Some would consider the American small town the epitome of Rockwellian normalcy. But all it takes is a quick perusal of any local news website to remind oneself that small town America is weird AF. For every headline about a firefighter rescuing a cat from a tree, there are at least five variations of "Bear steals car, drives down Main Street." On one hand, you know everyone in town. On the other, at least one of these people may have seen Jesus in a potato chip and had a news item about it in the town paper.
And sure, sometimes the weirdness is lighthearted, fun, and eccentric. Other times, it's mysterious, foreboding, and gives you the feeling that something darker is always lurking beneath the surface. The CW's Riverdale, a live-action take on the Archie Comics universe, follows a group of all-American kids from an all-American town that's rocked to the core by the disappearance of local golden boy, Jason Blossom. As the townspeople search for him, the dark, weird underbelly of their bucolic town rises to the surface — the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright bonkers.
Inspired by the small town intrigue of Riverdale, we've teamed up with The CW to get the lowdown from a series of small-town natives on some of the funniest, weirdest, and most eccentric things that have happened in their towns. Tune into the series premiere of Riverdale on January 26th - Thursdays at 9/8c only on The CW.
Traffic Jam By Duck
"My town has a family of ducks that serve as our resident mascots. There's a mom and five babies, and every morning at about 7:30 — the height of school rush hour — the ducks waddle their way across Main Street and cause a sizable traffic jam. However, they're so cute and beloved that nobody seems to mind all that much."
The Second Coming
"When I was about seven or eight years old growing up in Bradenton, Florida, a 15-foot portrait of Jesus appeared on the side of a local church (where I attended preschool, in fact!). The town went nuts: Crowds and news stations flocked to this wall, speculating — was it a hoax, or was it a miraculous sign akin to spotting the Virgin Mary on a tortilla? — and it was all anyone talked about for weeks. According to local papers at the time, the church staff tried to scrub it away with acid, bleach, and pressure cleaning — all to no avail. As of last year (2016), that portrait is still there, but the crowds have moved on."
Unconventional Traffic Jams Galore
"I grew up in Amish country, so we'd regularly have traffic jams caused by horses and buggies. No big deal."
Who Needs Make Out Point When You've Got The Grocery Store?
"I'm from a small town outside of Syracuse, NY called Liverpool (despite its cool British-esque name, it's pretty much just a series of chain restaurants and strip malls). Going to Wegmans — the grocery store chain that is by far the best in America — is like a social ritual. If you're in high school, you go to Wegmans with your friends to hang out (especially if you can't go to the mall that day for some reason). Everyone you know works there at some point, and if it's near your high school like it was to mine, you go there for lunch. I've literally had a date at Wegmans, and approximately half my teen memories involve it in some capacity."
The Crazy Flower Guy — Everybody's Got One
"In every small town, there’s always a local “character” who becomes legendary, bigger than a celebrity, to the kids who live there. In my southern town, it was Crazy Flower Guy. Crazy Flower Guy was this very skinny, weathered dude in sunglasses who sold flowers on the sidewalk by the one big intersection in town. Nobody had ever actually seen him make a single sale to the drivers passing by, and nobody knew his name or where he lived or where he came from.
Crazy Flower Guy had a very odd quirk — as soon as the light changed from red to green at the intersection, he would absolutely flip out at the drivers, screaming, “GO GO GO!! Can’t you see the light changed? What are you doing??!! Are you blind??!! Hurry up!” It’s how he earned his nickname. People witnessing this happen for the first time would be alarmed, but he did this every day for so many years that you stopped noticing, and he became an essential part of the scenery.
The day I graduated from high school, I decided to do something that had never occurred to me in all these years: buy flowers from Crazy Flower Guy. I didn’t know what to expect, but when he poked his head through the window, he was surprisingly charming, polite, and calm — he even had a British accent. It also occurred to me for the first time that Crazy Flower Guy was blind. We had a pleasant exchange, and I felt comfortable enough as I handed over the money to ask him why he shouted at drivers. He explained that he was bored all day and yelling like a raving lunatic gave him an outlet for his pent-up energy; he also liked showing that he knew exactly when the light would change, even though he couldn't see.
Then the light turned green, and he started screaming at me. “Hey, wake up, what are you doing??!! Go! Are you blind??!!” I shrieked and drove away as fast as I could."
Gnome More Drama
"These people down the street from me had a lawn gnome that they would dress up for holidays, and for some reason it drove me and my mom crazy. It was just so ridiculous! They would dress it up and put signs around it. It was absurd. So once me and my redneck friends stole it. Those neighbors put up signs in its place and around the neighborhood asking for the thieves to bring it home. I told my mom that we stole it and thought she would be mad, and she said, "Gnome way! The gnome is gnome more?" To this day, it still sits in my friend's backyard, creepily staring into his mom's bedroom window."
New Jersey Safari Park
"I come from a farm town in rural New Jersey, full of open fields and large tracts of vacant land, making it the perfect place for — of all things — a Safari Park. It had lions, howler monkeys, giraffes, tigers, hyenas, and other animals indigenous to the African savannah, and very not indigenous to Northeast America. So you can imagine that when the tigers and lions and other zoo animals would routinely go missing, it was a bit unusual. Funny enough, it became often enough that the Safari animals would escape that we developed a town routine — keep your dogs inside, and follow the 10 p.m. wildlife curfew."
This article is sponsored by The CW's Riverdale. Tune into the series premiere of Riverdale on January 26th - Thursdays at 9/8c only on The CW.