day stresses of being a kid. It was just as gorgeous as I remembered… BUT I stubbornly ignored the signs warning of ice posted around the park…

Keep Off Ice Ferne Clyffe

I decided I really wanted to take a picture on the edge of a cliff the other side of a giant sloping gorge between it and the trail. After discussing for a moment the fact that quite a few people have fallen and died for being careless on the cliffs, I stepped right onto a giant patch of ice heading straight for the fall, smacked onto my bottom and began to slide… I swear for a moment there my life was flashing before my eyes! Luckily I grasped a branch tough enough to slow me down, and finally clambered back to safe ground. I learned my lesson. No ice is good ice!

Me at Ferne Clyffe

We also went to the most popular place on the trails, of course, the largest waterfall in the park. Even though it was mid-winter, the heat from the sudden sun had melted enough snow and ice to provide slightly more than a trickle from the rocks above. I won’t lie, it’s more than I’ve seen on most summer trips when the rocks are generally bone dry!

When we walked up, a little boy was standing at the foot of the waterfall throwing stones to crack the thick ice. Actually, we used to swim in this little pool in the heat of summer, much to the chagrin of our teachers or parents.

Icy Waterfall Ferne Clyffe

Near the waterfall, I discovered some awesome ice formations in a crack between two giant plates of sandstone. Besides the perfectly formed icicles, the shelves of rock were covered with shiny bulbous bits of ice, like little transparent marbles. I’m not sure how they came to freeze just like that, but it was really cool!

Ice at Ferne Clyffe

Interestingly, the 2,430 acres that now make up Ferne Clyffe were once used as hunting ground by the Cherokee during the Trail of Tears march. It is said that Hawk’s Cave, our last stop on the trails, was used as their campsite that winter of 1838-39. As we walked into the breathtaking overhang, filled with enormous boulders and colored with the variations of time-worn sandstone, I thought about the native souls, left for dead, that surely haunt the darker corners of the vistas.

Hawks-Cave-Ferne-Clyffe

All in all, Ferne Clyffe is a gorgeous spot that is a state-wide favorite. There are tons of trails weaving through the rocks, bluffs, and fuana including, you know, ferns on cliffs. The campsites are impeccable, with clean shower and restroom facilities and proper lighting through the main areas. It’s a place that always somehow feels like home to me, even though this trip back taught me that the older I get, the more beauty I tend to find in the places I call home.

Ferne Clyffe

The Details

  • The park is marked well on highways I-57 and I-24. If traveling South on I-57, take the Goreville exit, just South of Marion. After exiting, turn left and go 5 miles to Rt 37. Turn right on Rt 37, and you will see the park entrance just outside the little town of Goreville.
  • As my girl scout leader always used to say, “remember to take only memories, and leave only footprints.” Enjoy the nature and keep it alive for others!

 

Home of Popeye: Chester, IL

Popeye… the only star you know that made eating spinach cool. With giant, bulging forearms giving way to heavy-as-lead fists, he’s got a penchant for lanky, flirty girls and a roaring self-confidence (“I yam what I yam and tha’s all what I yam!”). Not only did he swoop up Olive Oyl, he captured the hearts and minds across the globe. But who knew that the home of Popeye was in little old Chester, Illinois?

EC Segar's Thimble Theatre Chester IL

This quaint riverside town is lovingly decked out in Popeye nostalgia, right down to the spinach can street posts and the memorabilia shop called, what else?, Spinach Can Collectibles. Oh, and sure, you can pick up Popeye spinach cans while in the Spinach Can. I checked.

Spinach Can Collectibles Chester, IL

But seriously, this little shop is nothing to be scoffed at. The front houses all sorts of things from all sorts of eras–old and yellowing (but well-preserved) comic books, pins, puppets, baubles and other oddities. If you can dream it, they’ve got it with Popeye on it. And don’t forget the rest of the entourage, either!

Popeye Figures Chester IL

The back of the shop serves as a miniature museum, housing the oldest antiques along with foreign Popeye wares. I was amazed at how many different languages with which the Popeye collectibles were graced. The owner informed me that the shop has received visitors from over 70 countries, not to mention all 50 states!

It’s a kooky step back in time, when a childhood hero could still smoke like a chimney, get loads of tattoos, and find himself in all sorts of fights with other buggers like Bluto. But hey, apparently Popeye accounted for a 33% increase in spinach sales, so there’s always that!

Popeye Chester IL

Speaking of the rest of the Popeye crew, here’s something else you probably didn’t know… Popeye wasn’t actually an original character, and you know what that means? Olive Oyl had another boyfriend before Popeye! **gasp!**

It’s true. There’s a timeline homage to all of the characters near the ceiling of the shop, as you can see in the picture below. Olive’s debut was a whole decade before Popeye came along!

(PS, what’s Miley doing photobombing my stuff?!)

Popeye Museum Chester IL

Actually, the original comic strip,Thimble Theater, was created by one Elzie Segar from Chester. After taking a mail-order cartoon drawing class, he based most of his characters on real people from the town, making Chester not just the home of Popeye, but also the original tough guy himself–Frank “Rocky” Fiegel. Before Popeye made his appearance, Olive Oyl (based on Mrs. Dora Paskel) was a floozy fiancee to Harold Hamgravy. I guess her 19-19-19 dimensions paired nicely with those ballooning forearms once they came around, though… Popeye proved so popular that he took over the show.

Back in 2006, the townsfolk of Chester decided to pay homage to the classic cartoon characters borne out of the town by creating a Popeye Character Trail. Since then, they’ve unveiled plenty of characters–some I know and some I don’t. Cole Oil? Alice the Goon? Sea Hag? Maybe I’m just rusty. But all hail my favorite of them all, Wimpy…

Wimpy Chester IL

Sorry, burgers > spinach any day of the week. Respect, Wimpy, respect.

Chester’s even got that roadside attraction feel just right with some good old family fun, because what says fun better than sticking your head through a hole and taking a picture? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Besides, Steven makes a pretty good Popeye.

Home of Popeye Chester IL

Of course, the statue of all statues on Chester’s trail has to be Popeye’s. Made out of solid bronze, it stands appropriately near the Mississippi River at Chester’s Welcome Center. Did you know that Popeye was the first cartoon character EVER to be immortalized in statue form? It’s true. But, well… that one’s in Texas, but it’s still pretty cool!

Popeye Statue Chester IL

We might have stopped in Chester to check out the home of Popeye, but we didn’t expect to learn so much. Not to mention, Chester has got a whole lot more history of its own besides pumping out cartoon characters.

First, there’s the pretty side, like historical sights and French Colonial architecture. Or, just near Popeye, the old bridge connecting Illinois to it’s neighbor, Missouri. This bridge is the only one between the two states outside of St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, still amazingly functioning with only two lanes. Oh, and that bridge has had a taste of Hollywood in the 1967 film, In the Heat of the Night.

Chester Bridge Chester IL

Then there’s the dark side, like the Menard Correctional Center, interesting mainly because of the villains it has housed. Prior to 2003, the prison was used to hold death-row inmates like John Wayne Gacy. Yeah, that Killer Clown guy? Creepy. As we were driving into Chester, my mom and dad informed me that they had both visited the prison during University. Extra creepy. I think I’d pass.

Anyway, let’s stay on the lighter side, shall we?

Steven in Chester IL

“I’m strong to the finish, ’cause I eats me Spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man! (toot, toot)” 

The Details

  • Chester is right on Route 3 between Murphysboro and St. Louis, you can’t miss it. If you haven’t driven this route along the river yet, it’s also a nice scenic pass.
  • Don’t skip a stop in Spinach Can Collectibles! The couple running the place are sweet as pie, just like all small town folks should be, even if they aren’t originally from here. They are also a wealth of information and funny tidbits about the history of Popeye and Chester itself. For instance, did you know that Chester has a sister city in England also called Chester?? I’ll be visiting there soon!
  • If you happen to skip around in the fall, be sure to catch the annual Popeye on the River Picnic for even more fun!

Travel Theme: Height

It seems like we have a near-obsession with getting closer and closer to the sky, building skyscrapers of Babel-esque proportions, reaching to touch the fingers of God. We clamber and climb and pay entrance fees with crowds of other people to catch a good view, to see the world with a bit of distance, where the comings and goings suddenly become trivial and frail.

In Chicago, I was whisked to the top of John Hancock Center. From here, Lake Michigan’s sheer size is overwhelming, and people scurry near its coast like little eager ants.

travel theme height 1

In Bangkok, my boyfriend is shoved a non-descript pair of pants as penance for his non-compliance with the dress-code. This is the price to climb the last few sets of stairs to the rooftop open-air bar and bistro, Vertigo, situated on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. Suddenly the city reaches beyond our feeble imaginations, and we are swept away by the sudden bursts of wind that pass by without notice from lower levels in the city. We sip fancy cocktails as we watch the sun slowly set around us.

travel theme height vertigo

But of course the ultimate height is the one no longer connected to the ground, soaring in an airplane above the clouds. This is what I prefer. The odd silence mixed with the peculiar whooshing sound of the plane, the exclamations of an overly-excited attendant, or the bellowing laugh of a fellow Midwesterner. Here, I can slip away unnoticed into another world, a world where clouds really are made of cotton and dreams of new destinations come true.

john hancock tower chicago

This post is a part of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme.

3 Things I’ve Learned about Being American from My English Boyfriend

Of course, when dating someone outside your own culture, you expect cultural differences to arise. But to be honest, when I first started dating my English boyfriend, I didn’t really think about American and English differences being an issue. I mean, we (sort of) have a common language, share a lot of history, and in general are somewhat similar. But over time, I’ve realized that things are not always as similar as they seem!

Here are the top 3 things I’ve learned about my own American behavior in contrast to his very Yorkshire self.

english-and-american dating

Countdown of American and English Differences… Begin!

1. I am seriously super duper excited! About everything!

I express my feelings openly, especially when I’m really happy. Most of the time those feelings are admittedly slightly exaggerated.  But my boyfriend, well…

I never really noticed this until one day I was getting ready for an event and asked Steven how my dress looked. He replied, “Yeah, it looks okay.” So of course, I went and changed. When I came back into the room, he looked at me oddly and asked why I changed. “I thought you didn’t think it looked very good.” “Yeah, I did, I said it looked okay.” After a bit of clearing up, it turned out that he really did think I looked beautiful. THAT got my head spinning a bit!

Now I’ve sort of figured it out. Here’s the Rosetta Stone of translating emotions… In answer to the question “how are you?”

ME:  I’m so great!       TRANSLATION I’m okay.

STE:  Oh yeah, not bad.         TRANSLATION:  I’m so incredibly amazing I can hardly hold it in!! 🙂 !! 🙂 !!

Steven noted how during a trip to Vegas, he and his friends thought it hilarious that they could just walk up to anyone and high five or whoop! and the strangers would join right in. I think I’ve started converting him over to the sunny side of things, though, because lately everything is all, “Wow!” and “Awesome!” Know what I think of that? It’s soooo awesome!

2. Passive aggressive much?

I knew that Americans were pretty passive aggressive (you know the ubiquitous I’m fine which most certainly means you are not fine), but I honestly thought I wasn’t that bad. Oh, how wrong I was! For instance, the other day Ste told me he would run downstairs and get some water. I said, “aww, that’s okay.” About an hour later, I asked him if he was still going to get water. I had to explain that when I said it was okay, I meant that would be great! He was just shaking his head at me like, WHAT??

Really, it comes down to the idea that we don’t like to sound demanding. Even when we are being demanding. “You know, I don’t know if it’s possible or if it can work out, but if it’s okay with you, could you just . . . “

lumbergh meme

I admit it’s not one of the finer qualities of Americans, but hey, old habits die hard!

3. Yes! I’m alright. I mean, maybe. Do I not seem alright?

Every time Ste comes home, walks in the room, or calls, the first thing he often says is “You alright?” I used to get a bit offended, like, do I look like something is wrong? Was I rude? But actually, the phrase is more like saying “hey.”

In general, English (Yorkshire) slang is like a completely foreign language to me! The one I still struggle with is “tea.” Each time Ste asks what’s for tea, I have the unbearable urge to blurt out, “Oolong? Ceylon? English breakfast?” But no. Tea = dinner. Incomprehensibly.

Don’t even get me started on “ote” and “note”!

Sometimes our little cultural quirks can cause some communication problems, but in general, it’s kind of fun figuring out the real American and English differences. But I think I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself in the process. The worst part? He’s slowly drawing me in! I don’t know how he does it!

Seriously, though, we both figure out the parts about our cultures that we like, and which parts we like less, and I think we’ve both become better for it.

Tha nos!

Saying Goodbye

It’s amazing how quickly you can make friends and grow so close together.  That’s what I learned in Leiden, and also what made it so hard to leave.  I met the most interesting, kind, fun, and intelligent people while I was there.  And yes, I was that weird chick crying at the customs desk.  Okay, fine, I was still all teary-eyed when I landed in Newark.  But honestly, the hardest part was just being back home.

Saying Goodbye

It was absolutely crazy before I left.  I was so busy with thesis #1 and #2, commencement, finals, and whatever else I was doing, that I hardly even got to say goodbye to anyone.  I also had to move out THE DAY BEFORE leaving for Leiden, meaning I never got to say a proper goodbye to the apartment that was MINE for the last four years, or (and what I have really paid for!) pack my things away with any sort of organization.  All I could come back to was a room without my smell or my touch and a bunch of dusty boxes.  It has been a nightmare, really, because I have literally unpacked everything just to pack it up again.  But through this whole process, I have learned a lot more about saying goodbye than I ever thought, while at the same time learning a bit more about myself.  Read:  I am a packrat.

I am so proud of myself.  I have sold or trashed (mostly trashed) over ¾ of the things that I thought I could not live without.  It’s so completely liberating, now, but it has been a weird rollercoaster of emotions going through everything.  Here are a few of the things I found, and managed to part with:

  • Every note ever written to me since 3rd grade
  • The teddy bear with the chewed-off nose
  • Every greeting card I’ve ever received since I was old enough to think to keep them
  • An entire box full of “poetry” that I wrote (documenting my entire love life, naturally)
  • T-shirts from Junior High Student Council (a necessity)
  • Actually, on that note, an inordinate amount of 90’s clothing, generally
  • All the little gifts that my Big Sis from Poms made for me (including a half-melted candle)
  • Every flower petal from every flower ever given to me by a boy
  • Buckeyes that my great-grandfather used to carry in his pocket, rubbed completely smooth
  • All the letters that I wrote to the people I loved, trying to “fix” things, but never had the guts to give
  • Every Seventeen magazine (WHY????)
  • The corsage from my first prom
  • Memories of my first great love, and the heartbreak that came with it
  • The pain of losing my best friend (who I still miss)
  • The awkwardness of feeling out of place
  • So, so many tears
  • And so many smiles.

It wasn’t until today, as I began to pack the remnants back in boxes for another year, that I realized by keeping all of those things, I was also holding onto the emotional baggage that came with them.  I feel like a piece of me is now gone.  And although there is a twinge of sadness, I mostly just feel PURIFIED.

 

Americans Posing as Canadians: What’s That All “Aboot”?

When travelling Europe, it’s impossible not to notice the whole Americans posing as Canadians trend.  I don’t care what country you are in, you are undoubtedly within arm’s length of at least one backpacker with the red and white emblem sewn on the front.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, and I actually thought it was a pretty cool idea.  There comes a point, after being alone for awhile, when it becomes sort of exciting to meet someone from your corner of the woods.  Having a can’t-miss marker as to who exactly is your partner in crime seemed, well, to make sense.

That was before I realized just how big of an issue this little backpacker’s practice has become.

First of all, as much as I try to steer clear of stereotypes, I definitely learned that I have stereotypes.  And one of those just happens to be that all Canadians say aboot, dontcha know, eh?, that sort of thing, making the difference between an American and Canadian completely obvious.  I was wrong.

Canadian Backpackers

Most Canadians sound just like us.  I heard more “Canadian” talk in Fargo than I ever heard from a real Canadian.  We look the same, we talk the same, we dress the same… who can really tell us apart?  No one.  And herein lies the problem.  Know what the one major difference is between US and Canada?  Europeans love the Canadians.  They don’t love the Americans.  In fact, some Europeans downright loathe us.  Try Paris for size, if you don’t believe me.

During my travels, I met a bunch of really sweet Canadians.  And I also met a bunch of really sweet Americans.  Posing as Canadians.  So this whole thing has become just a really weird backpacking sensation.  Canadians are so worried about being mistaken for Americans that they are taking the time to sew in these flag patches (do you know how thick a good backpacker’s backpack is?  those things must take forever!), and Americans are so worried about being recognized as Americans, that they sew on the good ol’ maple pride as well.

I may disagree once in awhile with my country.  I’ll admit that.  But I don’t ever confuse political issues with the land that is home.  I still love hot dogs and apple pie and s’mores and trekking in the woods and all of the real stuff that makes America important to me.  That also includes democratic ideals like liberty and freedom of speech and the ability to change.  In other words, I can’t trade all that in just so someone will treat me a little better when I’m checking in that hostel for a whopping one or two nights.

On the other hand, it does get tough.  There are a lot of silly Americans driving in the stereotypes that other countries hold about us.  I know, because I met a lot of them.  And sometimes I got yelled at for things only Georgie Bush can really be held responsible for.  It’s hard to have to take the responsibility for those kinds of things when you didn’t even VOTE for them.

So let’s get down to it.  What do I think about this whole Canadian flag thing?  I think that when you’re backpacking, part of what makes it so great is that you get to have this experience of transcending all of those stereotypes you grew up with.  You have to cross giant mental borders just as you cross physical ones.  That being said, I know that it is my duty to represent my country for what someone else might not see, to share the voices of all the others that often get lost in the hullaballoo of politics and media.  I can disagree with my country, and sometimes vehemently.  But denying it only perpetuates the same stereotypes we want to avoid.

It really boils down to this:  for all the flag-waving we do on our own soil, I didn’t see one backpacker with an American flag on his/her bag.  Maybe we should learn from the fact that we have a hard time remaining so proud when we’re not just looking at ourselves.  But instead of sticking our heads in the sand (ahem! yes, you, Americans posing as Canadians), let’s do something about it.