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Austin, Portland, Asheville: Which city is the weirdest?

All three cities have adopted the slogan “Keep Austin/Portland/Asheville Weird.” We crossed state lines to explore the quirky characteristics of each place.

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The original “Keep Portland Weird” sign can be found on the side of Music Millennium on East Burnside Street.

Photo by Steve Morgan

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“Keep Portland Weird” is a slogan all residents — and many visitors — are familiar with but, as beloved as the phrase is among locals, it isn’t exclusive to the City of Roses. If you spend time in Texas or North Carolina, you might notice “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Asheville Weird” nomenclature, which begs the question: Which city has the strongest claim to the weird throne?

We asked our fellow city editors at ATXtoday and AVLtoday to share their thoughts on why their respective cities earned the phrase. Read on, then vote for the city you think is most in touch with its weird side.

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This is not an unusual scene at Eeyore’s Birthday Party. | Photo by Jack Newton [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Keep Austin Weird

The phrase was reportedly first said by Austin Community College librarian Red Wassenich, who called into KOOP Radio to donate because “it helps keep Austin weird” in 2000. The phrase was later put on bumper stickers to support BookPeople and Waterloo Records from the threat of big box stores moving in, and became synonymous with “support local business.”

Of course, Austin still has its fair share of unconventional traits. Name another city that faithfully celebrates Eeyore’s Birthday, had an iconic thong-wearing mayoral candidate, is Matthew McConaughey’s preferred place to play bongos in the nude, or has a mule-riding Santa Claus. We’ll wait. Don’t believe us that Austin is the weirdest? We’ll be “alright, alright, alright.” - Laura Figi, ATXtoday city editor

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You never know when you might spot members of the Weird Portland United crew on the streets of Portland.

Keep Portland Weird

Terry Currier, the owner of Portland record store Music Millennium, is to credit for bringing Austin’s slogan to the Rose City in the early 2000s. But Portland’s unique reputation was already established thanks to a lively arts and food scene and its residents’ progressive attitudes, embrace of alternative lifestyles, and commitment to sustainability. There was enough “Portland-ness” to inspire a TV show with eight seasons.

Much has changed, but as long as a neon martini glass lights up the West Hills, thousands of bicyclists cruise commando through the streets, and creatives play flaming bagpipes on unicycles, Portland’s torch of eccentricity will remain lit. - Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday city editor

Two people dressed up posting signs around Haywood Road

An ordinary day on Haywood Rd. in West Asheville.

Keep Asheville Weird

Asheville packs a major dose of weirdness in our tight-knit mountain city, where all things local reign supreme. Have a hankering for some artisanally made snacks? Indulge on a journey through the WNC Cheese Trail. Want to shop vintage, have a drink, and get married all in one place? Fleetwood’s has you covered. Looking for a new pop-up nearly every day of the week? Asheville’s got that too — and that’s just scratching the surface of our creative spirit.

So breathe deep and take in the scent of natural deodorant and patchouli — and don’t be afraid to let your hippie flag fly. - Grace Powers, AVLtoday city editor

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