Kevin Turk and a handful of Western Michigan University students began the homage to Thomas Jeffrey Hanks back in 2004 when one of the crew's visionaries was struck with an almost transcendental stroke of genius—seemingly delivered to his brain by the hand of God—and the words "Hey, do you want to sit around and drink and watch Tom Hanks movies?" were finally uttered.
Celebrated on the last Saturday before April 1, the holiday is now in its ninth year. Turk admits that though the holiday has grown in strength each year—eventually setting up its headquarters in Chicago—it took off when he reached out to Tom's brother, Lawrence M. Hanks, PhD, who is an entomology professor at the University of Illinois.
"I think it was the fourth year when we found out that Tom's brother worked at the University of Illinois," Turk explained. "We sent who we assumed to be Tom's brother an e-mail, and three or four days before that year's Tom Hanks Day, I got an e-mail from someone claiming to be Tom's assistant."
Turk was initially suspicious of the reply, but once he saw that it was sent from the domain "playtone.com"—Playtone is Hanks's film and television production company—he got excited to loop the greatest actor of the modern era into the annual festivities.
"He's sent us signed Wilson volleyballs, and last year he sent us these Toy Story tennis shoes. We've gotten some goofy shit. He writes letters and has tweeted about us. He mentioned us on Jimmy Kimmel."
But what about getting an actual Tom Hanks appearance?
"I'm making a really big push next year, because it's our tenth year," Turk told me. "I'm going to do everything in my power to get him to show up."
This year's celebration will take place Saturday from noon till 6 PM at Fizz Bar & Grill in Lakeview (3220 N. Lincoln). All the good stuff, like music, raffles, trivia contests, and beer, will be featured throughout the day. The theme is the 1988 coming-of-age classic Big, and guests are encouraged to sport attire that plays along—I suggest a white tuxedo or Zoltar getup or really any kind of shoulder-padded power suit. There will also be a screening of the movie.
Admission is a five-dollar suggested donation (raffle ticket included) and T-shirts will be sold for 20 bucks a pop. All proceeds will benefit Lifeline Energy, Tom's preferred charity.
And now on to a random selection of YouTube clips and trailers from Hanks films:
I think that's probably good enough . . .