FILLMORE, Calif. – For one day only, a picturesque town about 60 miles north of Los Angeles was transformed into Hill Valley, the fictional hometown of Marty McFly from the “Back to the Future” franchise.
As part of the five-day “We’re Going Back” fan event celebrating “Back to the Future” Day, the downtown streets of Fillmore, California, were blocked off from traffic as fans dressed as characters from the beloved sci-fi film series participated in hoverboard and DeLorean rides.
“Back to the Future” Day marks the date — Oct. 21, 2015 — that the characters Marty McFly, Emmett “Doc” Brown and Jennifer Parker famously journeyed from 1985 to 2015 in the trilogy’s second installment in 1989.
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“‘Back to the Future’ to some people may just be a movie, but to me and everyone that’s come here, it’s a religious experience,” said Brandon Hillock, who arrived dressed as a futuristic McFly. “When things are going really crappy, I can turn the movie on and instantly feel better.”
Oliver and Terry Holler, owners of a DeLorean resembling the time-travelling vehicle from the trilogy, provided rides to fans who made a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
However, they weren’t transporting passengers to the past or future. Their DeLorean was retrofitted to ride back and forth on the train rails in the middle of town, similar to the vehicle’s Wild West journey in “Back to the Future Part III.”
“This car has flown in airplanes, been shipped in boats and driven over 600,000 miles — and now she’s a train car,” said Terry. “It took the work of wonderful volunteers, craftsmen and mechanics who understand what it takes to put train wheels on a car.”
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Across the tracks, a sign welcoming visitors to Hill Valley was erected in the town’s Central Park, while a beauty salon was made up to look like Roy’s Record Store from the original film. An antique shop’s window was filled with 1980s memorabilia, resembling Cafe ’80s from the second installment. The band the Flux Capacitors performed on stage in front of city hall, which was festooned with a giant clock for the occasion.
The original stunt team that co-ordinated the hoverboard chase sequence from “Back to the Future Part II” drew the largest crowd, allowing attendees who paid $200 a ticket an opportunity to make like McFly and glide across the town’s park on a hoverboard suspended from a crane.
The actors who played nefarious Griff Tannen’s gang members — Ricky Dean Logan, Jason Scott Lee and Darlene Vogel — were also on hand to pose for photographs, sign autographs and provide fans tips on riding a hoverboard for the first time. Vogel’s advice was simple.
“Don’t fall off,” said Vogel, who played Spike in “Part II.”
The actual Hill Valley town square set where the “Back to the Future” trilogy was filmed still exists on the Universal Studios lot. Several fans spent Wednesday touring that filming location as part of the “We’re Going Back” event. The organizers selected Fillmore for Thursday’s festivities because of its resemblance to the exterior town square set and proximity to Los Angeles.
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Other activities planned as part of the “We’re Going Back” fan event include an “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance at the Hollywood United Methodist Church on Saturday and a Sunday screening of the original film in the parking lot of the Puente Hills Mall, where McFly famously blasted off in a DeLorean.
For many in attendance, their passion for “Back to the Future” won’t wavier just because the future is now the present, according the film’s mythology, anyway.
“It’s iconic,” said Logan, who played Data in “Part II.” ”I have a 17-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son now. They’re fans and their friends are fans like it came out yesterday. I think it’ll just keep going. I don’t think it’ll ever stop. We might be here in another 30 years, but I might be on a wheelchair hoverboard by that point.”