BROWNSVILLE — Scott Gray’s 40th birthday isn’t until Nov. 15, but this week, the graphic designer, who lives and works in downtown Glasgow, Scotland, was celebrating a bit early by visiting Brownsville to attend the community's annual Stand By Me Day on Tuesday.
“How much does the movie 'Stand By Me' mean to me?” Gray asked rhetorically. “Well, I’m 5,000 miles from home today.”
And he was not the only international visitor to this mid-valley farming community of 1,800 residents. Other fans came from Australia, England, Spain, Japan and Italy. They wanted to see and touch places in town where scenes in the movie were shot in the summer of 1985.
Gray has seen the movie more than 100 times. His wife, Debbie, instigated his surprise adventure as an early birthday present.
“She has heard me talk so much about this movie that she bought me the ticket to come here,” Gray said. “I have wanted to come here since I saw the movie when I was 11 years old. I have almost made it here several times.”
Gray said his wife and two sons, Alexander, 19, and Brandon, 13, wanted him to experience the event on his own.
Gray arrived early so he could help organizers. He designed several posters that were given away at the event. Gray keeps in contact online with volunteer Linda McCormick, who's known locally as the Stand By Me Lady. He also put out an online query for local housing and Bob and Danelle Davis-Barker opened up their home to him.
“They have been wonderful,” Gray said. “They picked me up at the airport in Portland and have shown me around. They even had a barbecue for me. It’s been fantastic.”
The coming-of-age movie, directed by Rob Reiner from a novella by Stephen King, was shot in 1985 and released in 1986. It tells the tale of four boys, who in 1959 embark on a quest to find another friend who had allegedly been killed.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay and two Golden Globes, best motion picture-drama and best director-Reiner. It cost about $8 million to make and had a box office tally of more than $52 million.
“I have loved this movie my whole life,” Gray said. “The boys in the movie were my age when I first saw it. It’s a feel-good movie."
Gray said that when he stopped at a spot near the Brownsville City Hall — the community was called Castle Rock in the movie — he became emotional.
“I was by myself and I was overwhelmed,” he said. “But even though this movie means so much to me, I have friends who have no idea what it is about or why I care so much about it.”
Gray said his favorite movie scene is when the boys are sitting around a campfire.
Roger Usart, 41, of Barcelona, Spain, and his girlfriend, Lorena Ruiz, are traveling through Oregon and Washington. Usart was elated to learn it was Stand By Me Day.
“I was here last year, but it was August,” the primary school teacher and musician said. “I saw a 'Stand By Me' poster two days ago and I was so happy. I have a special bond with this movie. Last week, we stopped at the railroad trestle in northern California where the train scene was shot.”
Like Gray, Usart said the event caused him to cry with emotion.
“I had such a beautiful feeling inside,” Usart said. “The train scene and the boys at the junkyard are my favorite scenes.”
Both men can recite dialogue from the movies, word-for-word.
Jason Israel, 43, recently sold a lumber distribution business in Australia and is traveling to Alaska, but not without making a stop in Brownsville.
“I have always identified with this movie,” Israel said. “It hits a tone about camaraderie and friendship at that age.”
Israel said he enjoys traveling and has visited all seven continents.
“My favorite scene is when Wil Wheaton stands up for his mate by eyeballing the bad bloke,” Israel said. “It’s a David versus Goliath moment.”
Shiloh Durkee, 43, of Vancouver, British Columbia, attended the 30th anniversary of Stand By Me in 2016 and was hooked, not only about the movie, but about the community.
The professional tour guide has come back every year since as a volunteer.
Tuesday morning she was leading the first tour group around town — starting an hour early due to popularity — stopping at various locations where movie scenes were shot.
“I’m a super-nerd, a super fan,” Durkee told his guests. “I’ve become friends with everyone in town.”
"Stand By Me" spans not only generations and continents, but also genders.
Alys Davies, 15, of Hampshire, England, loves the movie.
She was visiting Brownsville with her mother, Helen, and her grandmother Barbara Atkin. The trio have been to Disney World in Florida a few times, but this was their first trip to Oregon.
“I just love the movie so much,” Alys said. “It captures so many childhood adventures and emotions.”
Alys said she and her friends often reenact scenes from the movies in an area forest.
“We have even made a dummy of the dead guy,” she said.
Alys said her favorite cast member was River Phoenix.
“My favorite scene is when they are around the campfire talking about TV shows,” Alys said. “They let their emotions come out.”
She said watching the television show "Stranger Things" — set in 1983 when a young boy disappears from a Midwestern town — piqued her interest in learning about "Stand By Me."
Her grandmother said the trip has been “Wonderful. We are having so much fun.”
Not everyone who traveled from afar to get to Brownsville came from foreign countries.
Sandy Dias and her daughter, Avy, 12, came from Massachusetts.
Scurrying to catch up with her tour group, Avy admitted she was the movie fan in the family.
Some visitors came a few days early as well, according to Linda McCormick.
“We had a group of 30 visitors from Japan last Saturday,” McCormick said. “Some of them wore costumes like the boys in the movie and they reenacted scenes around town.”
McCormick maintains a Stand By Me Day Facebook page that has about 3,000 fans.
In addition to guided tours, this year’s event featured homemade ice cream and blueberry pies, a pie eating contest, classic cars, a costume contest and music of the era.
The movie introduced several young actors including Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell and ingrained Ben E. King’s song, “Stand My Me” in American culture.
In May, the Historic Oregon Film Trail staff and community members dedicated three markers denoting where scenes from the movies were shot. The markers include facts about the movie.