Although the show has gotten a bit loose with its ostensible small-town Indiana location in recent seasons (there are an awful lot of palm trees in Pawnee), there’s no denying that Parks And Recreation has been a positive influence on the image of a state whose previous mottos include “Nope, you’re not in Chicago yet” and “Michael Jackson was born here. Seriously, look it up.” And with the series finale set to air tonight on NBC, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development has written a heartfelt “Open Letter To The Cast And Crew of Parks And Recreation” to thank them for making their state the punch line of a (good-natured, friendly) joke for the past six years. They even assigned each character on the show a city in Indiana to call their own—except for poor Jerry/Larry/Garry/Terry. (An Ohio joke? That’s cute.) The full text of the letter is below.
“Dear Cast and Crew of Parks And Recreation,
Tomorrow night we will watch the final episode of Parks And Recreation and, like Brigadoon, Pawnee will disappear (except for reruns, Netflix, DVDs, Hulu, etc). Has it really been six years since the perpetual optimist Leslie Knope teamed with the “poetic, noble land mermaid” Ann Perkins and began a valiant effort to turn a dangerous pit into a beautiful city park? Since those first episodes, your show has become a pop culture phenomenon and a point of pride for the Hoosier State. Collectively, your team has wonderfully captured in a playful and endearing way all that Hoosiers have grown to love about our home state. It is said that “all good things must come to an end;” and in that spirit watching tomorrow night’s episode will be bittersweet. We will miss you almost as much as we miss Li’l Sebastian. Almost.
Parks And Recreation embraced Indiana and Indiana embraced the show. The characters have come to represent so many aspects of Hoosier life and culture that it is difficult to look at our state and not see your characters represented by the cities and towns that dot our map. In fact, each character seems to have a town counterpart in our state:
- Leslie Knope- Full of optimism and a can-do spirit; no obstacle is too big that it can’t be overcome by her determination. She is tough and intelligent. She works hard and gets the best of those around her. She isn’t interested in personal praise; she just wants the satisfaction of making her community a better place. She embodies all that it means to grow up and live in Indiana. Looking at the Indiana map, there is no more fitting town that captures the spirit of Leslie Knope, and best defines Indiana, thanHoosierville.
- Ron Swanson- The man buries his gold, drinks Lagavulin, loves breakfast foods and eats red meat; lots and lots of red meat (courtesy of Food ’n Stuff). His cabin in the woods is surrounded with mines. Oil-soaked rags next to a burning fire in his woodworking shop? That’s none of your business, please and thank you. Any infringement upon his personal freedom makes his mustache twitch. Don’t bother him, and he won’t bother you. Ron Swanson is Liberty, Indiana.
- Tom Haverford- The entrepreneur. The visionary. Unique, unexpected and authentic. Tom thinks beyond his environment and has ideas that are sometimes ahead of their time. Tom is Columbus, Indiana. An architectural mecca, Columbus is a surprising city with a rich cultural heritage that is always looking for ways to continue its artistic and economic growth. Just like Tom.
- April Ludgate-Dwyer- April is exotic. April is mysterious. April is sophisticated and April is intelligent. April could be Peru, Brazil, Rome or Warsaw. She represents Indiana’s small-town charm and global influence. April is Mexico, Cairo or Dublin.Paris, Alexandria or London. Manhattan, Jordan or Holland. Versailles, Shanghai… you get the point.
- Andy Dwyer- Gas City. No reason in particular, other than we think he would just really giggle at the name. It would also be the perfect venue for the next MouseRat concert.
- Ben Wyatt- Ben is a lovable nerd. Comic books, Game of Thrones, Settlers of Catan, Cones of Dunshire; Ben embraces nerdery’s complete canon. No town in Indiana better represents Ben Wyatt than Odon, Indiana. Odon, deriving its name (although a slightly different spelling) from Odin, the Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard in German mythology, is a name as close to Middle Earth as you’ll find in the Hoosier State. But Ben probably knew that already. He’s also probably mad we spell it with the second “o.”
- Donna Meagle- There’s one place and one place alone in our state that typifies Donna. It isn’t a city, but a man-made edifice to commerce. A place where high-end fashion and consumer goods are sold to those with only the most discerning of tastes. Tiffany’s, Burberry, Apple, Coach and Louis Vuitton- they’re all there. The Fashion Mall at Keystone in Indianapolis. Go on Donna, get in the Benz and Treat Yo’ Self!
- Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger- We literally (or as Chris would say litch-early) cried when Ann and Chris drove out of Pawnee; and to Michigan of all places! The Perkins-Traeger union belongs in Indiana. Come back and raise your son Oliver in Oliver, Indiana.
- Jerry (Larry, Garry, Terry) Gergich- we don’t really claim him. He’s more of an Ohio guy. Probably someplace nondescript like Springfield, Ohio. His wife and daughters on the other hand, his inexplicably gorgeous wife and daughters, have Milan written all over them (The Italians may pronounce it Me-Lon, but Hoosiers pronounce it My-lan).
While each character so wonderfully represents a certain corner of our state, for this cast, like our state, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And what a beautifully funny and touching sum it has been. So please accept our thanks for all you’ve done to capture the spirit of our state. Our kind, nostalgic, freedom-loving, proud, quirky, funny, fashionable, forward-looking, intelligent, determined, modest, traditional and beautiful state. Our home. Indiana.
With laughter and gratitude,
Indiana Office of Tourism Development”