In the past year or so since I have been writing this blog, I have somehow managed to avoid spending much time discussing the movie Fargo. Well, that ends today. I’m sure many residents can relate to the common reaction you get by outsiders when they discover you are from Fargo. Their familiar comment: “Oh! Like the movie?” For many people, their knowledge of Fargo consists of scenes for the Coen Brother’s 1996 movie aptly titled, Fargo. This includes funny accents, bomber hats, and of course, the incredibly memorable scene with a woodchipper and the gruesome disposal of a body. I think equally as amusing is the common Fargo resident response to this movie comparison: “It wasn’t even filmed in Fargo!”
Now, I’m not going to spend this post discussing the differences or (sorry, Fargo) the similarities between the movie and it’s namesake town. Instead, I want to highlight how one Fargo organization decided one day to stop running away from the negative stereotype and just embrace it. Last week marked the 1 year anniversary since the Fargo woodchipper was first put on the display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center. You see, the folks at the Visitor’s Center decided to follow that familiar adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” It doesn’t take someone with a PR background to see how genius this actually was. Since visitors already associated Fargo with the movie, you may as well just run with it.
With that in mind, a replica of the woodchipper from the movie Fargo was created. As word got out, the owner of the actual woodchipper from the movie came forward and let the Visitor’s Center “borrow” the prop for a while. Suddenly, people began flocking to the Visitor’s Center to catch a glimpse of the woodchipper and maybe even snap a photo or two. Bomber hats are on hand to add to the effect and even a fake leg sticks out from the top for you to pose by. Soon an entire Fargo exhibit was opened to include everything from movie scripts to autographed photos and props. The woodchipper even has its very own Facebook page to keep you up to date with events and memorable movie moments. The beauty of all of this is the fact that the woodchipper acts as a landmark to bring in the tourists (and the curious locals like myself), and then they are about to pick up brochures and information about everything else to see around town as well.
The woodchipper and the whole “embrace the movie” mentality worked so well that it spawned the creation of an entire festival centered around the movie. In Fall 2011 the first annual Fargo Fest was held culminating in the community showing of the movie projected on a downtown building for all to view.
So while some people may run away from a negative stereotype, Fargo and the folks at the Visitor’s Center decided to embrace it. Turn lemons into lemonade so to speak. And is it working? Oh, you betcha.