Los Angeles Times , Published June 14 2012
Alaska town, pop. 6,000, left reeling by Taco Bell hoaxSEATTLE — In what has been described as “an evil hoax,” the town of Bethel, Alaska, has learned it is not getting a Taco Bell. Not now. Not ever.
“I repeat: Bethel is not getting a Taco Bell,” the local radio station, KYUK, broadcast this week in an attempt to dash the greased-up expectations — not to mention dozens of phone calls — sparked by the fake fliers posted around town promising gorditas in time for July 4th.
Bethel may be the largest town in bush Alaska, but it still barely tops 6,000 people. It’s reachable only by boat or plane, and Subway is as close as it’s ever managed to come to fast food.
It was some unique form of tundra humor at work, apparently, that led to the fliers posted on various local bulletin boards, promising an opening in time for Bethel’s annual Independence Day parade and offering employment.
“We got excited, because we don’t have any fast food chains out here, and the idea of Taco Bell coming in? And they were going to be here for the Fourth of July?” Chamber of Commerce director Bonnie Bradbury said in an interview.
“You bring a McDonald’s or a KFC, people will go crazy out here,” said Tatiana Dotdot, who works at the local AC store, the rambling supermarket that sells everything from diapers to all-terrain vehicles, as long as it can be brought in on a barge or a plane.
On the flier, interested parties were directed to a fake website and a telephone number belonging to a local resident, who told callers he had no intention of opening a Taco Bell.
“I called it, too. They said, ‘Of course this is not Taco Bell,’ ” Bradbury recounted in an interview. “Then he kept getting phone calls, and he asked me if there was any way to stop the phone calls.”
KYUK called up the company in Anchorage that operates Alaska’s Taco Bells, and what the Anchorage Daily News newspaper described as “an evil hoax” was confirmed. The perpetrator remains, for the moment at least, unknown.
Still, spring in the tundra is an optimistic time, and Bradbury is thinking that all the phone calls and attention may wake some-body up to the fact that Bethel is in fact yearning for fast food.
“Maybe now they’ll think about it,” she said.